How active are you in CTDA?
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

At the spring committee and board meetings in Orlan-do, CTDA leadership spent a considerable amount of time talking about increasing active membership within the association. This is an important goal for us in 2008, because active members strengthen the association. As active members we also clearly recognize the benefits of association membership and we think it’s good for all of us and the industry to grow these relationships.

Active members—distributors who attend events like the upcoming Management Conference, who take advantage of association benefits like webinars, online education and the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson program—build stronger companies with more professional staffs. They feel free to network with industry peers to solve common problems. Because they’re leveraging their access to industry education, whether it’s online or in person, they’re smarter about the issues that matter the most.

The current business climate makes CTDA membership—as well as active membership—even more important. We all benefit from the shared expertise of peers who have weathered similar economic cycles. How did they manage costs? Collect outstanding invoices? Generate new relationships to build sales now and later?

It only takes 5 points!

To encourage more active members, CTDA launched the “Get Active” campaign, which includes awarding points for attending the Management Conference, and for leveraging CTDA benefits like the CCTS program, the upcoming webinar series, and the CTDA trade mission to China, as well as for participation on committees and the Board of Directors.

We’ve also added some additional incentives for becoming active members. Active members who attend the 2008 Management conference will be eligible for a drawing for their choice of free golf or a free tour at the event. Active Members will also be recognized at the Management Conference. Since it only takes 5 points to achieve active membership, I hope you’ll consider our challenge to raise your level of participation in CTDA.

Get points now!

Participate in the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program (worth 1 point per CCTS) or one of our upcoming webinars (worth 1 point per attendee).

CCTS helps you demonstrate the professionalism and industry knowledge of the individuals in your company. It gives you an advantage over the competition and also offers a way to develop employee training within your own firm. To learn more about CCTS see the related story on page 11 of this issue or visit the CTDA website, www.ctdahome.org.

The first CTDA webinar on “Recession Issues” with Al Bates of the Profit Planning Group, was a great success. All of the respondents to a post-webinar survey ranked it a “5” on a scale of 1 to 5. As one respondent commented, “Very worthwhile…when is the next one?” CTDA staff is currently finalizing the seminar schedule. Please check the website, www.ctdahome.org for an updated calendar and registration!

I hope you’ll consider our challenge to achieve active membership. I know it will benefit you and your company.


Seeing Green
 
July 2nd, 2008

By Janet Arden, Editor

July-August 2008

If there was one clear message at Coverings 2008, it’s that greenbuilding is not just here to stay, it’s one of the keys to today’s marketplace. The green-ness of any product is a plus. Qualifying for LEED points is even better. Should we be surprised? I don’t think so.

In fact, I think the green marketplace has been a long time coming. For a long time it seemed as if no one was listening. Oh, we recycled our newspapers and glass. A good friend gave up holiday wrapping paper in favor of homemade re-useable fabric gift bags.

But I think we also all found ways to get around it. Despite my enthusiasm for the compost pile at the back of the garden, I parked an SUV in my driveway.

Unlike some trends that have driven the marketplace, green seems to be driven by the consumer. Builders, remodelers, manufacturers and everyone in between recognizes that today’s consumer values the qualities represented by green building.

First, greenbuilding saves money in the long run. We’ve been at it long enough now to see real savings from energy efficient systems. This has been particularly telling as energy costs continue to skyrocket.

Early in the movement, government entities, education and institutional building began to require a minimal level of LEED certification. This lead to the development and use of increasingly green alternatives that translate easily into other structures. Today there are more green options and they are better.

A recent report published by NAHB pointed to results of a McGraw Hill Construction Survey indicating that the consumer values the higher quality associated with green building. Now that housing values are not rising as they once did and home sales are stagnant, the green features of one home can give it a real advantage over less-green homes in the same marketplace.

If you are not developing at least a working familiarity with green products, you owe it to your business and your customers to do so. Start with our feature on “Getting LEED Credit for Flooring Materials.” Next, talk to your suppliers about how their products fit into the greenbuilding landscape. You may have more green products than you realize.

Share your knowledge. Host a “green seminar” with an appropriate speaker from one of your suppliers and invite your best customers and prospects to learn more. Highlight those products in your showroom that are green, so customers can spot them. And when customers do show interest in green products, be prepared to discuss the pros and cons with them.

Elsewhere in this issue, Patti Fasan wastes no time making her point about the value of quality in our current One-on-One interview. We suggest you read it, re-read it and then share it with your employees.

If you have attended one of Patti’s high-energy technical and/or design presentations at Coverings or Surfaces, you know that she is passionate about the ceramic tile industry. In this interview she talks about how you can respond to the current economy.

Last, but certainly not least, take a look at our Showroom Seminar for some ideas on new products that could just help deliver a few new customers.

Best wishes for a green season!


Innovations
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

Granite Tile for the Vision Impaired
Vitromex has partnered with a granite manufacturer to make tile for the vision impaired for use in outside applications. Tactical surfaces alert the vision impaired about a change in street level or about an upcoming crossing way. There are two tile surfaces available. The round surface is 12"x12" (30x30cm) granite tile with 6 vertical columns and 6 horizontal lines made of relief bubble shape. This tile is used to alert of a crossing way and is available in Circle White, Circle Black, Circle Beige. Lined surface tile is 12"x12" (30x30cm) and consists of 4 vertical parallel bars. This tile is used to alert of a change in street level and is available in Strips White, Strips Black, Strips Beige.
(210-490-4620)

Prospec® Heated Floor System
ProSpec has partnered with Tyco Thermal Controls, a division of Tyco International, to distribute the Raychem QuickNet® Electric Heated Floor System for ceramic tile and natural stone installations. The QuickNet system consists of a low-profile, three-sixteenths of an inch (3 mm) heating mat and a programmable thermostat. The heating mat contains an impact-resistant heating cable on an adhesive-backed fiberglass mesh that allows for simple roll-out installation without the worry of heating cable spacing. The QuickStat thermostat also features a floor temperature sensor that automatically switches the system “on” or “off” to ensure a comfortable floor. The system can maintain floor temperatures up to 85°F (29°C) and features a built-in ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for safety. The system will make installation quicker, easier and more affordable than earlier systems that required anchoring and individual thermostats. QuickNet provides targeted, uniform heat distribution, which can help lower heating bills. It also radiates the heat for a longer period of time than a forced air system. The QuickNet system, which is ideal for both new construction and renovation projects, provides added comfort in bathrooms, kitchens, entryways or other tiled areas. “Heated floor systems are one of the most overlooked items in remodeling or new construction projects. These systems, which were once primarily for high-end construction, offer tremendous value for all homeowners, creating a more comfortable space, reducing energy consumption and delivering cost savings,” said Kevin McFadden, Vice President Construction Products. ProSpec offers the 120-volt QuickNet system in 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 square foot sizes. All mats are 20 inches in width, and each system comes complete with the thermostat. The system is compatible with all standard subfloor materials, including ProSpec underlayments, thin set mortars and grouts.
www.prospec.com

