Leadership Letter
 
March 1st, 2007

March-April 2007

Coverings, CCTS and strategic planning add up to a full agenda

Coverings is just around the corner, April 17-20th. Many of you may be reading this while you are attending the trade show and conference. Others may be reading this before you leave for Chicago or while you are still deciding whether to attend. Trust me. This is one industry event you do not want to miss.

Coverings is much more than a trade show with more than 1,200 exhibitors from over 65 countries. It offers a packed seminar schedule with offerings designed to suit the varied interests of the 33,000+ attendees who include architects and interior designers, builders and remodelers, distributors and retailers, fabricators and installers.

As it has for the past several years CTDA—a Coverings sponsor—was instrumental in developing the seminar track for distributors and retailers. It includes top names like keynote speaker Bernard M. Markstein, III, director of forecasting and assistant staff vice president, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), who will be discussing the new housing market and how it will impact sales of tile and stone; Ed Hudson, also from NAHB and its Research Center, on “Navigating the Softening New Home Market;” Jonathan Trivers will offer two sessions: “Internet—It Must Be in Your Future” and “Floorscape—What She Knows When She Walks in Your Store.”

Other presentations intended to help sharpen marketing and business operations skills include “Merchandise Your Showroom for the Ideal Customer Experience and You Will Sell More Tile” and “Are You Leaving Money on the Table.”

CCTS is a reality

CTDA’s Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program continues to grow. Thanks to successful pilot testing last fall, additional testing at the CTDA Management Conference and at Surfaces, the program has already certified 53 professionals. Testing is planned for Coverings and Neo Con in June. Additional testing opportunities are being identified as I write this.

Why CCTS? For individuals, certification provides professional recognition of your industry knowledge and technical competence. For employers, certification promotes your company’s expertise and differentiates your company from the competition. For your customers, certification demonstrates your commitment to providing them with the industry expertise they expect. CCTS is a win-win-win for all participants. I encourage you to pursue the only certification program designed by and for Ceramic Tile Salespeople.

Refining our focus

Strategic planning is something we do annually at my business, as I’m sure many of you do at yours. I believe it helps us refine our focus. We insist on measurable goals, so we know what we’ve accomplished and where we need to go next.

CTDA’s Executive Committee, Committee Chairs and staff have accepted my challenge to engage in long-term strategic planning for the association. I believe strongly in the value of a collaborative effort to define not only our long-term goals, but also the short-term goals to help us reach them.

We are planning an all-day workshop with a professional facilitator in March. We expect this Strategic Planning meeting to result in a long term goal, five to ten years into the future. To achieve that goal, we expect to break the long-term goal down to more manageable intermediate goals for the next three years, and then into more immediate annual goals. All of these goals will be focused on our mission to “provide educational and networking opportunities for distributors of ceramic tile and their suppliers to further the consumption of ceramic tile.” All of this is designed, of course, to bring more and better benefits to you, our members.

I look forward to sharing the outcome of these meetings with you here in the May/June issue of TileDealer.

There has never been a better time to be a member of the CTDA. If you are already a member, you know how your CTDA relationships encourage networking with industry manufacturers and distributors. It’s easy to leverage this networking into better business relationships for your company. If you aren’t a CTDA member, I encourage you to stop by our booth at Coverings, learn more about CTDA, and join.

See you at Coverings!

Doug Miles

CTDA President


From the Editor’s Desk: The opportunity to upsell
 
March 1st, 2007

by Janet Arden, Editor

March-April 2007

The features in this issue of TileDealer identify a number of opportunities to upsell your customers. This means selling them a better product or additional service, something that adds value for them and differentiates the service you deliver. It also means going back to previous customers with an opportunity for cleaning and sealing or the announcement of a new product appropriate for their next project. Showroom Seminar tackles the ins and outs of grout and how it can impact not only the look of the final tile installation, but also its clean-ability for years to come. Sealing needs to be part of every installation because it enhances the look of the product you sell. Taking the time to educate your customer and then working with them to get the look they want—now and later—is a win-win for them and for you.

Installer Update walks readers through the basics of common installations, starting with the importance of an informed and complete estimate and continuing through proper preparation for specific materials, applicable standards, and the role of the latest technology. This is a great refresher on “doing things right the first time.” You are saving yourself the time and expense of callbacks. Offer something special. This issue of TileDealer begins an occasional series on special tiles. Whether they are glass, metal, leather, or clearly hand-crafted works of ceramic art, adding to your product line with some unique looks—and merchandising them in your showroom—can draw customers in (whether they purchase them or not) and distinguish your product lines from the ones down the street. Today’s consumer is looking for something new and/or different. It’s our job to offer it to them.

Which brings us to Coverings… Coverings is the stage for introducing the most innovative products related to tile and stone. This means not only tile and stone, but dozens of related items including setting, sealing and cleaning materials, tools, and accessories. Then there are the under-tile floor warming systems that have potential to add value to every sale and the display systems and related materials to help you sell more in the showroom.

Perhaps one of the greatest values to any trade show, however, is seeing the latest tiles and trends in person—what are the new colors? How large is large format getting? What’s new in the Art Tile Village? And more. There is also the opportunity for unparalleled industry networking. What are other dealers and distributors doing and why and how?

Look for TileDealer there in booth number 2802.

And an announcement!

The March/April 2006 issue of TileDealer is the recipient of a Bronze Award for Association Trade Magazines in the Association Trends All Media contest. We find this is especially rewarding since TileDealer was launched with the November/December 2003 issue. Review the award-winning issue in the archive at www.tiledealer.org.


Innovations
 
March 1st, 2007

March-April 2007

°FahrenHEAT™ Floor Warming

LATICRETE International, Inc. has launched the most comprehensive floor warming program available: LATICRETE® °FahrenHEAT™. LATICRETE °FahrenHEAT offers an exclusive self adhesive mesh and wire backing allowing for faster and easier installation. Unlike traditional mats that require extensive stapling and are hard to install tile over, FahrenHEAT allows for much easier thin-set installation as there are no waves. In addition, LATICRETE °FahrenHEAT is part of the LATICRETE Lifetime Residential Warranty which covers not only the floor warming system and components, it also covers the thin-set mortar and grout. “This has been something distributors and contractors have wanted for a long time,” said Sean Boyle, director, business development at LATICRETE, “by offering the radiant heating system along with our complete system, we simplify the selection and the installation, plus provide the customer with a single warranty.” In addition to several innovations of the mat itself, LATICRETE offers 24-hour turnaround on floor layouts and offers an easy to use software program that allows customers to design their floor and identify product needs quickly and easily. Combined with renowned technical service, LATICRETE offers unparalleled nationwide support to distributors, contractors and dealers. “It is our goal to aggressively promote the awareness of, and more importantly, the benefit of radiant floor heating to consumers, thus driving the demand of tile and stone,” says Boyle. “By investing heavily in marketing activities, dealers and distributors can realize incremental sales by providing better value to the end customer.”

www.laticrete.com

ELIANE INTRODUCES VERSATILE

Eliane, a world leader in producing porcelain and ceramic tile, introduces “Versatile,” a multifaceted fully-rectified porcelain series combining style and functionality with a range of finishings to complement internal spaces and endure external environments. Versatile’s multifunctional porcelain tile is specially treated with satiny, polished or no slip surface finishings to offer a functional use in multiple environments. The slightly rough surface of a no-slip finish provides greater friction for indoor and outdoor spaces that require greater safety, such as areas prone to humidity. Polished surfaces are extremely pleasing to the touch, and offer a combination of shine and silk. Versatile’s satiny finish is a silky matte finish, typically coated on interior floors and walls. Base colors of the Versatile series are Bianco, Beige, Grigio and Noce, all of which come in three fully-rectified standard sizes (11″ x 23″, 11″ x 11″, 17″ x 17″) and are coated with a no-slip, shiny or polished finish. Tiles can be purchased one square inch larger, and can be coated with either a no-slip or shiny finish. Complementing each base color are Oslo tiles (6″x6″), to add to the ambience of the environment. Each base color has special composed items of varying sizes that are influenced by elements in fashion, like flowers, baroque traces and metallic effects. The Bianco and Beige series include eight tile listellos (3″ x 11″, 3″ x 12″ and 2″ x 11″) and four decorative tiles (11″ x 23″, 6″ x 23″ and 4″ x 23″). Special accessory items of the Versatile series’ Grigio and Noce tiles include decorative pieces with matching listellos, bullnoses and mosaic blends of Versatile’s base colors. Multifunctional by nature, Versatile’s revolutionary wall and floor coverings contribute to the desired ambience of interior and exterior spaces.

www.elianeusa.com

QEP ANNOUNCES BRUTUS™ TOOLS

Q.E.P. Co., Inc. is pleased to introduce the BRUTUS brand of high-end professional tools featuring enhanced handle designs, as well as new concepts not found in the market today. Brutus tools were designed by listening to the professional tile contractor. We listened to the input of the professional contractors on how these everyday tools could be enhanced, changed or just plain recreated to make their everyday tasks easier and more efficient. Professional-tough, quality-tough and designed for everyday tough use—BRUTUS, the new name in professional tiling tools. The distinction on the shelves for these products is not only the new design of the tools themselves, but the packaging as well. We have chosen red and gold packaging for these high-end products, which easily identifies them at the point of retail.

www.qep.com

LATICRETE® Hydro Ban™

LATICRETE® Hydro Ban™ is a thin, load bearing, waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane that combines optimum performance and unmatched productivity. LATICRETE Hydro Ban does not require the use of fabric in the field, coves or corners, plus it bonds directly to drains and pipe penetrations allowing for increased productivity and faster installation time! In addition, LATICRETE Hydro Ban allows for flood testing in only 24 hours and is backed by a 10 Year System Warranty. In addition, Hydro Ban™ is paint brush, roller or trowel applied, lighter color for easier inspection, allows foot traffic in 4-6 hours, and prevents the growth of stain causing mold and mildew growth with Microban® antimicrobial protection. LATICRETE Hydro Ban can be used for interior and exterior residential and commercial installations as well as continuously submersed applications such as swimming pools, fountains and spas. It can be applied over all common building substrates with unmatched adhesion when compared to the competition.