Laminam
Laminam S.p.A’s innovative Lam’Slab™ is a paper thin (3 mm) highly advanced technical surface ceramic with a unique 3m by 1m surface size. Lam’Slab™ and its by-products (Lam’S™, Lam’S2™, Lam’S3™) offer unrivalled aesthetic results in all versions. Laminam® products are suitable both indoors and outdoors, in the building industry, furnishing, naval sector, composite and structural panels. Lam’Slab™, Lam’S™, Lam’S2™, Lam’S3™ come in a wide range of colors and finishes, to satisfy all creative needs. Inspired by the idea of “producing the largest and thinnest ceramic slab ever seen,” Laminam S.p.A. was established in 2001 in Fiorano Modenese, in the world’s most famous ceramic district. The result of a highly automatic, innovative manufacturing process in which each phase is at the forefront of technology, Lam’Slab™ stands alone as the major innovation in the field of materials. Laminam staff is continuously researching new aesthetic and technological solutions that can be developed using the product.
www.laminam.it

Modern Mythology offers 83 Natural Stone Mosaics & Decorative Trims
Crossville rewrites history with Modern Mythology—an opulent collection of 83 natural stone mosaics and decorative trims for floors, walls and countertops that recall bygone eras. The collection ranges from 2" x 4" Brick Mosaics, to 6" x 6" Braid Rosettes, to retro Solid Split Mosaics on 12" x 12" sheets, to mention but a few of the many choices. Offering a spectrum of natural stones, from the soft, subtle hues of travertine to the casual warmth of multi-toned slate and the polished elegance of black and white marble, Modern Mythology provides a tapestry of colors, shapes and textures to create a beautiful backdrop for living. As Crossville’s color and design consultant, Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, DC, CAUS, has created numerous award-winning Porcelain Stone®, metal and glass tile collections; Modern Mythology is her inaugural natural stone line for Crossville. “My goal in designing the collection,” says Schirmeister, “was to offer specifiers and homeowners a large, flexible selection of harmonious colors and patterns that intermingle to create unique modern and classic spaces.” Crossville first entered the natural stone market more than ten years ago with Tumbled Naturals borders. Today the company offers a total design solution, which includes not only Porcelain Stone®, but glass, metal and now a broad range of natural stone choices.
www.crossvilleinc.com

Sound Board & Sound Mat Can Qualify for LEED Credits
USG has announced that the recycled content of its LEVELROCK™ brand SRB™ sound reduction board and LEVELROCK SRM-25™ sound reduction mat can help architects and designers qualify for LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits from the U.S. Green Building Council. SRB sound board has a recycled content of 49.7 percent, of which 17.0 percent is post-consumer material. SRM-25 sound mat is manufactured with a typical recycled content of 15.0 percent, 100 percent of which is pre-consumer/post-industrial material. Because these materials do not contain any CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), cadmium or mercury, they are non-hazardous and non-toxic. The sound board and sound mat help attenuate sound and are installed before the flooring underlayment is poured. While products themselves cannot be LEED-certified, they can contribute to helping the building achieve a LEED rating. For example, the recycled content of the LEVELROCK sound board, sound mat and green underlayment products can enhance the building’s overall LEED rating under the MR 4.1 and MR 4.2 credit covering recycled materials and resources. The LEED Green Building Rating System™ is a voluntary, consensus-based standard to support and certify successful green building design, construction and operations. LEED is transforming the marketplace by providing a nationally recognized certification system to promote integrated, whole-building design practices in the building industry. The program assigns points for a variety of sustainability criteria, including materials selection.
www.levelrock.com

New Soundproofing Formula Increases the "R" Value by 22%
Acoustiblok sound proofing announced that a new formula of their 1⁄8" material mounted with a ¼" strip of ThermaBlok™ produced an amazing 22% increase in R Value (thermal insulation) when added to a stud wall. Independent certified lab tests confirmed the results making test comparisons of two identical metal stud walls, one with Acoustiblok and one without. Lahnie Johnson, President & Founder of Acoustiblok stated that “These results indicate that after much research and testing, our new product not only addresses the increasing problem of noise pollution in our world, but will also be part of the solution to the rising cost of energy.” ThermaBlok™ is a new “nanoparticle technology” developed in the aerospace industry and used on the space shuttle. Because of its molecular structure it has the absolute lowest thermal conductivity of any solid material known. The audio test of the assembly has produced an STC virtually equivalent to 24" of poured concrete. Acoustiblok material is unique in the soundproofing industry, as it neither stops nor absorbs sound as other noise abatement methods attempt to do, but actually changes the acoustical energy into inaudible friction energy as it vibrates from sound waves, termed Isothermal adiabatic. The product is easy to install, stapling or screwing the 1⁄8" thick material to the studs before putting on drywall. Acoustiblok is a heavy mineral filled viscoelastic polymer, UL (Underwriters Laboratories) approved for over 270 types of construction and achieved the highest rating of mold/mildew free, 10. Unlike many new building products that are viewed as an added expense, Acoustiblok is marketed as an “upgrade” by developers, adding to the long term value and resale attractiveness of the property. In addition to added privacy and energy savings, it resolves a new expense developers are facing today—noise litigation. Johnson says that “Developers are starting to realize that sound abatement during construction is not only the cheapest insurance against litigation, but could actually be a new revenue source. Add to this the 22% increase in thermal insulation and we are about as ‘green’ as it comes.”
www.acoustiblok.com