www.laticrete.com

COFFEE BEAN FLOOR AND WALL TILE

Imagine Tile, the ceramic industry leader pioneering the use of high-resolution imagery in custom tile, introduces, Coffee Beans, a tile-infused image so resplendent, you can imagine scooping the beans right off the floor or wall and into the grinder! Coffee Beans has a commercial wear rating and can be used indoors or out, so in addition to the warmth, comfort and stimulating effects that a fresh cup of coffee offers, you can further enhance that experience by surrounding your customers with Imagine Tile’s Coffee Bean tile. Primarily used for floors, these tiles can also be used for walls and countertops and are ideal for coffee shops, corporate offices and more—just Imagine! “Our Coffee Beans tiles are so fresh and true to life, you can almost smell them!” said Imagine Tile President Christian McAuley. Coffee Beans is available in 12″ x 12″, 8″ x 8″, 6″ x 6″ (wall only) and 4¼” x 4¼” (wall only). Coordinating bull nose is available in 2″ x 6″, 3″ x 8″ and 3″ x 12″. Custom designs including logos are also available.

www.imaginetile.com

CROSSVILLE’S NEW BUENOS AIRES MOOD

Crossville® introduces Buenos Aires Mood, a sophisticated new Porcelain Stone® tile series that outperforms Mother Nature’s best—while paying homage to Argentina’s famous city and its people. Using Multistrato, a proprietary technology that was three years in development, this tile was created to allow for subtle shading (V3) and flow from tile to tile within each colorway. “There is a fluidity and movement within this tile—think tango!—that has been virtually impossible to capture using more traditional manufacturing methods,” explains Barbara Schirmeister, Crossville’s color and design consultant. Buenos Aires Mood is available in three surface textures for both commercial and residential use: one has the texture and slip-resistance of slate, and may be used for interior as well as exterior horizontal surfaces and paving; the other two have the visual elegance of polished and unpolished marble. Because a key feature of this product is the consistency of its color, there is little discernable difference among the polished, unpolished and textured finishes, allowing them to be blended in an installation without changing the visual image of the tile. Now you can carry the same look from the exterior straight into the family room or kitchen, corporate cafeteria or lobby. Each of the five colorways within the Buenos Aires Series differs from tile to tile, just like the random coloring found in nature’s paint box, and each represents a location or cultural activity intertwined with the Buenos Aires mystique: Polo, a creamy white on white; La Boca, a warm, true camel; Pampa, a blend of grey and beige; Recoleta, chocolate accented with taupe and ivory; and Tango, a dramatic presentation of gold and red against a field of midnight black. For maximum design versatility, each texture and color has rectified edges and is available in multiple sizes—from large format to mosaics—and trims: 2″ x 4″ mosaics (mounted on 12″ x 24″ sheets), 6″ x 6″, 12″ x 12″, 4″ x 24″ (the new plank look), 12″ x 24″ and 24″ x 24″. Comprehensive trim offerings, including listellos, complete the series.

www.crossvilleinc.com

FOREST IMPRESSIONS

Forest Impressions by Marazzi creates a modern sanctuary in this fast-paced world with coordinating glazed porcelain floor (18″ x 18″ and 12″ x 12″) and glazed ceramic wall (8″ x 12″) in colors reminiscent of delicate ferns, fallen leaves, lichen-strewn tree trunks. Dappled shading and natural speckling on a slightly structured surface replicate worn stones found in quiet woodsy glades. Indoors and out, or somewhere in between, modern consumers create their own “breakrooms” where family, entertaining, business and relaxation mix and mingle. Like sunlight glinting through leaves onto a water-beaded web, the accompanying glass and metal-look listelli and decos add incandescent beauty. The ADA-compliant COF of the porcelain floor tile pairs a recognized measure of safety with strength and frost resistance. In Forest Beige, Forest Green, and Forest Noce.

IWT-TESORO’S PIETRA ANTICA

IWT-Tesoro will introduce the Pietra Antica Natural Stone program at Surfaces. Pietra Antica offers only Premium Quality stone suitable for both residential and commercial installations. All stone tiles are inspected for shade. The Pietra Antica shade variation standard is V3 (medium) when most of the competition is V4 (high). Careful selection and quality controls are implemented throughout the manufacturing process of this material to ensure the quality expected only from the Tesoro Collection. The tolerance levels for sizing and shading are 1.5 to 2 times tighter than those found on standard travertine tiles.The “hole areas” or “filling areas” on Pietra Antica are 1.5 to 2 times smaller than those on standard tiles, giving a more natural and denser look to the stone.

All stones are inspected for excessive black or red veining and all defective tiles are removed. Sizes include 12 x 12 and 18 x 18 Honed and Filled; 3 x 6, 4 x 4, and 6 x 6 Tumbled; and 1 x 1 and 2 x 2 Tumbled Mosaics. Eolor comes with a coordinating natural stone/glass mix listello.

www.tesorocollection.com

ACID-PROOF™: A World First

Developed by Dry-Treat’s engineers in conjunction with the University of New South Wales in Australia, ACID-PROOF is the world’s first acid-resistant sealer which won’t substantially change the appearance of stone surfaces it is applied to. ACID-PROOF buys time to clean up acidic substances before unsightly etching occurs, while also protecting the treated surface from staining by everyday household oil/water-based substances. With ACID PROOF sealers from Dry Treat, lemons, limes and cola get along just fine with marble, limestone, travertine and other calcium-based stone. Such stone is rarely used for kitchen bench tops, table tops and floors in entertaining areas, as it is immediately damaged (etched) on contact with everyday acidic substances. This semi-topical, semi-penetrating sealer is breathable, allowing water vapor to escape and the stone to remain dry. ACID-PROOF stands up to weather and traffic, makes surfaces easier to clean, and is highly alkaline resistant—so it won’t break down on contact with cement-based materials. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor surfaces, ACID-PROOF will generally retain or improve the anti-slip characteristics of the stone it is applied to. The standard ACID-PROOF is specifically designed for stone with a honed finish is available now and ACID-PROOF for Polished Surfaces designed to retain the gloss of highly polished stone will be available later this year.

www.drytreat.com


Industry Insights
 
March 1st, 2007

March-April 2007

Rosenkrantz named President

Schechner Lifson is both pleased and proud to announce the elevation of Marc Rosenkrantz to the position of President of the firm. Marc merged his company with ours ten years ago and quickly proved himself as one of the top salespeople in the industry. Simultaneously, he has taken the reins of the Property Casualty Division of Schechner Lifson and helped it to grow to over $30 million in revenue in 2006. The members of the Stone Industry have long recognized his unique ability to serve the industry’s insurance needs and now wish to recognize his strong leadership in the corporate structure.

PAREXLAHABRA, INC. ACQUIRES MER-KOTE

ParexLahabra, Inc. announced the acquisition of Mer-Kote Products, Inc., a Torrance, California-based manufacturer of the Mer-Krete Systems™ line of waterproofing and crack isolation membranes, thin-set mortars, grouts, underlayments, and decking products. MerKote has successfully provided over 500 million feet of exterior deck coatings and one billion square feet of waterproofing for ceramic tile and stone installations with their Mer-Krete Systems™ brand. Mer-Kote has become one of the tile market’s highly recognized brands for their leadership, technical knowledge, and unique products. The acquisition of Mer-Kote is consistent with ParexLahabra’s growth strategy, a mix of internal growth with new products, services, and expanded distribution and external growth through the acquisition. In 2004, ParexLahabra launched Davco tile setting materials and grouts in New Mexico, Colorado and California leveraging their strengths in powdered goods manufacturing. The Mer-Krete and Mer-Ko brands will improve the company’s presence in the national market while adding products, expertise, distribution network and a prime manufacturing location. Mer-Kote increases the product offerings of the ParexLahabra brands with the addition of products such as waterproofing and crack isolation membranes, unique floor preparation and tile installation products. Mer-Kote customers will benefit from an extended line of products with the ParexLahabra worldwide expertise in the powder products. The company plans to continue to provide excellent products and services as well as promote teamwork between all brands within the ParexLahabra group. Mer-Krete and Mer-Ko will maintain a strong presence in their existing market. Mer-Krete and Mer-Ko will maintain the current management team including Mr. Tim McDonald as operations officer and Clint Anna, national sales manager. ParexLahabra, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Parex Group, a division of Materis-France, with over 35 manufacturing locations worldwide.

NEW LEADERS JOIN FLORIM TEAM

Jim Dougherty, Executive Vice Pres-ident of Sales and Marketing for Florim USA, has announced the addition of industry veterans Ron Spezzaferri and Gene Dingman as Regional Vice Presidents of Sales. Their appointments are effective immediately.

Spezzaferri is Regional Vice Pres-ident of Sales for the East Region and is based outside of Boston, Massachu-setts. He brings over 20 years of industry experience to this position, including 13 years as a Regional Manager at Crossville, Inc. Dingman, Regional Vice President of Sales for the West Region, comes to Florim from StonePeak. He has more than 25 years of industry experience. He is based in Fort Collins, Colorado. “Ron and Gene both bring extensive experience that will be vital to Florim as we move into a whole new era of product design, merchandising and logistics.,” Dougherty stated. “Both have worked with many of our distributors and look forward to renewing these relationships and establishing new ones.”

IWT WELCOMES DEPASQUALE

International Wholesale Tile Inc. (IWT), a value-added distributor and merchandiser of ceramic, porcelain and natural stone, floor and wall coverings, announced the recent appointment of industry veteran Bruce DePasquale as their new national sales manager. DePasquale has over 25 years of industry experience, having served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Laufen Ceramic Tile and as Senior Brand Manager for Shaw Industries. DePasquale will provide a central liaison for field sales representatives and executive management for the implementation and deployment of its national sales initiatives and branding campaign of Tesoro, The CollectionTM. Paul Boucher, president of IWT said, “Bruce’s experience and skill sets will provide focus and dedicated leadership for the Company’s national sales team as they continue to meet growing customer and market demands in 2007. We more than welcomed the opportunity for him to join the family here at IWT.” Mr. DePasquale said that, “IWT is one of the most progressive and creative companies for the merchandising of ceramic tile that I have seen, and it is one of the few distributors with a nationally recognized brand. I am pleased to have the opportunity to help strengthen the Company’s brand image while continuing to expand the merchandising programs that Tesoro’s clients have come to expect. As an industry professional, I have watched IWT’s progression over the last few years, and it is truly a pleasure to be a part of the team.”

GALLERY APPOINTS ZAMOJSKI

The Marble & Granite Gallery, a European style showroom with Michigan’s largest display of marble, granite, limestone, travertine and onyx from around the world, announces the appointment of Jeanne Zamojski as showroom consultant. The appointment was made by John Moran, general manager. Zamojski brings several years of design and consulting experience to her new position. Her responsibilities include assisting individuals and fabricators in making their natural stone and tile selections. She will spend most of her time working one-on-one with clients, but is also responsible for such tasks as completing and processing orders and scheduling deliveries and pickups.

Zamojski previously worked in sales in the home building industry, where she assisted clients in making interior and exterior design selections. She has also worked independently doing home design consulting. Zamojski has a Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in merchandising management with a concentration in interior design. “We’re excited to have Jeanne working with us,” commented Moran. “She’s very talented and has a great deal of experience. I’m confident she’ll be a valuable asset.”

SQUINZI AWARDED LEONARDO QUALITY PRIZE

On December 4, 2006, Giorgio Squinzi, CEO of the Mapei Group, based in Milan, Italy, was officially awarded the Leonardo Quality Prize for Italy by Giorgio Napoletano, President of the Italian Republic. This prestigious prize was given by the Italian Quality Committee “Comitato Leonardo.” The “Comitato Leonardo” was established in 1993 by a group of business people, artists, scientists and representatives of the cultural world, with the support of ICE (Italian Institute for Foreign Trade) and Confindustria (Confederation of Italian Industry), to promote and enhance Italian quality throughout the world. The Squinzi family turned a small firm, founded in 1937, into a multinational company, world leader in the field of chemical products for building. In 1978 Mapei started its internationalization strategy by opening the first subsidiary outside Italy in Canada. In 1984, when Giorgio Squinzi became CEO of Mapei, he began implementing a corporate strategy based on three main principles: specialization, internationalization and innovation. In 1998 the honour of “Cavaliere del Lavoro” was conferred upon Dr. Squinzi. The Industrial Group today consists of 53 companies with 46 plants, seven in Italy, while the others are strategically located in 23 other countries on the five continents. Mapei’s employees now number 4,500, 12% of whom work on research. The Company’s investments in research and development are over 60 million Euros per year. During the last five years the Mapei Group has doubled its annual revenues to approximately $2 billion U.S.

MASTER TILE APPOINTS SENIOR MANAGEMENT

Master Tile, a leading nationwide distributor of ceramic and porcelain tile, cut stone, stone slabs and setting materials, announced the appointment of two new senior managers.

William Kennedy has been appointed to the position of Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Kennedy has a strong background and experience in the flooring industry, holding positions at Shaw Industries as Senior Sales/Builder Specialist and most recently at Mohawk industries as National Sales and Marketing Director. “Bill is a very capable leader, and team builder. His extensive experience in the flooring industry will help propel Master Tile’s sales efforts to the next level,” said Bobby Glennon, CEO. Bill will be responsible for coordinating all of Master Tile’s sales and marketing efforts on a national basis.

Donald Yokovich has been appointed Vice President of Supply Chain Management. He is a seasoned operations and supply chain specialist, a Certified Practitioner in Inventory Management (CPIM), APICS, a member of the Association of Supply Chain management and has Total Quality Certification and Kawasaki Production Systems Training. “Our supply chain today spans the globe and Don possesses the skills, experience and leadership to gain control and grow efficiencies throughout our network of suppliers,” said Bobby Glennon, CEO. Yokovich will be responsible for all vendor management, purchasing and procurement strategies across all of Master Tile.

GRANITIFIANDRE PROMOTES NICHOLS AND SASSI

Italian stone and tile manufacturer GranitiFiandre has announced the promotion of Jeanne Nichols to vice president—sales and marketing, and Marcello Sassi to vice president—national accounts, effective immediately. Nichols and Sassi work for TransCeramica, the marketing and sales arm of the GranitiFiandre brand of products in the United States. Both will report directly to Graziano Verdi, CEO of the GranitiFiandre Group. Nichols and Sassi hold a combined 40 years of experience in the flooring and design industries. Most recently, both served as vice presidents for TransCeramica. In their new, expanded roles, Nichols and Sassi will oversee key divisions within GranitiFiandre’s American arm, strategically steering the company’s sales, marketing and growth/business development efforts. Nichols will develop and implement GranitiFiandre’s American sales and marketing strategies and will continue to oversee the marketing, public relations, strategic sales and business development initiatives for the company. She will oversee a team of 10, and will continue to actively interface with distributors and clients in the United States on an ongoing basis. Sassi will oversee the company’s U.S. national accounts program, directing the efforts of GranitiFiandre’s national account project managers as they serve new and existing clients, ensuring these global companies have easy access to GranitiFiandre’s comprehensive product selection, regardless of need or location. “Jeanne and Marcello are consummate professionals,” said Verdi. “Their wide-ranging knowledge of the architectural design industry and commitment to building mutually beneficial partnerships with clients and distributors have been a key factor in our success, and we are excited as they take on these important roles within the company.”

Best Tile Names Boynton

Best Tile Distributors of New England, part of the East Coast Tile family, recently acquired five Boston Tile showrooms, four in Greater Boston and one in Warwick, Rhode Island, and has announced the appointment of Jane Boynton to vice president of sales at the Warwick location. Boynton will spearhead Best Tile’s concentrated efforts to re-enter the commercial and wholesale dealer markets in the Greater Rhode Island area, with an additional emphasis on the specification community. This April, Boynton will have spent 22 years with Boston Tile and in her new position will be responsible for all outside sales in the Rhode Island area with her husband John, who manages the Warwick location. “Our intention is to open the dealer, architectural and builder markets to provide the same service that we are providing to our existing retail market,” said Boynton. “In my new position I will be working with my husband as “on the road” salespeople for all of Rhode Island.” Boynton opened the Boston Tile Rhode Island store in 1985 and became the district manager in 1989. Ten years later, Boynton became junior partner of Boston Tile. As a former owner, Boynton anticipates that her vast experience will create an easy transition into her new position.

ADVANCEMENTS AT BONSAL AMERICAN

Bonsal American has announced that National Gypsum Company, headquartered in Charlotte, will be the company’s new supplier for cement backer board, an important component as a substrate for ceramic tile on walls, floors and countertops. “We are pleased to have National Gypsum as a marketing partner,” said Kevin McFadden, director of marketing, Bonsal tile products. “They are a leader in the backer board industry with their PermaBase® brand Cement Board. National Gypsum has excellent quality products, packaging and customer service, which is consistent with the way we do business at Bonsal American. Our continued goal is to provide value added, high quality products and services to our distribution partners.” In other news the company has promoted Jeff Lax to general manager of the Pavement Coatings Division. Lax will continue to serve in his role as vice president of development for Bonsal American. As general manager of the Pavement Coatings Division, Lax will coordinate the marketing strategy of both the commercial and retail segments. Bonsal American has also expanded its management team by naming Dennis Bowman as Director of Engineering, responsible for capital projects, as well as planning and management of engineering activities for all of Bonsal American’s production facilities.

Saint Gaudens acquires Deborah Hart Glass

Saint-Gaudens has announced plans to enter the glass tile segment of the tile industry. As part of that plan Saint-Gaudens has agreed to buy the Deborah Hart Collection of glass tiles from Trimlite LLC. Saint-Gaudens’ strategy is designed to expand their collection of uniquely designed and hand made solid bronze tiles, hardware, and ceramic tiles within the tile and stone industry. “We are excited to have this unique collection of glass tiles,” said Valerie Saint-Gaudens, President. “It will add a new dimension to the Saint-Gaudens product line by offering our customers a wide assortment of glass field and creative art tiles. I’m very excited about designing in this colorful new media.” The Deborah Hart Glass Tile Collection will be renamed “Saint-Gaudens Glass” and blends perfectly with Saint-Gaudens’ philosophy of designing beautiful tiles of the highest quality materials. The glass tiles are made of 3 fused layers, blending color over color, and were recently featured in “House Beautiful” magazine. Estudio Marketing Group, already representing both companies, will continue to handle the line, under the direction of Fred Jackson.


Installer Update 10 Tips for Common Installations
 
March 1st, 2007

March-April 2007

By Tom Plaskota

Common installations are a tile/stone contractor’s bread and butter, but the need to increase profitability always exists. Installations such as tile over concrete, tile over plywood subflooring, tile over green concrete and showers come up often. Yet, inefficiencies can threaten the profits of even commonplace jobs. Here are 10 tips to help improve efficiency—and the bottom line.

1. Think “big picture.” Taking a step back to first look at the big picture will save time and money in the long run. Among the questions to ask yourself before getting out the tape measure and pencil include:

  • Is the specified type of tile or stone appropriate for the intended installation? A stone material that is terrific for an interior wall may not be suitable for an outdoor patio—and vice versa.
  • What are the ramifications of the job’s other specifications? Don’t get tripped up by not reviewing all specifications related to the job. For example, a tile floor installed over joists 19.2 inches OC, versus 16 inches OC, requires extra attention to ensure a successful installation.
  • How to attack the job? Some jobs are best handled in one intense burst of activity while others are better completed in phases. A careful review of the specifications should provide the answer and help you better plan.
  • What are the logistics of getting materials, equipment and personnel to and from the job site? Depending on the job, basic logistics can affect profitability.