Ecotech from Floorgres
The first product produced at the industrial level that reuses the powders, pastes and residues from the manufacture of other products, ECOTECH transforms rejects into resources. This eco-friendly line regenerates recycled material into a new composite material in which the chips and grains are aggregated to create an original mélange effect, with precious glints blended in. ECOTECH is creative recycling, using up to 100% recycled residues, depending on the shade. It is certified ECOLABEL, and is available in four colors: Ecogreen, Ecogrey, Ecoblack, and Ecolight. It is available in a variety of sizes, and in two finishes: natural and textured.
www.florim.it

Coem’s Marfil
Ceramiche Coem’s Marfil porcelain stoneware available in both natural and polished versions outrivals the marble that inspired it through the essence of the natural world it conveys, offering simplicity and purity with total restraint. Ceramiche Coem’s R&D work is guided by keen respect for the environment, for human beings, and for human spaces, striking a unique balance between aesthetics, technical performance, and versatility. In a variety of sizes and a choice of White, Beige, Corky, Walnut. Surface choices include unpolished, unpolished/rectified, half polished/rectified.
www.coem.it

Time-Saving Tool for Underlayment Installation
Simpson Strong-Tie introduced the Quik Drive® PROCGB Combo System with two new auto-feed attachments at Coverings 2008. Designed specifically for the tile contractor, the innovative new tool allows for quick and easy installation of cement board, fiber-cement board and gypsum panel underlayment. The Quik Drive PROCGB Combo System is an all-in-one fastening solution designed to increase productivity and reduce installer fatigue. The auto-feed design uses collated screws to enable quick and easy fastening, and the extension allows contractors to get up off their knees and stand during installation. A powerful screwdriver motor, slim profile and compact body form a lightweight tool that can maneuver tight corners and power through the strongest of underlayment materials. The PROCGB Combo System includes two auto-feed screw driving attachments to fit a wide range of applications and drives and array of screws, which meet the tile underlayment installation requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The precise depth adjustment allows for easy, flush installation without overdriving.
www.strongtie.com/quikdrive

Zipper Advanced Wet Saw
Raimondi Tools USA is launching the Zipper Advanced Wet Saw, one of three new additions to Raimondi’s range of premium wet saws featured at Coverings 2008. The lightweight, 2.2 horsepower wet saw is equipped with telescopic legs for easy transport and a spring-loaded pressure device to hold tile flat against the surface of the saw. With a 12" to 14" blade capacity, the Zipper Advanced has a pivoting blade guard that remains parallel with the tile to ensure maximum cutting depth, as well as a floating blade guard that remains in contact with the tile to provide extra safety during operation. The Zipper Advanced is manufactured to be an extremely accurate saw with it’s standard accessories, but also has numerous attachments and accessories to make this one of the most “Advanced” saws available.
www.raimondiusa.com

Frank Lloyd Wright Collection® Textile Block Series
In 1923 and 1924, Frank Lloyd Wright accepted a series of residential commissions for clients in Southern California. The common denominator was in their method of building construction in which concrete blocks were molded in textured designs, then joined with steel reinforcing rods to form elegant interior and exterior walls. This unprecedented construction method came to be known as the Textile Block System. “Today, in our studio we are sculpting relief tiles in Mr. Wright’s designs and hand-dipping them in warm fluid glazes,” explains Karim Motawi, Vice President at Motawi Tileworks in Ann Arbor, MI. Each residence in Southern California—Alice Millard House, John Storer House and Charles Ennis House—has a unique relief design concept. Each simple design leads to infinite possibilities of geometric pattern and organic relationship. “In focus groups and design presentations, we find that our design clients enjoy exploring textile block combinations,” says Gayle Thomas, Marketing Manager, noting how current Wright’s design elements are today. “A photo hardly does these designs justice,” remarks artisan Brein Gallagher. “You really have to see them. The peaks and valleys seem to undulate when combined in a field.” Motawi has adapted Mr. Wright’s concrete block designs into 4"x4", 6"x6" and 8"x8" blocks. Borders and corners are included with this late product launch.
www.motawi.com

Porcelanosa’s Casona
Porcelanosa’s Casona series is a rich, sultry wood look-alike ideal for installations looking for a natural ambience—spa venues, locker rooms, residential master baths—with the added benefits of tile. Representative of what Tile of Spain branded manufacturers refer to as the Organica trend, Casona is a series that reflects functional, environmental thinking for spaces that are also exposed to moisture. Available in 7" by 43" planks.
www.spaintiles.com

Pixel & Lamé
Ceramica Fioroanese’s Materie focuses on a range of sensory materials including dots in Pixel and iridescence in Lamé. In Pixel, the porcelain ceramic takes on unforeseen depth and three-dimensional effects, an interplay of light and shadow, in the beautifully textured surface. With Lamé it is possible to create uninterrupted surfaces, in which sparkling particles reflect the surrounding light. Light and material redefine the volumes and living spaces: which become brighter and richer, almost enlarged. Cristalli, Rampage, Resine and Rose make up the rest of this design suite.
www.coem.it


Industry Insights
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

Conestoga wins North American Distributor Award
Conestoga Ceramic Tile Distributors has been named the 2008 recipient of the Confindustria Ceramica North American Distributor Award. The award recognizes a US or Canadian distributor for their dedication to the promotion and use of Italian ceramic tiles in the marketplace. Selection criteria included competence and skill over the years as an importer and distributor of Italian ceramic tiles; preference for Ceramic Tiles of Italy for their unique aesthetic and technical qualities; fair-trade practices in the commercial relationship undertaken with the Italian manufacturers; and best showroom and corporate image. Conestoga Tile exemplified each of the rigorous standards set forth by the Italian ceramic tile industry. Conestoga is a major wholesale distributor and importer of ceramic tile and allied products representing approximately 50 domestic and foreign manufacturers. They carry an extensive collection of Italian ceramic tile including: Edilgres Sirio, EmilCeramica, Ceramiche Ricchetti, Mediterranea, Cerim, Rex, Rondine, Tagina, Impronta Ceramiche, Dolce Vita, and Pastorelli. The company was established in 1958 by Jack Vogel and his brother-in-law Bob Banta. In the 1980s, Jack’s wife Susan Vogel joined the business as the Executive Vice President and head of the Sales and Marketing department. Under her leadership the architectural services program was developed, introducing Conestoga into a whole new market. Conestoga also began representing its first Italian manufacturer, Marazzi. The Vogels’ sons Jim and Steve took over in 1998. Conestoga Tile values their special distributor-manufacturer relationship with the Italian ceramic tile industry. The fruitful partnership has led to many successes. According to company president Jim Vogel, “The leading quality that we associate with Italian tile is design. The Italian manufacturers are the leaders in new innovative ceramic tile designs. We also recognize Italian manufacturers’ excellence in the development of high quality porcelain tile. Once the Italians began to switch over to a porcelain body, we began to see an emergence of porcelain tile; both glazed and unglazed, as a demanded product type. Conestoga Tile is honored to receive this award. We have had many great years working with the Italian manufacturers and are looking forward to many more.”