2. Estimate and then re-estimate. It’s always tricky to accurately forecast the needed amounts of tile, installation materials and labor. A common rule of thumb is to purchase 10 percent more tile than required by the job’s square footage to allow for cuts, errors and breakage. An overage of more than 10 percent may be needed for particularly fragile tiles, or when setting tile on a diagonal.

In addition, be on the lookout for factors that might cause you to use more installation material than anticipated. Two variables are the condition of the substrate and the size of the tile to be set. A wavy floor at the jobsite might require more material than expected. Likewise, larger size tile often requires more mortar to ensure a secure bond.

A good approach to use when considering mortars is to look at the yield—or approximate coverage in square feet—per bag when used with specific sizes of trowels (e.g. ¾-inch rounded notch or ¼ x ¼ x ¼-inch square notch.) In fact, the yield per bag provides a better comparison than price because a cheaper mortar might offer less coverage.

Grout coverage is a bit easier to gauge because it is based on the width of the joint (1/16 inch or 1/8 inch) and the size of the tile in the installation. Grout manufacturers present this coverage information on packaging or specification sheets.

3. Assign the right installers. Make sure that the people who will be working on a particular job are knowledgeable about the techniques and products that will be used. For example, someone experienced in wall tile is more likely to efficiently complete a wall installation than an installer who specializes in floor mosaics. Also, don’t hesitate to take advantage of training opportunities offered by trade associations and manufacturers.

4. Know and follow TCA Handbook standards. The Tile Council of North America (TCA), a trade association representing manufacturers of tile, installation materials and raw materials, issues the Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation (commonly called the TCA Handbook). Now in its 42nd edition, the Handbook reflects generally accepted tile installation methods that are reviewed by a representative group of experts in the ceramic tile industry.

The Handbook is an invaluable resource because the methods it addresses cover a wide range of ceramic tile installations. It doesn’t, however, contain proprietary methods recommended by the manufacturers of tile installation materials. When in doubt about selecting an appropriate installation method, consult with the manufacturer. For more information, visit www.tileusa.com.

Natural stone installation guidelines are covered in the Dimension Stone Design Manual. This reference book, produced by the Marble Institute of America (MIA), includes industry recommendations, performance data and design information. More information on this book is available at www.marble-institute.com.

5. Consider the tile to be installed. As you approach an installation job, be aware of the nuances of the type of tile involved. For example, an impervious porcelain tile and a porous marble tile may both be desirable surfaces, but each requires its own installation products and methods. The service environment and maintenance requirements after the installation should also be considered.

Depending upon the material and the type of installation, consult the TCA Handbook, the Dimension Stone Design Manual or installation material manufacturers.

6. Properly prepare the surface. Tile installed over an inferior surface is subject to cracks, loose tile, cracked grout and expensive callbacks. Properly preparing the surface helps ensure the project’s success. Surface preparation products fall into three general areas:

  • Creating the underlayment, or the leveling layer, for the surface.
  • Making an existing underlayment suitable for tile installation.
  • Addressing a particular condition related to the surface.

An underlayment may consist of cement board or a pourable material, called a self-leveling underlayment, which creates a flat, level surface for installing tile. The TCA Handbook requires a substrate tolerance of ¼ inch in 10 feet and 1/16 inch in 1 foot.

In other instances, it may be necessary to patch an existing concrete or plywood underlayment so it is level and free of voids, seams and depressions. In addition, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommends that concrete or masonry be “dry, structurally sound and free of wax, curing compounds or other coatings.” The best way to ensure that this substrate is free of contaminants is to employ a mechanical cleaning method such as sandblasting, shotblasting or scarifying.

Specific conditions might also exist, such as cracks in a concrete underlayment or a situation that requires waterproofing before tile is set. Crack isolation and waterproofing membranes are available for these purposes.

7. Take a systems approach. When choosing installation materials, it helps to consider a systems solution that incorporates products that work in tandem. Here are examples in common installations:

  • Tile over concrete. The downside of concrete substrates is that naturally occurring cracks can cause rigidly bonded tile to crack. The solution is to treat the substrate with a crack-isolation system prior to installing tile. These systems include sheet membranes, liquid membranes or one-step mortars containing polymer additives that isolate cracks and allow tile to be set in a single step.
  • Tile over wood subfloors. Wood subfloors are often associated with deflection. This can create problems because deflection that is more than L/360 of the span when measured under a 300 lb. concentrated load (L/720 for stone) can cause the flooring installation to fail. Have the project owner or their design professional ensure the wood substructure (floor joists or trusses) does not deflect more than the allowable criteria. To address deflection between the joists or trusses, verify that the specified installation method is appropriate for the given joist span. Spans greater than 16 inches OC, such as the increasingly common 19.2 inches or 24 inches OC, require different systems to prevent excess deflection. As the variables in floor construction increase, the greater the importance of a latex modified mortar’s flexibility and high bond strength to keep the tile from cracking and losing bond.
  • Tile over green concrete. Increasingly tighter timelines in the construction industry make it difficult to schedule the traditional 28-day wait to install tile over newly poured concrete. One successful system consists of a liquid membrane, with crack-isolation properties, that can be applied over concrete that is just three days old. The membrane is followed by a quick-setting mortar that allows tile or stone to be installed the same day.
  • Showers. Some shower installations can present a twofold challenge. First is keeping heavy marble tiles from slipping during installation. The second is preventing potential water and mold damage to the substrate. A system approach calls for application of a mold-resistant waterproofing membrane. Then, setting wall tile weighing up to 6 lbs. per square foot and heavy floor tile requiring medium bed performance with the new generation of low-density technology mortars.

8. Don’t skimp on technology. It’s good practice to keep abreast of advances in technology that can improve your efficiency. For example, when one-step mortars that isolate cracks and set tile in a single step were introduced a few years ago, installers saw dramatically reduced tile installation times. The clock has sped up again with the next generation mortar formulated to adapt to any of three different types of installation products—a latex modified mortar, a non-sag mortar or a medium bed mortar. Still more innovations are on the horizon.

9. Offer care and maintenance services. There’s a significant profit potential in cleaning and sealing installed tile and grout. Because few installers offer cleaning and sealing services, you have an opportunity to use it as a way to separate yourself from the competition. In addition, cleaning and sealing projects may lead to installation referrals and vice versa.

If you’re not already offering this service, it’s easy to get started. Many cleaning and sealing products on the market have been simplified and are designed to work across multiple surfaces.

10. Consider warranties. Warranties on installation products provide peace of mind for customers and can help your bottom line.

In the most common type of warranty, the manufacturer simply promises to replace the defective product. Under a performance warranty, the manufacturer promises to deliver a specific function. Some manufacturers offer aggressive warranties. These include 1/8-inch crack protection for up to a lifetime when the installation uses the same manufacturer’s crack-isolation system and grout products. The warranties give your customers peace of mind and give you a powerful up-sell opportunity. Review them closely.

Conclusion

There’s no question that profits are under pressure. But keeping these tips in mind will help you produce work that is top-quality and profitable.

Tom Plaskota, CSI, CDT, is Technical Support Manager at TEC® brands. One of the most respected and trusted names in the industry, TEC is a leading brand of installation and care and maintenance systems for tile and natural stone flooring.

 


The Growing Concern about MOLD: Legal Complications
 
March 1st, 2007

March-April 2007

By Donato Pompo

Part 2 of a series intended to clarify the facts about mold and based on a panel sponsored by CTDA at Coverings 2006. Panel participants were Greg Mowat of Forensic Tile Consultants, a forensic tile investigator; Will Spates, president of Indoor Environmental Technologies, Inc. and an indoor air quality professional; Dave Gobis, executive director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and a TCNA national installation trainer; and Richard Kahanowich, a prominent attorney and senior partner with the law firm Zimmerman & Kahanowitch of Los Angeles. Donato Pompo of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, LLC was the moderator.

Part 1 of this series established that today’s “tighter” construction methods have the potential to seal moisture problems into a building. Mold is the result of moisture and as such is not the problem itself, but it is the symptom of a moisture problem. The difficulty is that many showers and other wet areas are not installed correctly, per industry standards, and this leads to moisture intrusion. Mold needs food in order to grow, and a wet environment within wall cavities is just the right situation to enable mold to propagate. Gypsum water resistant green-board and the organic mastic that’s typically used to adhere the tile to the board are substantial food sources that perpetuate the growth of mold. They’re no longer recommended for wet areas. Cementitious mortar beds and other backings are highly alkaline, and therefore not a good source of food or a friendly environment for mold.

Defining the problem

Will Spates is president of Indoor Environmental Technologies, Inc. and an indoor air quality professional. He points out that mold is a fungus, nature’s way of recycling organic matter back into the soil. It’s the direct result of moisture where there is an adequate nutritional source to fuel the growth of fungus. Mold reproduces rapidly through microscopic spores at the rate of millions per square inch! These spores are spread by air movement and are released into the environment all around us.

Although it’s most often harmless, mold has the potential to degrade organic materials and can be present on a surface or actually permeate and colonize in materials causing them to rot within. It is most dangerous when it is concealed in wall cavities where a persistent moisture problem exists with an abundant supply of food.

If a water-damaged area is not properly and promptly remediated, then mold spores that are typically present, will germinate, grow and multiply. This is often the case with damp building materials. Eventually those building materials will degrade and potential negative effects from the mold will start to affect the quality of the indoor air.

Although mold is not a great health risk, some people are hyper-sensitive and have allergies that can be adversely affected by mold. Mold produces allergens and pathogens that can produce mycotoxins, which are toxic substances that can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rashes. Generally, only people with asthma or compromised immune systems are likely to be adversely affected by mold. The American Industrial Hygiene Association has concluded that a substantial proportion of building-related illness (BRI) and sick building syndrome (SBS) is associated with indoor moisture and mold contamination. They say there is an abundance of evidence from investigations that symptoms of eye, nose, and throat irritation as well as cough and tiredness and fatigue are present in excess around persons or populations in certain buildings subjected to dampness and mold.

So mold does need to be controlled, but more to the point— water needs to be managed to avoid moisture intrusion problems and the resulting damage, including mold. Slight surface instances of mold can be cleaned off of finishes such as ceramic tile and stone with detergents and warm water. But when there is water intrusion into wall cavities, a severe mold problem can develop. Special remediation may be required using containment tents to isolate affected areas, HVAC ventilation systems to control the air flow, and controlled containment and removal of the infected areas to avoid cross-contamination of other areas of the building. These cases get very detailed and expensive, and require the employment of Indoor Air Quality Professionals.

The legal complications

As the result of a series of high insurance payouts (claims were more than $5 billion in 2003 alone), insurance companies have adjusted their coverage. Damage from mold, like rust, rot, and mildew is specifically excluded in standard homeowners and commercial property insurance policies. Mold contamination is covered under these policies only if it is the result of a “covered peril.” For example, the costs of cleaning up mold caused by water from a burst pipe are covered under the policy because water damage from a burst pipe is a “covered peril.”

Some states have adopted legal remedies to the lawsuits. California’s SB 800 limits lawsuit claims by plaintiffs who must show cause and the resultant damage to validate their claim, and it provides a right to repair to encourage early resolution. The insurance industry responded by offering wrap-up insurance that enables the builder to manage risk by covering all participants on a project under one policy. Wrap-ups benefit subcontractors by enabling them to obtain insurance to work on a project, for which they would otherwise not be able to secure insurance, and avoid claims against their own loss history.

Installers are in a precarious position if mold is discovered while they are performing remodeling work. In the past, installers would largely ignore mold conditions when replacing faulty tile installations, but today they put themselves at risk if they don’t address these issues. Installers should insist on having mold remediation experts evaluate major mold conditions; particularly if a persistent moisture problem is present.

Positive steps

The good news is that in response to the flurry of news and legal activity directed at mold, various stakeholders are developing standards and guidelines to determine how best to identify and remediate mold issues.

IICRC S520 (www.iicrc.org) was developed and released in 2003 to establish practical procedures for remediating mold issues and is currently being updated.

EPA (www.epa.gov) also publishes remediation guidelines.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (www.nyc.gov) produced Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments in 1993. NY identifies five levels of contamination and states that areas of 30 sq. ft or less (Level I and II) can be remediated by regular building maintenance staff who have gone through some basic training. The use of respiratory protection, gloves, and eye protection is always recommended. Extensive contamination of over 30 sq. ft. (Level III, IV, and V) particularly if heating, ventilating, air conditioning (HVAC) systems or large occupied spaces are involved, should be assessed by an experienced health and safety professional and remediated by personnel with training and experience handling environmentally contaminated materials.

The construction industry organization Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) is a good resource for getting some of the basic facts on mold (www.responsiblemoldsolutions.org).

Kahanowich warns that mold lawsuits may be limited but that they will continue to persist. Attorneys will focus on the defect, as well as the negligence, and will bundle the mold damage in with the water intrusion defect. The insurance companies are then obligated to defend the whole case and not only a portion of it. Condominiums, hotels and tract housing projects are subject to a greater degree of liability since they can be considered a mass produced product.

Whether you are a developer, architect, general contractor, installer, distributor or manufacturer you have risk with potential mold problems. Products and methods must be specified and detailed properly, installation products that contain anti-microbial ingredients must not be misrepresented, and industry standards must be strictly met to avoid failures.

Controlling moisture and preventing water intrusion is the key to avoiding mold development. If we keep moisture outside of our wall assembly, mold cannot develop.

Donato Pompo is principal of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, LLC. CTaSC a professional company of expert consultants comprised of accomplished ceramic tile and stone installers, construction scientists, and other industry specialists located throughout North America that specializes in ceramic tile and stone consulting in North America.

Email: Donato@CTaSC.com; Website: www.CTaSC.com


One – on – One…with Tim Bolby
 
March 1st, 2007

“The room always looks different when you’re on your knees.”

By Jeffrey Steele

March-April 2007

Tim Bolby has just about done it all in the tile business. After spending his formative years as an installer, learning what it means to set tile without complaints, he logged almost two decades more toiling in the setting materials segment of the industry.

For the last several years, he has served as director of technical services with Crossville, Tennessee-based Crossville, Inc., helping resolve claims and handling in-house and distributor training. He has also been integrally involved in development of Crossville’s EcoCycle Tile, a recycled product that earns LEED credits for users.

Bolby recently consented to a comprehensive question-and-answer session with TileDealer. In this text of that interview, he discussed what he’s learned in his four-decade career in the tile industry, the reception EcoCycle Tile has earned in the marketplace, and Crossville’s long-standing commitment to environmental protection.

TileDealer: How did you go from installer to working in the setting part of the industry to your role with Crossville Tile?

Bolby: I started life in Kansas City, where I was born and raised, and spent all my adult life, until I went to Crossville five years ago. I’m 58. I got into what I call the floor covering-installation part of the business in my latter years of college, while I was attending the University of Missouri–Kansas City. During that time, I started out as a helper in non-union shops, and worked floor covering. At the time, tile didn’t have the prominence it does now. I stretched a lot of carpet and installed a lot of sheet goods. The bulk of my time was spent in carpet installation and floor covering materials other than tile. I started seeing things change within about two years after starting.

The majority of the work was shifting to ceramic, and less and less carpet and vinyl. This would be about 1978. I was working with installers who had been doing the various trades for decades, and they had many years experience with all kinds of flooring, including ceramic tile. What they knew about tile, they taught me. It was hard work; I was always a helper, a really good helper, but never ran crews. I did that kind of work for about five years. When I finished college, I figured that gave me the right to quit working hard for a living. Boy, was I wrong.

During that time I tried various lines of work. I sold long distance subscriptions, worked in the roofing industry for a couple years, and also worked in consumer products and industrial adhesives, mostly in sales capacities.

At long last, I came full circle and went to work for what is known today as Tech Specialty Products, then known as the H.B. Fuller Company. There I began my work in the setting materials industry, selling mortars and grouts, sometimes working two territories rather than just one. My geography was everything south of Nebraska to the Gulf, east to Chicago and west to the Rocky Mountains.

I worked first in selling setting materials through wholesale distributors throughout the greater Midwest. I did that for 17 years. As time went by, the products in the industry became much more technical, but in that line of work you can never lose touch with the contractors who actually use those products.

You have to understand if they have a problem, either with a product or an installation, that’s your problem. Coming from the trade, even though it wasn’t officially union trade, it gives you an empathy with people in the trade. And it helps you a lot in not necessarily siding with them, but in understanding their position and the problems they encounter. The room always looks different when you’re on your knees.

After 17 years in the setting materials industry, and all the traveling, I was ready for a change. I had become well acquainted with several of the Crossville representatives, and had also become acquainted with the company itself and its products. It was the kind of organization and the kind of people I wanted to work for. The director of technical services position became available, and my relocation was happily taken on.

At Crossville, we manage and maintain the company’s data base on product claims, which is another way of saying complaints. And to the extent of resolving all those claims, one way or another we will write technical letters, advise people from an installation standpoint, visit job sites and, basically, protect the brand. That’s what we do, dealing with these claims the best way possible in order to protect the brand. We also do in-house employee training and training for our distributors. My training specifically is what I would call technical and installation training.

TileDealer: The EcoCycle Tile has been in the marketplace for about five or six months. How has it been received?

Bolby: I will tell you it has been well received. In an area of sustainable product rather void of many choices, the Ecocycle has been enthusiastically embraced. It is the kind of a product that requires time for sales to generate because so much of the business ultimately will be driven by architectural and design specification. And with that type of sale, there’s usually a lag time from the time it is specified to the time the project is actually built and the tile is ordered. It’s not unusual for it to be six months or longer.

The EcoCycle product has also been unique in the marketplace in the sense that Scientific Certification Systems has audited and verified the consistent level of recycled content to be at least 40 percent. The kind of recycled content is at least 40 percent pre-consumer recycled content.

That’s significant in the sense that if you are a consumer, we are using waste you never got, as opposed to waste like a soft drink bottle that you used and then recycled. We have been preemptive in recapturing our waste. Pre-consumer recycled material is defined as material diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process. And that is what we do.

TileDealer: In what major installations has it been used?

Bolby: Of the two primary areas where it’s been well embraced so far, the first is a national banking corporation that has devoted itself to sustainable design in all of its new locations. The second is a large automotive company also involved very heavily in sustainable design and operation of their facilities, and they are using the EcoCycle. Both have dedicated themselves to operating and designing sustainable facilities.

TileDealer: Why did Crossville think it so important to go in this direction?

Bolby: Crossville just finished celebrating its 20th birthday. And since its inception, the management has always had an environmental mindset, and has imparted that mindset to everyone at Crossville. Through the years, we have always maintained water discharge and air emission standards well below federal and tile industry standards.

However, with Crossville’s success came large, waste-related problems. Starting back in 1996, management and the engineering group here embarked on the goal of zero production facility waste. And that costs a lot of money and a lot of time.

But I would say Crossville’s management was prepared to pay the price, rather than contribute massively to the waste mountain.

Tile starts out as fine-grained powders composed of clays and feldspar. During the normal production process and cleaning of equipment, a great deal of this sediment gets into the water. Where Crossville has been enormously successful has been in coming up with an economical way of separating that sediment from the wastewater.

To give you the scale of this operation, before we created the system, Crossville was contributing millions of pounds per year of wet waste to the landfills. Now, with the unique separation system we’ve come up with, none of that material goes to the dump any longer. It’s all being reused. That’s a home run. That’s out of the park. And to our knowledge, few in the industry if any are able to create that kind of segregation.

TileDealer: From a broader perspective, what are some other areas you and Crossville are working on? What do you expect the next technological direction to be?

Bolby: I’d like to answer in two ways. Yes, there are technological issues we will be working on; [but] I’m limited in what I can comment on. One of the issues from a waste standpoint we have yet to overcome, and the rest of the industry is working on this too, is how to efficiently use fired tile. In the past. we have evaluated different approaches to this challenge, and that inquiry continues.