TCNA Awards
The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) awarded Harold Turk, President of Dal-Tile Corp., its 2008 Tile Person of the Year award during Coverings 2008. Turk has spent most of his life and career in the tile industry. He grew up learning about the tile industry from his father, a 40-year employee of Dal-Tile who helped launch and later managed the company’s Monterrey, Mexico factory. One of Turk’s most aggressive initiatives while leading the Dal-Tile SBU was to spearhead a significant strategy shift from a primarily commercially-focused brand to one that is a total market leader in residential and commercial segments. He was instrumental in developing the Gallery Showroom concept, which is an upscale selection center tailored to assist customers with making product selections. Currently, there are eight gallery locations, and the company will soon open showrooms in Chicago and Manhattan. “Mr. Turk’s initiatives have inspired our industry to rethink accepted business practices,” remarked Eric Astrachan, TCNA’s Executive Director. “His innovative strategies have been instrumental in the success of Dal Tile and the resurgence of American tile manufacturing.” In another Coverings presentation, TCNA presented Pat and Jim Evanko the inaugural Art Tile Person(s) of the Year Award. Twenty years ago, an engineer and artist were asked by a friend to match out-of-date tile for a customer. This talented team matched the tile, and, after investigating the tile market, began manufacturing a relief tile line, in their garage, matching American field tile colors, thus creating M.E. Tile (McGarry & Evanko). From 1990 through 2006, M.E. Tile grew from 6 to 142 showrooms due to strong marketing exposure in national magazines, movies, and television shows. As a result, relief tile became a prominent design in a market where it did not previously exist. Demand for this product opened the door for the growth and development of not only M.E. Tile, but many others. “Pat and Jim Evanko’s passion, and their willingness to share their expertise, played a pivotal role in establishing the renaissance of American art tile,” commented Eric Astrachan, TCNA Executive Director. “Their tireless devotion to this industry placed American artistry on the international map and will inspire future artisans.”

NAC names Petit
National Applied Construction (NAC) Products recently promoted Brian Petit to vice president of sales. In his new role, Petit will oversee all sales activity for the maker of anti-fracture membrane and related products. Petit has been an active part of the sales and new business development efforts at NAC for the past three years as architectural and tech manager. Before joining NAC, he was the manager of marketing and sales for The Shelly Company. “Brian has already made great contributions to this company over the past several years through new product development and strengthening of key customer relationships,” says Tom Duvé, president and CEO of NAC Products. “His can-do attitude and handle on the needs of our customer make him an ideal choice to lead the growth of this company.”
www.nac.com

TAU awarded green certificate
TAU Cerámica has taken a definite step forward in its strategy of consolidating sales of its range of ceramic tiles on the American market by obtaining the ‘green’ certificate awarded by the US Green Building Council. This label provides official accreditation that the company’s products are made using manufacturing methods based on sustainable criteria, which means that they are environmentally-friendly. To be more precise, this award shows that the company makes a real effort to develop its products with a constant focus on reducing the use of energy or water, as well as using processes with a low environmental impact in the extraction of primary materials, to mention but a few aspects.
www.tauceramics.com

Laticrete Plant in China
LATICRETE International, Inc. celebrated the Grand Opening of its manufacturing plant in China on April 2nd at Songjiang, Shanghai. LATICRETE (Shanghai) Building Material Co. Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of US-based LATICRETE International. The opening of the China facility represented another milestone in the firm’s fifty plus years of presence worldwide. David Rothberg, Chairman/CEO, Erno de Bruijn, President, International Division and a great number of LATICRETE partners and employee representatives from over 16 countries and regions attended this gala grand opening ceremony. The building of the new production and research center in Songjiang, Shanghai started in September 2007. The new plant is the first fully owned LATICRETE plant outside of US and has been designed and tailored to meet the stringent quality requirements of LATICRETE plants worldwide. Its production line manufactures dry mortars, latex and epoxy products which include tile and stone adhesives, grouts, latex additives, waterproofing, floor underlayments and EIFS systems serving Greater China. David Rothberg stated, “The increasing trend for thinner and lighter-weight buildings requires even more new and innovative ways to install tile and stone.” According to Bill Qiu, General Manager of LATICRETE (Shanghai) Building Material Co. Ltd, “The establishment of the LATICRETE plant clearly indicates our company’s long term commitment to China.” It is expected that within the next decade, LATICRETE China will exceed the firm’s US market in overall sales volume. “The secret of success for LATICRETE has been and always will be in providing localized cutting-edge solutions for tile and stone installations,” added Erno de Bruijn. “Additionally, LATICRETE is committed to training professional tile installers, contractors and Industry personnel on the latest methods and materials for trouble free and secure installation of ceramic tile and stone in China. For this reason we have built a large state of the art training facility at our new Shanghai plant location.”
www.laticrete.com


One-on-One…with Patti Fasan
 
July 2nd, 2008

“If you cut quality because you have to cut some corners, it may help you survive a recession, but you will die afterwards because your reputation suffers so greatly.”

July-August 2008

By Zoe Voigt

For the past eight years, ceramic tile expert and consultant to the tile industry, Patti Fasan has been drawing crowds at tradeshows like Coverings, Surfaces, KBIS and NeoCon, giving talks, seminars and training programs about tile. Her educational programs range from technical to trends, and her passion for ceramic tile is infectious.

Fasan began her career as a designer specializing in commercial and high-end residential work. After relocating, she became an architectural rep, and then worked for a high-end ceramic tile distributor. As sales director, she became frustrated with the lack of training in the industry. She left that position to start consulting.

TileDealer: What are your views on the current situation in the tile industry?

Fasan: Especially with the economics of today, where distributors and retailers can make money in this product category is in quality—in the higher end, in more distinctive and highly technological tile. Because it differentiates them from all of the product that is now absolutely flooding the marketplace in the lower end.

There is only one guy in town who’s got the lowest price. If you aren’t it, then you are not going to sell to that whole market share that has that sort of builder mentality of, “The lower price I pay, the more money I put in my pocket.”

There’s a growing population that understands the really wonderful benefits of ceramic tile and they are willing to pay for it.

I believe that’s where retailers and distributors need to focus: “Where do I find those markets? How do I reach those markets?” Those markets demand the service and the selection of quality products. So, they have to be a bit more risky. Which means that you have to work with manufacturers who will allow you to rep them without having to bring in a whole bunch of expensive inventory that then you have to carry.

North American distributors have come a long way since about five years ago when we were in that vanilla box. A few retailers and distributors brought in some wonderful products, but in general, what North America was stuck in was smaller format, vanilla. Which, thankfully, they’ve moved so far away from. I am proud of them!

In the past few years we’ve had changes: with technology, with the Internet, with more people traveling, and unfortunately with terrorism. As a people, we’re much more inwardly focused on our security, on our health, on our homes and how we live in them. They are our castles, where we feel comfortable. We are surrounding ourselves with spa-like bathrooms, spectacular backyards that are our own vacation spas. So on all of those things we are spending significantly more money.

Tie in the environment. It was fringe before. Quite frankly, tile has never been promoted as an environmental material because North America has certain measuring tools regarding recycled content, readily renewable resources and locally manufactured materials. So when you look at ceramic tiles, it doesn’t fit there. And yet, when I look at its durability, when I think of recycling, I think of things that are disposable, things that I’m throwing away every day, so I want them recycled, I don’t want them in the landfill.

If you look at ceramic tile, especially quality ceramic tile, which is this spectacularly gorgeous canvas, you’ll keep it for forty years.

TileDealer: The life cycle is much longer than for other products.

Fasan: Yes, people have to purchase quality. If you purchased a marble floor for your living room, would you change it in five years?

Think of the homes in America that put marble in their lobbies, kitchens and bathrooms. They will never replace it in the life of the home—it is a permanent surface. Equate that to buying a cheap ceramic tile, I will want to replace that because it will be out of style, out of color, I won’t like it. It will wear.

However, if they purchase a high quality ceramic tile that looks identical to the marble, it is the same investment value, it potentially will cost them a little less, (not much, but a little less) than the marble. The good news environmentally: it isn’t porous; it never has to be sealed; maintenance is so easy. When you think of our lifestyles today, what I am is time-starved. Ask me if I want to seal my marble floor!

Designers and architects are seeing better products, like quality multi-screened, rectified, beautiful tiles. They are quite shocked that it is almost as expensive as marble. But once they realize that performance-wise it is better, livability is better and even environmentally it is better, it starts to all make sense to them.

TileDealer: Exactly what is quality tile and how can you tell?

Fasan: You know quality when you see it. You know the quality manufacturers. They are the ones who have beautiful catalogs for you to look at so that you can really get a feel of what that product will do for your lifestyle, for your livability, your time.

They have the samples; they’ve trained their staff. They can tell you why their tile is more expensive because it is all rectified, that they have one dye lot. People recognize quality.

The basis tests for tile quality are simple to learn. Once they understand that, they can walk into any tile distributor and ask for the data. If you bring in tile that is not tested, that doesn’t meet our standard, then it is really buyer beware. You don’t know if the tile is fired, square or flat. You don’t know if the screen repeats itself constantly rather than being completely erratic and spontaneously like natural stone.

Quality installers have artistry. They don’t just put one tile beside the other but actually do a layout pattern that uses 45-degree angles or herringbone pattern. We have some young installers out there that want to do mosaic tesserated floors—they are learning the real skills of the craft. That elevates the whole industry.

We have to be braver. We have to bring in product that is top quality. Then architects, designers and consumers can see there’s a huge difference between this 99-cent tile and this $4.99 tile. That will lead to a better understanding.

Distributors have to continue to promote quality if we want to elevate the industry. There has to be a substantial difference between what you carry on your floor.

When I talk to distributors and retailers about their showrooms, I tell them: if it is a commodity item, I want rock bottom price. So make sure your selection is extremely narrow. We have to differentiate more. Sometimes we try to carry the same kind of theme in all prices, and then the client just walks in and says, “Well every tile program has the same things so why should I pay $4.50 when I can buy a similar thing for a $1.29?”

TileDealer: The consumer may not see the difference right away.

Fasan: Well, a customer won’t. To them, it is a 12-inch square, both are sort of beige and they can get the baseboard to go with it.

It is like looking at two pair of jeans, one is an Armani at $250. I can tell the difference because they have made sure that I can tell the difference. So, it is my choice whether I want that or I want a pair of Levi’s. We have to do the same thing.

TileDealer: How is the marketplace now?

Fasan: Unbelievably challenging. Every single day we wake up and it seems like more bad news. I guess the biggest thing that I always look at in times like this, (because I’ve now gone through three of them,) is to remember that you always go through them. That is an economic reality—it isn’t always going to stay a booming market. After a boom, we’re always going to have a slowdown, because things inflate so much that we need that.

What I find is that the media, and at times politicians, talk about slowdowns because it is good news for them and so there’s a lot of hype. The reality is that yes, of course, we’re in serious situation, but it is not all bad news, it is not the end of the world and we will come through it.

The people that come through it will be the ones that realize the opportunity in this—there’s always opportunity. The ones that do not react or overreact, but actually say, “You know what, when it is booming I don’t have a second to turn around. When it is booming I am not talking to my clients, my customers, my long-term relationships. Now is my chance to call them, to take them out to lunch to say to them, ‘What am I doing right, what am I doing wrong, could I improve my service to you? Are there other services that you go to someone else for that I could provide for you? Like grout cleaning, like steam cleaning the floors for you.’ (Not that our retailers and distributors want to do that, but in bad times…).

The biggest thing for me is to brainstorm and realize that you’ve finally got some time to really look at your business and design that website, which is becoming more and more important, and to train some of that staff that you haven’t had time to train because you couldn’t pull them off the job when you were too busy.