The other part of my answer would be this industry still is very much a part of the fashion industry. And whether it’s an EcoCycle product or a state-of-the-art new product, fashion still pays the bills and still sells the tile. That said, if there’s a mindset still alive and well here it’s that Crossville will continue to create products that climb the fashion ladder. And we’re going to continue to focus on design and some of the more exotic areas of the tile industry, such as metal, metallized porcelain, and glass products. We are a fashion and style-driven company and industry. The challenge we’ve met, and will continue to work at, is making the environmental needs a part of that—not only in the products we produce, but in the methods by which we operate.

I want to leave you with one final point. Part of the environmental mindset is that you have to take it out of your head and put it into action. It has to have an official recognition within the organization, in order for it to have credibility and authority. Crossville has done that. We have created an environmental task force comprised of all of our operational units. That includes everything from production to purchasing to sales to engineering and other departments. The mission of the people on that committee is to recommend operational innovations that will lessen Crossville’s environmental impact, and keep us the environmental leader in the industry.

SOURCE:

Tim Bolby

Director of Technical Services

Crossville Tile

Crossville, TN

931-456-3983


CSI: Tile When Installations Fail
 
March 1st, 2007

By Jeffrey Steele

March-April 2007

Talk to experts who regularly investigate tile failure, and they will tick off a lengthy laundry list of causes. Inadequate substrate preparation, inadequate or improper setting materials, failure to take into account movement of floors and walls, premature traffic on tile installations, problems with curing compounds, excessive deflection and installer ignorance or arrogance are among causes cited.

In some cases, most or all of these factors can play into a perfect storm of tile failure. In the pages to follow, we will examine the problems that plague both residential and commercial tile applications, the ways they cause or contribute to tile failure and the best ways to combat these issues.

Inadequate Substrate Preparation

At San Diego-based Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, founder Donato Pompo and his staff members serve as consultants to the ceramic tile and stone industry, conducting ceramic tile and natural stone forensic investigations in cases where tile has failed. If tiles have become loose or are damaged, Pompo will launch an investigation of conditions leading to the failure and will recommend a remediation.

He frequently finds cases of tenting or buckling of tile, in which an entire section of tile raises off the substrate, or of cracking within tiles.

“That’s because the substrate was inadequately prepared,” he says. “We get a lot of calls on this lippage issue, where the tile isn’t installed correctly, and isn’t installed evenly, and it causes one edge of the tile to be higher than the other.”

But that isn’t the only example of inadequate substrate preparation. Another occurs when installers attempt to bond tile directly to a concrete slab, Pompo says.

The problem? Concrete slabs are never totally flat, but have high and low spots. To overcome this issue, the low spots should be filled in, and the high spots ground down, before any attempt is made to set the tile, he says.

Inadequate/Improper Setting Materials

According to Dave Gobis, Clemson, SC-based executive director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), lack of thin set coverage under the tile is one of the biggest causes of failure.

“The industry standard is 80 percent interior, 95 percent exterior and in wet areas,” he says. “If the tile doesn’t get the support it needs, if you don’t have the tile firmly bedded, it’s not going to take much time to work that tile off the floor . . . The type of thin set that’s used overcomes problems. It will help compensate for not having enough thin set on in the first place. Thin set can definitely compensate for a lot of things, but you still need to get enough thin set.”

Inadequate Movement Joints

Several experts cite improper utilization of movement joints as a primary source of tile failure. Among them is Noah Chitty, technical services director of StonePeak Ceramics, with headquarters in Chicago and a factory in Crossville, Tennessee.

“All tile expands and contracts,” he remarks. “And even though it expands and contracts less than other covering materials, there still needs to be adequate compensation for the movement of the building and floor itself.”

A classic example is the grout at the 90-degree angle between bathtub and wall. If hard grout rather than a flexible material is used, the weight of the water and the individual in the tub—or the natural movement of the house itself—can crack that joint, allowing a pathway for water to enter into the wall cavity, Chitty says.

Gobis agrees lack of movement joints is a chief culprit. “Walls move, floors move and everyone’s always quick to blame something,” he says. “But if there’s no accommodation for movement in the installation, it’s a problem.

“Every single building material moves, and they all move at different rates. I’ve had tile failure through lack of movement accommodation from two years to 56 years [after a home’s construction]…It’s not tile product failure. It’s a failure of the installer to provide for movement.”

A lack of movement joints is also one of the causes of loose or unbonded tile, Gobis adds. “But you have to be ultratechnical to make that call,” he notes.

Premature Traffic on Fresh Installations

Gobis cautions that when installing porcelain tile, installers must allow extra time for the thin set to dry. That’s because porcelain is impervious, and doesn’t allow moisture to evaporate or be absorbed. “Think of Elmer’s Glue between two sheets of glass; it will never dry,” he says. “You can overcome that, but you need to pay for it. Some thin sets are designed for more rapid drying cycles. Premature traffic then causes tile failure because the tile comes loose. It dries like a picture frame.”

Excessive deflection

Too much bounce in a floor can prove another fatal problem for tile installations, Gobis says. Houses are designed for average weight, but tile weighs a lot more, he notes. “Often you end up with seven to nine pounds per square foot of dead weight. So structures need to be designed to compensate for the weight of the tile. The real issue is not with the floor joists, but with the area in between the joists.”

If it’s a high-traffic area, for instance one in which a lot of deliveries are received, the application calls for a superior thin set. “And up on the second floor, it better be even more superior,” Gobis says. “Take the deliveries and traffic, and add some bounce. It’s accelerated by the fact it’s on the second floor. So there’s no such thing as one thin set that’s good for everything.”

Curing Compounds

Curing compounds, which seal moisture into concrete, are used with virtually every concrete slab, Gobis reports. That’s fine, but the same compound that prevents moisture from coming out of the concrete also prevents thin set from binding. “If all the holes are full of curing compound, there’s not going to be any bond,” he says.

“You can use a good latex and polymer—premium thin sets—and it will help but not overcome the problem of curing compounds. Any industry observer would say the curing compound must be removed.”

Leaky Showers

Gobis feels 85 percent of the showers built today are not properly constructed, and he bases that assessment on some 35 years of observation.

The biggest cause of mold in showers is lack of prepitch, a membrane pitched to the drain. And this is not a new problem, he observes, adding he has taken apart showers that are 100 years old and discovered the same flaw.

“If you have a leak in a shower stall, the leak rots the structure supporting the tile,” he says. “Rotten leaky showers. Nasty, nasty.”

Pompo is in full agreement that moisture intrusion around showers is a huge factor in tile failure. Though many people cite mold as a failure mechanism, mold is only a symptom of the failure mechanism, he says, noting it’s impossible to have mold without having moisture. “Water intrusion is a very expensive failure in our industry, and the construction industry at large,” he says. “That’s why, particularly in showers, it’s important that shower applications are properly waterproofed. If it’s installed incorrectly, water can migrate into the wall cavities, leading to mold and other water damage.”

Chain Reactions

In most cases of tile failure, no one factor is to blame, Pompo asserts. Instead, the failure is the result of compounding issues. A typical scenario is that the installer didn’t properly prepare the substrate, allowing a contaminant to interfere with the bond or the attachment of the thin set.

The installer may also not have applied enough thin set to achieve the minimum requirement of 80 to 95 percent contact, and may not have included expansion joints to restrain the tile from moving. “And they may have had a moisture problem, with excessive moisture in the slab, or too much deflection in the substrate,” Pompo adds.

Stone Tile Failures

Over the last several years, there has been a much greater incidence of stone tile failure, in part because stone is being used far more frequently than in the past, Pompo reports. In some cases, the failures of stone installations are similar to those found in ceramic tile, but there are significant differences as well.

“Stone is much more sensitive to moisture than ceramic tile, and that can lead to efflorescence issues, where you get the whitish salt from underneath, with water the transporter,” he says. “Water can pass through more easily in some stones. We also see a lot more lippage problems with stone, generally because they’re being installed with narrower grout joints over substrates that have not been properly prepared.”

Essentially, stone is a much more moisture-sensitive product than clay ceramic tile, Pompo adds. Some stone will expand with moisture, leading to warpage. In addition, installers are using thin set that is much thicker than customary, and thicker than what manufacturers recommend. That adds additional moisture that leads to excessive shrinkage within the thin set.

“When this is done over an elastomeric membrane, the membrane is not able to restrain the tile from moving, as it would if it was bonded directly to the concrete,” he notes. “This leads to indent fracturing, where the stone is actually compressed from the excessive shrinkage in the thin set, causing spider web indents in the face of the stone. You can’t fill them, but you can see them at different angles as the light reflects off them. Eventually they may lead to cracking.

“Along with this excessive thin set, it may lead the crack isolation membrane to release from the concrete, because the membrane isn’t designed to control vertical movement. This has been a big deal over the last several years, and as a result we’re seeing a lot of failures.”

Installer Error and Arrogance

As the above suggests, the problem often lies not with the product itself but with simple inability or unwillingness on the part of the installer to perform the job correctly.

Pompo likes to cite figures that help explain the high rate of installer errors. According to the Tile Council of North America, the tile industry had seen sales double to 2.274 billion square feet over the seven years leading up to 2001, he reports. Yet in that seven-year period, the number of people identified as tile setters increased by only 25 percent, based on U.S. Department of Commerce figures.

“We’ve grown so rapidly that our force of skilled installers has not kept pace,” Pompo says. “Because they need the manpower to perform the work, there are a lot of installers working who don’t fully understand the complexity of the work they’re doing.

“We as an industry have a limited amount of training involved for installers. There are no trade schools or colleges for installers to learn the proper methods and industry standards. Most of these installers learn on the job. So they don’t have the formal education, and are just being told by someone else what to do. . .Even though they have good intentions, we find there are many mistakes done during installation.”

Putting the issue considerably more bluntly is Tim Bolby, director of technical services with Crossville Tile in Crossville, Tenn. “In both residential and commercial [applications], there is what I would call ignorance to the point of arrogance,” says Bolby, who started in the installation segment of the trade, before moving to the setting materials industry and eventually to Crossville Tile, where he helps intervene in disputes regarding product complaints.