Of course it’s going to turn around. Lots of distributors and retailers in my opinion do a couple of not very smart things. First thing they do is lay off people. They need to meet their payroll and I understand that, it is difficult, but in a sales environment, usually those are all the lower paid back administrative, clerical personnel. I have seen it so many times—all that ends up happening is that your high-paid sales staff ends up doing very low-profit work instead of being out there selling. It is a lose-lose situation.

Maybe a better way would be to sit down all of your employees and say, look, you are all important to me. We’ve got to brainstorm; we’ve all got to come up with some cost savings. Maybe you could do your job a bit more efficiently. Find some areas to cut costs. I will do this and we will all get through it. There are so many more positive ways than overreacting and making sure that your sales staff are doing everything else than selling.

I was in that position a lot as sales director. It just never worked when you cut staff to such a point that your sales staff are literally filing. It doesn’t help sales or service to your customers. Usually your service areas go down because you don’t have the staff.

The other thing they do is they usually cut advertising. Almost everyone does. Especially—and not to be rude—but the not-too-smart people. My answer is now is, when nobody is advertising, now is when people will notice your advertising. They’ve got to know where you are if you expect to sell. Do some guerrilla advertising. Find out what is going on in your town and put your name on t-shirts, go out and be part of the parade or whatever. Network, join power groups that have nothing to do with tile, but you are meeting more people.

If you aren’t getting the number of sales you were a year ago, you need to call more. Sales is literally a numbers game. If I have to call 20 people to get an interview, in a down time, I have to call 30 people. And if you stay positive and just say, OK, I used to call 20, now every day I’m going to call five more. You have to push. If you used to close one out of 10 sales, now you have to push and get it to one out of nine.

Positive, successful people try not to be negative or be around negative people. They pump themselves up, and say, ‘I’m tougher and I’m one of the only ones that can do it.’ And that’s what they do—they don’t take no for an answer. They see opportunity. When other people don’t advertise, that is when they advertise.

More than ever they need to look at some non-traditional marketing methods. I don’t think that the traditional retail model really works in today’s high-speed, informed customer base. I think you have to research social networks like blogs, webpages, and opportunities like that. Even the catalogues look like lifestyle magazines. They don’t want you to order from the catalogue, they want you to get a better feel for what the stuff feels like or looks like in your home, and that draws people into the bricks and mortar.

Especially in this economy, know that quality absolutely has a reputation. If you cut quality because you have to cut some corners, it may help you survive a recession, but you will die afterwards because your reputation suffers so greatly. Especially today, when people pay good money, their expectations are much higher. It is hard to be a retailer. Customers have too many choices, too many places that they can buy, so they are very demanding. They want it all because they can. So don’t scrimp on quality.

I am very excited because I think this industry has huge potential and we can look forward to the future.


Tile Tour 2008: South American Tiles Show Off Sophisticated Side
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

There is no doubt that some of the smartest designs and forward-thinking tile manufacturers are based in South America. Recent offerings reveal the same trends embraced by their European and American counterparts—large formats, sophisticated designs, and environmental responsibility.

Brazilian manufacturer Eliane Revestimentos Ceramicos, recognized ceramic tile producers since 1960, has a strong distribution network across North America thanks to its subsidiary Eliane Ceramic Tiles (USA), Inc., founded in 1989. The company produces ceramic, porcelain and stone flooring products.

Eliane Ceramic Tiles recently received three prestigious awards for its environmental protection programs at its manufacturing plants in Brazil. The Fritz Muller award was given in recognition of outstanding initiatives in environmental protection, the Ecology award was presented for the company’s recycling program, and the Sustainable Development award was granted by the Brazilian National Manufacturers’ Association.

The company’s most recent design introductions reflect current sensibilities and the latest technology. The Neolitic Series is a complete line of large format metallic tiles made with fire-melted metals over a porcelain body. The contemporary series comes in five colors and a variety of accessories. The Silver and Bronze colors give designers a new metallic visual and textile palette for imaginative design concepts. A non-metallic version is also available in the traditional 20″ x 20″ large format in White, Chestnut Brown and Black to complement the striking metallic pieces. Neolitic is appropriate for both residential and commercial installations.

Materia is a large format, glazed porcelain tile series with a unique combination of rustic and modern colors in rectified and non-rectified options, with a smooth surface finish, offering architects, specifiers and designers a versatile collection for both residential and light commercial applications. It’s available in 17″ x 17″ and 18″ x 18″ formats with stylish accents in 6″ x 17″ and 6″ x 18″ sizes, and can be easily personalized with 3″ x 3″ tozettos that coordinate with 4″ x 4″ acrylic inserts, which are sold separately to maximize customization.

Eliane received the Best Product of the Year—Ceramic Wall Tile Segment award from Building Reseller magazine (for the eighth year in a row), winning this year’s competition with the Spectro Collection, an elegant and modern glazed tile series. Spectro features an exciting new color palette of Cherry, Lavender, Olive, White, Navy and Light Gray.

Eliane has also introduced a contemporary, urban line with Contemporanea, a large format technical porcelain tile series in three neutral colors: Mocca (chocolate), Concreto (grey), and Off-White, as well as two bold colors: Ferrugem (green with touches of orange) and Petrol (navy with touches of red) and two distinct surface finishes, Natural and Lapado, offering architects, specifiers and designers a versatile collection for both residential and commercial applications.

Ilva Launches ECO Land

Ilva S.A., a leading Argentine tile manufacturer and exporter, was founded as recently as 1992 as the new venture of a group of professionals operating in the ceramic tile industry since 1978. From the beginning the company’s objective was to compete successfully with top products available in the international market.

One of its most recent introductions, ECO Land is a fully-rectified technical porcelain tile series with a colored body. ECO Land is composed of natural compounds, such as clays, sand and water, that are fired at high temperatures to create porcelain tiles recommended for exterior walls, interior walls and floors of both residential and commercial installations. To help protect our environment, 15 percent of materials used during Ilva’s technologically-superior manufacturing process are recycled. It is the first series launched from the firm’s new environmentally-friendly manufacturing facility.

ECO Land consists of seven colors to meet a wide range of commercial and residential applications: Deserts (white), Canyons (beige), Beaches (sand), Mountains (brown), Caves (gray), Vulcans (red) and Jungles (green). All colors are available in three textures: polished, unpolished and textured; and every tile is coated with a subtle sheen that is sprayed on the tile before firing, known as the Ilva-Clean feature. Ilva-Clean closes surface pores to produce a permanent finish that enhances color and maintains the surface’s appearance, even between routine maintenance sessions.

The series addresses market demand with larger formats, more options for combination and special pieces, offering large commercial and residential surfaces a contemporary color palette and aesthetic look. ECO Land’s sizes adapt to each particular need in the market, starting with large format 24″ x 24″ and 12″ x 24″ sizes, through 12″ x 12″, 6″ x 6″ and 6″ x 24″ sizes. The series is complemented with a full range of specialty pieces, including mosaics, listellos, trims and cove bases.


Looking Into Glass Tile: Color and innovation are just the beginning
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

By Zoe Voigt

Considering that glass has been around for thousands of years, the progress i­­n glass tile manufacturing in the last ten years has been dramatic. Today, glass tile is available in just about any size, color, texture or finish imaginable and it can be used pretty much anywhere ceramic tile is appropriate.

A colorful history that spans thousands of years

Around 3500 BC, humans were creating glass beads and using glass as a glaze for ceramics. By 1500 BC, all kinds of materials were being made with glass. Glass blowing began around 2000 years ago and within 100 years people were making clear glass for architectural purposes, including tiles. During the Byzantine era, small colorful tiles called smalti were made for use in mosaics. These consisted of melted silica with additives for color and were hand cut.

Because the several methods for manufacturing tile from glass all involve a lot of heat, the glassmakers of Venice were moved to the island of Murano in 1291 to prevent frequent fires from destroying the city.

Mass production was introduced during the industrial revolution and the technological advances continue to the present.

In addition to smalti tile, the Venetian-style glass with through-body color, there are also several other techniques for manufacturing glass tile.

Float glass is poured over molten metal, and gravity pulls it very flat and smooth. The glass is clear, but pigment can be added and the result is a translucent glass with embedded color. Once cooled, it can be cut into tiles and finished. Similarly, fused glass is often used to describe multiple sheets of float glass that have been fired and fused together.

Casting is another process. Molten glass is mixed with pigment and poured quickly into molds. After cooling it can be cut, etched or finished.

Terrazzo is traditionally made by adding marble to Portland cement, but these days several manufacturers use glass shards to replace the stone and sometimes they add pigment to the cement. The mixture is added to molds and hardened under hydraulic pressure.

Innovations in glass tile today

Until a few years ago, the selections of glass tiles were minimal. But today glass tiles have made the leap to high fashion, fine art, and technical innovations. They are far more than just light blue one-inch squares for use in showers and pools.

Both modern and ancient methods are used to create one-of-a-kind designs and gorgeous colors by artisans. Large production facilities make glass tiles that are uniform, which is desirable depending on the preferred look.

Crossville has been manufacturing eye-catching float glass tiles for several years. Their vibrant Color Blox line added several new colors this year. According to designer and color consultant, Barbara Schirmeister, “Color Blox is a candy box of colorful tile in brights, neutrals and blends.”

“I designed this line to coordinate within its own family and harmonize with the other colors in our lines,” she says. “We offer as many colors as we thought we’d dare. Now there are 44 colors including brights and neutrals. It is a push, but it makes designers happy to have all these delicious looks to choose from.”

At Coverings, Crossville introduced a new line of environmentally friendly glass tile using certified recycled content. Schirmeister says, “Our new line Echo Recycled Glass is made of cast, translucent glass that is textured front and back. It captures, refracts, and bends the light wonderfully.”

“It has a beautiful texture reflecting an elegantly muted but vibrant range of colors. Echo has a sophistication and urban chic with neutrals well represented. Certain urban homes have a lack of color palette, so with these 15 colors, we’re able to offer that option too. The use of glass means you get a depth of color you can’t get without reflectivity.”

Crossville’s third glass tile line, Illuminessence comes in nine colors each with three finishes, clear, frosted and iridescent.

Austrian glass tile manufacturer Villi makes a float glass tile with metallic pigments through an innovative patent process. This method creates a tile that is especially brilliant and, depending on the angle, creates a play of light that subtly changes the tile’s appearance and depth of color.

According to Gottfried Berger, managing director of Villi, “This process assures absolute dimensional accuracy. So you can use any combination of our formats with a very fine grout joint. We fire polish each tile to create a smooth finish with soft edges. The 8 mm thickness is designed to work with ceramic tiles and equally well with stone.”

Villi has gone to lengths to ensure that the tiles can be used on floors as well as in traditional installations such as walls and pools. The tiles have passed technical standard testing (ASTM c1028) for skid resistance through two different methods, etching and granular, where the tiles are coated with corundum powder, which is fused to the surface.

The company offers metallics, borders, and dozens of striking and fashionable colors and textures. “Our method of fusing a white layer behind the color layer stablizes the color and makes it uniform despite the substrate,” says Berger. Villi USA is a stocking warehouse and is located in Georgia. The tiles are manufactured in Austria and Croatia.

Interstyle Ceramic & Glass Tile has been manufacturing glass tile in Vancouver for 25 years and ceramic tile for 30 years. “We’re the first company to develop glass tile using this method,” says Robyn Brown, architectural sales manger for Interstyle. “We pioneered the production of modern fused glass tiles.”

At Coverings, Interstyle showed three new products. According to Brown, “Stratus floor tile has textured lines and floral patterns. Ore has rich metals hues in lots of sizes and in brick shapes. Icetix comes in matte, glassy and iridescent.”

“We also have monochromatic and custom blends,” she added. “Barcode is still doing well, as are textured and combinations of textures. We carry two lines of 100% post-industrial recycled tile and Aquarius tile which is 85% recycled.”

Color Mirage is a new company that launched a unique glass product at Coverings 2008. The glass appears to change color depending on the light or the angle. According to President and CEO, Andy Pomeroy, “Applied Coatings Group was started by Bausch and Lomb.”

“We manufacture a dichroic optical thin coat designed to transmit or reflect specific wave lengths. The tiles will appear to change color as the viewer’s perspective shifts. This coating reflects one color and transmits another,” says Pomeroy. “We manage the wave lengths and create patterns or shimmer on the surface. These are the industry’s first glass blocks and decorative glass tiles treated with dichroic thin film technology. Modono is the company’s designer line.”