“It could involve a carpet installer new to the craft of setting tile, but just because he’s had a trowel in his hand thinks he can do it. There are those who will take on jobs and use them as learning experiences. Consider the advent of new mortars, and the advent of glass or metallized tiles. They all have unique qualities that require continuing education on the part of the contracting and installation sector. And they just don’t do it.

“Basic education is in short supply, not to mention specialized education. I have to tell you there is an awful lot of ignorance out there [with] this continued belief that because they have set ceramic tile, they know all about tile. That’s just not the case.”

He adds that Crossville Tile regularly stages training seminars, and the installers who most need the training are among the least likely to attend. Meanwhile, the skilled installers who take pride in their craft are invariably in the audience.

“There are those who want to be as good as they can be, and they take time out of their private lives to get the information,” Bolby says. ”The ones who don’t want the information and don’t care, they go sometimes, but they’re just there for the 12-pack.”

But education and training are the keys to eliminating installer errors, says Chitty. “Education of manufacturers, distributors, end users and contractors is crucial to the long-term success of our industry,” he says.

“And that education can be provided through our industry associations and educational partners like the TCNA [Tile Council of North America], the NTCA [National Tile Contractors Association] and the CTEF [Ceramic Tile Education Foundation], as well as various other groups. All of us who participate on committees and in the technical realm all feel participation of the industry is vital.”

In its quality control efforts, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants takes on a training role, teaching installers how to install correctly and helping them understand industry standards. “After they learn, it becomes habit for them to do it the right way,” Pompo says. “I commonly say there’s never been a failure we investigated that met industry standards and in spite of that failed. The failures always indicate that industry standards were not followed. If the installers had followed the industry standards, they could avoid failures.”

SOURCES:

Tim Bolby

Director of Technical Services

Crossville Tile

Crossville, TN

931-484-2110

Noah Chitty

Technical Services Director

StonePeak Ceramics

Crossville, TN

931-459-2518

Dave Gobis

Executive Director

Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

Clemson, SC

864-222-2131

Donato Pompo

Founder

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants

San Diego, CA

619-669-2967


Sales & Marketing: My Salespeople Are Great—They Don’t Really Need To Be Managed!
 
March 1st, 2007

By A. Craig Stimmel


March-April 2007

If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a hundred times, “My salespeople are great—they don’t really need to be managed.” These executives or entrepreneurs believe that a “self-managed” salesperson does better on their own without any management involvement. Are they right or are they putting their company at risk?

The answer is YES—they’re sticking their neck way-WAY out and waiting for it to be cut off.

Why? Because companies that do not manage their salesforce put their company at risk. At risk of what? Well how about:

  • Loss of business opportunity—unmanaged salespeople only rarely “suggestive sell”—making their employer vulnerable to competition and lower-than-acceptable levels of account penetration.
  • Risk of competition getting into their account—stealing it from them without their even knowing it. This is especially likely with small-to-medium size accounts—those who rarely, if ever, see their account rep.

The Communication gap—today’s savvy companies strive to maintain a strong communications link with their customers. With self-managed salespeople, the executive in charge of business development is rarely kept up-to-date or even aware of:

  • Correct current customer contact information—often the only one that knows is the sales person, and far too frequently h/she keeps it to themselves. Companies often know the AP person but not the buying influence.
  • Sales opportunities—current and future—allowing management to project revenue into the future and track the sales person’s success in closing new accounts.
  • A sales funnel—allowing sales professionals to manage new or previously identified sales opportunities on an on-going basis until a sale is made or the opportunity is found to be no longer valid.
  • Or given the opportunity to communicate directly with accounts—maintaining or enhancing the visibility of the company regarding new products, new services, important changes (service enhancements, product mix, order fulfillment), etc.
  • Losses of control—the company’s inability to monitor/mentor sales personnel’s activities and provide support/guidance when appropriate.

A Case Study

A client of mine operated a distribution company with a salesforce of 14 salespeople serving three states in New England. Each salesperson was assigned to a distribution center—one of four serving the customers of the company. The salesforce met once a month at the company’s head office mostly for a rah-rah session, and no other effort was made to direct their activities. The company’s annual sales were $15,000,000 and flat—little if any growth had taken place over the past 5 years.

My client, the CEO of the company, asked me to come in and see why the company’s profitability was flat or declining while sales were growing at only marginal levels. The company had over 7000 accounts on their books with salespeople assigned to an average of 500 each. The newest salesperson with the company had been there for more than 8 years and the senior salesperson had been there for more than 30.

The company had experienced, as so many firms have lately, a significant increase in their operating costs:

  • Medical insurance had shot through the roof (20% 2 years ago, 15% last year, etc.).
  • Energy/Fuel to operate their delivery vehicles doubled in cost over the past 3 years.
  • Casualty insurance for their facilities, for vehicles, for workman’s comp, etc., had grown by 25%.
  • OSHA compliance costs went through the roof.

The list went on and on. Naturally because this was a closely held private corporation with multi-generational management in place, employees received full benefits at no cost to themselves. It was a great deal for the employees and not so great for the stockholders.

Profits were flat—closely matching their direct cost of doing business (breakeven) as it continued to climb—producing a “zero %” ROI for the stockholders of this privately held corporation.

Something had to be done. No longer a matter of “it would be nice,” it was a critical situation that needed to be fixed or the company couldn’t continue in business, and 60 people would lose their jobs.

My firm did some research and identified that fewer than 100 accounts per rep (of the 500 typically assigned to each rep) saw their sales person more frequently than once-a-year. The largest accounts, naturally, saw their rep as often as weekly or monthly. Another 25 saw their rep twice a year and 50 saw him/her once a year. What happened to the rest of the 400 accounts? They “never” saw their reps. Never ever!

We took our research a little further. We identified 6 product categories that reflected the products sold by this distributor and started tracking the sales by account in each of these product categories. Fewer than 25% purchased more than 2 categories of products despite the fact that most of the small-to-mid-sized accounts used a broader spectrum of products than their sales represented.

In effect the company was losing significant business (maybe equal to the amount of business it was getting from these accounts) because it was not on top of what customers were buying. In effect this company was allowing competition to take the business away from the company because if they weren’t buying it from this company, they were buying it somewhere—and that somewhere was through the competition. They were making it easy for their competition to take business away.

We then tracked how frequently the company communicated with their customers. The answer—rarely if ever. Invoices were sent when an order was fulfilled and a general mailing was done every 6 months with price changes and new product announcements. Because the company didn’t know the name of the buying influence, often this information was being sent to the Accounts Payable clerk rather than to the buying influence. Who had the right contact information? The sales rep—naturally!

How much was this lack of management of the selling process costing this company? After careful evaluation and research, we projected the cost in lost business at over $10 million in sales that they should have but didn’t. They should have been a $25 million company—yet they remained a $15 million firm.

The Recommendations We suggested the following:

1. The entire account base would be evaluated and categorized as follows:

  • Potential Business—based on the size/type of business and general knowledge of the products that were used in similar firms.
  • Existing Business—as a comparison broken out by product category
  • Targeted product categories—account by account

2. Accounts would be assigned to salespeople based on the “real” number of accounts they could effectively serve—500 per salesperson was way out of line with reality. Salespeople were assigned 150 accounts. Some required visits to the customer site. Others could be served by phone or through a combination of phone and much-reduced on-site customer visits.

3. Salespeople would be trained to use a contact management software system that was network compatible. Salespeople were taught to use the corporate sales campaign programs designed to maintain contact every five weeks with accounts—using emails, eNewsletters, Faxes, letters sent with corporate literature via USPS or phone calls. The process was automated so all salespeople had to do was to follow the programmed sales campaigns designed to build revenue for this account base.

4. Accounts not assigned to the salesforce were re-assigned to the distribution center store managers who had time during the day to undertake a pro-active outcall telemarketing program designed to serve this account base and to reactivate in-active accounts (over 6 months inactivity).

5. Salespeople were required to input sales call reports into the CRM system which produced reports on sales performance, account penetration, growth and provided triggers for when sales management needed to get actively involved. This was a part of their responsibility and they were going to be held accountable for it. Salespeople were given laptop computers and access to the Intranet and were required to synchronize their database with that of management daily.

6. As a result of this information flow, management—both the sales executive and line managers—would have instantaneous access to all sales account information in all categories appropriate to that account.

THE RESULTS

Within 15 months, sales were up 50% (to $21 million). Profits were up 1.5% and salespeople were making more money, the company was upbeat and profitable, and senior management received the benefit of having turned things around.

For the sales staff, the benefits were meaningful: enhanced opportunities to grow their assigned account base, increased compensation together with the pride that comes with being part of a successful, fast growing company.

WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE?

Management was the key—savvy management who dug, identified “holes” in the sales process, and created internal and technical systems that gave them the information to effectively know and manage.

The company found that salespeople like to be managed if management is savvy, understanding of the realty of what they do and capable of giving the salesforce the support they need to do their job.

Talk about a win-win!

A. Craig Stimmel, CMC MBA, is President of Planned Growth Business Development Solutions LLC.


Something Special
 
March 1st, 2007

By Beth Rogers

March-April 2007

One in an occasional series highlighting unique tiles

Tile offers a wonderful way to personalize any residential or commercial setting, but some tiles—like the examples here—offer unique, handcrafted and/or one-of-a-kind attributes.

Tile is exciting because it has become an element that truly allows one to express his or her personality. In an era of tract mansions and covenants that dictate exterior paint schemes, people still want to express their individuality in their interiors. Factory-made field tile will yield an infinite number of design options but many consumers are turning to one-of-a-kind art tiles or tiles made from unusual materials to distinguish themselves and their surroundings. TileDealer recently talked to a handful of manufacturers whose products represent the variety of tiles and materials available to the consumer who wants something special.

Twenty years ago Blane Kivley was designing and installing high-end bathrooms. He noticed that clients would call him back after three or five years, already bored with their bathrooms, and want a redesign. So Kivley thought of a way to come up with a product that wouldn’t give people a chance to get tired.

Today Kivley is president and CEO of Moving Color of Rocklin, California. The company, which was formed in 2005, manufactures glass tiles using slumped glass bought from Oceanside Glass or UltraGlas which it treats with liquid crystal or thermo-chromatics in a closely held, patent-pending process. The tiles then change color when exposed to heat. “The product is dynamic in that when it goes through heat transfer it blooms into color, or it may lose color,” Kivley explains. Every tile is hand made and made to order and will contain chips, cracks, bubbles, and other irregularities that “are part of the beauty of each tile.”

Moving Color’s “Northern Lights” line acts like a mood ring. The field tile appears an opalescent black which morphs from amber to green to blue when exposed to heat. The “Watercolors” line starts out with a base color that fades when exposed to heat. In a shower, when heated water randomly hits the wall, “you get a range of beautiful color, almost like a cloudy sky,” says Kivley. “It’s amazing. Then when you get out they all return to their original base color.” The company also works with an artist who has painted both tiles and large sheets of glass. For example, says Kivley, “You could have a whole landscape scene. And then you turn the shower on and it changes seasons.”

Most of the tiles are 4 x 4, although Moving Color can make them in different sizes and shapes. They are designed for use on walls and floors in interior environments.

Moving Color is still a very small company—last year it only sold 1,000 feet of tile—but growing. Its tile was recently installed at the Mickey Mouse penthouse at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The company is currently working on a sunburst pattern for a radiant heated floor. A Zen bathroom installation in Redondo Beach, CA, used a meandering stream of Northern Lights tile throughout a floor of stone field tile.

Moving Colors tiles start at around $200 a square foot but Kivley says that price isn’t a deterrent if the tiles are used judiciously. For example, in conjunction with a less expensive field tile, one could do a wave through a shower and get a good effect for $800 to $1000.

Buzz is just starting about the company. “Up until now, architects and designers didn’t even realize this was possible,” says Kivley. The company just had its product featured on HGTV’s “I Want That” and now, thanks to the steadily-building publicity, Moving Colors is fielding daily inquiries from places as far away as Dubai.

At the moment, however, the only way to buy Moving Colors tiles is from the company. The company hopes to pick up distributors and it is currently developing the story boards, literature, and other collateral needed to support a dealer network.

Recycling leather into tile

EcoDomo LLC of Rockville, Maryland, started as an environmentally-friendly tile distributor in 2005 with the goal of introducing “green” and recycled tiles to the marketplace. Initially, notes principal Christian Nadeau, the company had handmade terra cotta tile and metal tiles made from recycled car parts, but discovered that the most profitable and popular tile was a recycled leather tile imported from South America, now the company’s sole product.

“There was a high degree of interest in leather,” says Nadeau. “Leather has been very popular in furniture applications and apparel and it’s an extension of this to the marketplace for flooring and wallcoverings.”

Nadeau compares recycled leather to recycled paper. The tiles are made from leather industry scraps that are pulped then pulled back together using natural rubber and acacia tree bark. The company did two years’ worth of R&D to develop a product that would duplicate the smell and feel of straight hide leather with less of its drawbacks—namely abrasion and moisture absorption. Recycled leather tiles have a much higher resistance to abrasion than real leather as proven in Frick-Taber independent tests and one tenth the humidity absorption.

Additionally, says Nadeau, true leather is twice the price of recycled. EcoDomo’s tiles cost $23.95 a square foot regardless of size, color, or texture. Yet, he claims, it is virtually indistinguishable from real leather, both in look and feel. “We’ve had high-end designers look at our product and natural leather and they couldn’t tell the difference.”

Leather tile gives a unique effect. EcoDomo’s tiles have been installed in bedrooms, home cinemas, dining rooms, powder rooms, media rooms, libraries, and home offices. Commercial projects include luxury hotels, museums, bars, restaurants, members’ clubs, recording studios, theaters, galleries, boardrooms, and offices.

Tiles need to be acclimated to their environment for 48-72 hours prior to installation. The tiles are then glued down like a vinyl or cork floor with a low-VOC, water-based adhesive. Once installed, a paste wax like Butcher’s is applied and buffed for extra protection and polish. For further protection, the leather can be coated with a water based-sealer like Aqua Mix or Street Shoe. With a little bit of maintenance, the tiles are resistant to staining from alcohol, water, or other fluids. The tiles develop a patina and improve with age if maintained properly. Many people find leather particularly pleasing underfoot, because it has a quieter, more yielding surface than hardwood or stone.

The company advises against using the tiles in high moisture and humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. For the same reason, the product is not recommended for below-grade applications. The company’s tile is currently available through 55 retailers throughout the US or by contacting them directly.

EcoDomo is a member of the US Green Building Council, and builders that use EcoDomo tiles can earn credits under the USGBC’s Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) designation. Interestingly, Nadeau thinks only about a third of the sales are related to the fact that the product is green. Most people are drawn to the tile because of its warmth.

Function or art?

Motawi Tileworks of Ann Arbor, Michigan, began in 1992 when Nawal Motawi, who had studied sculpture and ceramics at the University of Michigan and worked at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit, set up a table displaying her tiles at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. She was commissioned to make a fireplace surround and was soon joined by her brother Karim. For a while, the siblings worked out of a garage. Today the company has more than two dozen employees, and the distinctive tile, influenced by early 20th century decorative artists, is sold through 65 high-end tile showrooms.

The company uses a locally-produced clay from Rovin of Taylor, MI, that has been specially blended for Motawi. The clay starts as a porcelain but essentially becomes a white stoneware through the addition of grog.

Pam Labadie, Motawi’s marketing director, notes that about half the tiles are sold for functional purposes. The other half are sold to individuals who collect them and display them as works of art. The company has shown its work at numerous craft shows around the country and works with around 300 gift stores, galleries, and museum stores.

At $100 a square foot, the tile is expensive. Most customers use it judiciously in powder rooms, kitchen backsplashes, and fireplace surrounds—“anywhere a client might want a real focal point.” The machine-pressed field tiles are hand finished with specialty art glazes. “Our glazes are quite beautiful and varied,” she notes; so varied, in fact, that retailers must show clients at least three to six pieces of tile to demonstrate the color range before they are allowed to order the tile. Nearly every piece is made to order.

The company’s hand-dipped relief tiles are even more expensive—starting at $34 for a 6 x 6—and use a single glaze. “The glaze just pools and flows and when it’s fired each glaze will break over the edge, which gives it a different color and different tone,” says Labadie. “Our relief tile is designed to highlight that.”

The company’s polychrome tile is produced using a process known as “cuenca” named after the town of Cuenca, Spain. Each tile has ridged areas, allowing the glaze (which is applied by hand with a bulb syringe) to pool in recessed areas, creating an effect similar to cloisonné. The prices of polychrome tile vary depending on the complexity of the design and the number of colors used. Motawi’s most popular pattern is its pine landscape, which ranges from $52 to $64 per tile. An 18 x 42″ mural of the pine landscape is $1680. Some people have installed that mural behind their cooktops or above a fireplace.

Motawi tile has been installed in homes all across the country, although hot spots include regions with lots of Arts and Crafts style homes like Chicago, Pasadena, and Asheville. The company has done murals for the University of Michigan Hospital, and Disney’s Grand California Hotel in Anaheim. Motawi introduces new designs each year, most of them created by Nawal, and will be debuting calla lily and amaryllis relief tiles at the upcoming Coverings show.

Reintroducing bronze tiles

“Metaphor actually reintroduced the bronze tile to the art market,” claims Gail Henningsen, a partner and marketing director for Metaphor Bronze Tileworks. “When we started we were the first on the block…It’s an old, old art form but was almost a lost art. People weren’t selling bronze tiles to tile showrooms.”

More than a decade ago artist Jay Gibson was vacationing in Maine and was captivated by the beauty of beach rocks. Gibson, who studied sculpture at the Pratt Institute and later worked at the Johnson Atelier, a premier bronze art foundry, had the idea that he could cast those rocks in bronze tile. Gibson formed Metaphor Bronze Tileworks in 1997. The company’s tiles are now distributed via high-end showrooms around the country.

Metal tile is definitely a big trend today, notes Henningsen, and Metaphor’s tiles have been installed on walls, floors, backsplashes, and fireplace and pool surrounds. Many people are using the tiles in outdoor installations. “They won’t crack or break,” says Henningsen. “They can handle the weather.” Many customers appreciate the way bronze oxidizes and turns green. For those who want their bronze to remain pristine in an outdoors or wet environment they can choose nickel bronze, or have their tiles lacquered.

One 4 x 4 tile from Metaphor runs around $54, which Henningsen says is reasonable considering that some metal coated tiles approach that price. Typically the tiles are blended with less expensive field tile, and Metaphor’s moldings and listellos are particularly complementary with stone or glass tile.

Gibson has designed about 60% of Metaphor’s lines. The remainder of the designs have been commissioned from other artists. Henningsen points to the pine cone pattern as one of the company’s most popular designs. The company has also ventured into offering glass enameled tile and can silver-plate its tiles for an extra luxe effect.

The tiles are so exquisite that a few people have bought individual tiles and had them framed. The Sunriver Resort in Oregon bought a bunch of the pine cone tiles and framed them, but Metaphor has not pursued the gift market.

Casting is done at an industrial foundry in New Jersey and shipping is done from there. The company hand patinas its tiles using proprietary patinas and a “hot torch” method which allows the company to offer its tiles in a range of colors not commonly associated with bronze such as “yellow ocher” and “cherry.”

Like EcoDomo, Metaphor is starting to plug its product as being environmentally-friendly (although this came as an afterthought, not by design) after hearing from their showrooms that they were being asked more frequently to spec green products. Metaphor’s tiles are made from recycled copper that is alloyed with other ingredients such as recycled silicon chips. The green sand used in the molds during the foundry process is constantly reused. The tiles themselves could be recycled—should anyone choose to do so.

Although Metaphor is based in Maine, Henningsen says that it has had strong sales in areas like Colorado and Lake Tahoe. Where tile is often sold as a function of the showrooms, notes Henningsen, “If the showroom and their designers really love and understand the work, they will sell it.”

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