Character of glass expands its design qualities

Glass can reflect light, making a room seem brighter. According to Schirmeister, “This color and brilliance is a combination you can only get with glass because of the qualities of the material.”

Raffi Jacobson has been making handmade glass tile using the casting method for ten years. He learned the art in the South of France as a hobby, but the art consumed him and eventually it became a business.

“I love glass and I take risks in doing wilder colors like orange or lime. All kinds of colors bring a brightness to any room. There are such wonderful materials on the market today,” he says. “I sell matte, shiny and pebbles which are wonderful to walk on.”

“Glass and water look so beautiful together. It is bright and cheery. If you see brightly colored tile first thing in the morning, you start your day with a smile. Who wants to wake up and see stone that looks like it came from a graveyard? You can lighten up a room the way you would add throw pillows in the living room.”

“All glass tile that is a true color has to start with clear float glass, not recycled. For darker, through-body colors you can use recycled materials,” says Jacobson.

“Metallic colors cannot be used in water. They are not fused with the same heat, or the metal would turn black. They’re strong enough for use on a wall, but not in the water all the time,” adds Jacobson. “Still, metallic glass tile is wonderful. People will take a chance on a whole wall of silver and it looks wonderful with stone. Stone often has specks of metal, so the metallic tile works wonderfully as a backsplash in the kitchen.”

Seneca Tiles offers several lines of glass tile. The Adriatic collection has rhomboids and diamond shapes as well as two sizes of squares. According to president Jim Fry, “This tile is made for us by Italian manufacturers in custom color blends. It comes in clear and metallic, and it has a wonderful stained glass appearance.”

The crystal gold is really 24 carat and the crystal silver is 99.9% pure platinum. “Our newer series is called MicroMosaics. This is a traditional Venetian glass also made in Italy using ancient methods. It comes mesh mounted as a single sheet.” The tiny pieces of glass are just half-inch squares and a single 12 x 12 sheet has 484 pieces.

Glass mosaics

High-end mosaic company, New Ravenna was formed in 1991 by president Sara Baldwin. Baldwin was a painter in graduate school and turned that art background into a mosaic design company that now employees 140 people. “I was a painter, but I realized that people will spend more on functional art than on a painting or a work of fine art. So I decided to make functional and useful products for high-end clients. Somehow it is easier for them to spend on that, sneak the art in that way.”

Baldwin’s mosaic designs are very complex. “This peacock design will take three people a week to put together,” says Baldwin.

“With custom mosaics, and our vast array of materials, any option is available, and some [clients] become paralyzed with the unlimited possibilities. So we almost have to be psychologists to unearth what aesthetically turns them on,” says Baldwin. “We need to, so we can reflect their personalities. A designer can draw it out of them. It is a real interactive process not only with the client but also the designer.”

Baldwin says, “This work is exciting and it is real fun creating these mosaics.”

Oceanside Glasstile has been in the handcrafted glass tile business for 16 years. Their tile is made by pouring molten glass into molds, cooling them, and then hand-cutting the individual pieces. They reuse the trimmings and use recycled glass in many of their products. Because they are handmade, the tiles have slight irregularities, which are desirable as they catch and reflect light.

Oceanside introduced new colors and shapes at Coverings 2008 in Orlando.

They added 12 new dimensional pieces with organic and geometric motifs. Blink, a new addition to the Casa California line, is a curvy diamond with a raised ridge. It was shown in shadow, an intense dark grey. They also expanded the offerings that are available in matte finish.

According to Johnny Merckx, Oceanside’s executive vice president, “We’ve been playing around and breaking the grid. Before, everything was square and rectilinear; now we’re bringing in curves and bevels.”

“Feras Irikat, who is our new product designer and has a background in color theory, and I worked together on this new line. We’ve seen glass used in so many combinations with concrete and metals, so we focused on adding warmth. We’re continuing to create palettes that are neutral and incorporating more modern hues. Our colors are cosmopolitan neutrals—earthy and neutral, but more intense and punchier earth tones. These new colors are not a full departure from our other lines.”

“We added three new colors,” says Merckx. “Henna, which is an amber that shifts to more reddish copper undertones. Truffle, a taupe range that straddles grey. And Shadow, a cool grey liquid with gem-like qualities as it gets thicker.”

“Glass is beautiful by itself. When you add the three finishes, you can have one color but the installation is not monochromatic. The trend is textures and finishes. It is dynamic because you have more movement with one color and with three finishes you get the play of light,” says Merckx. “Matte finish is new for us. It extends through product families being embraced as a neutral. Matte adds to earthiness and makes glass more appropriate for more applications.”

“Updated modern can be integrated into any architectural style. There is limitless fun to be had with these product offerings.”

Hakatai is an eleven-year-old glass mosaic company based in Ashland, Oregon. President Marshall Malden says, “We’ve had a great response to our new products. We’ve been adding new colors and expanding our current lines. We’re launching a new line this summer with mixed materials. It’s called the Horizon series. We’ll have glass and metal blends and glass and stone blends. It will be monotone, with mixed matter and a slightly irregular finish.

“Another new line coming this summer is the Emperia series. It will have blends of stone and iridescent mixed together,” says Malden.

“Our recycled line has expanded and we’ve seen more interest in environmentally friendly products. We’re working with our suppliers to use more recycled glass. It is a balance with the fashion side because, of course, it has to look good, too.”

Marketing associate Amanda Casserlly says, “The Ashland-E uses approximately 70% recycled material. We’re adding new colors and expanding current lines. Our Adventurine series has 14 new colors.”

“We have a new product committee and no lack of stuff to choose from. It is selecting what we do and what we think will work and if it fits us,” says Malden. “In this economy, it is important to be flexible, so we’re staying competitive and staying current. To do that, we support our distributors with dealer display programs.”

Where can glass be installed?

Glass tiles work in most installations where any other tile is appropriate. For use on floors, one must consider the slip resistance, as with ceramic or porcelain tile. Frequent grout lines also add to the coefficient of friction, so smaller tiles work well on floors. Some floor tiles are etched or finished with a rough surface. If you plan to use large format glass tiles, ask the manufacturer for ANSI testing data to find out if the tile can be used on the floor. Manufacturers such as Crossville, Oceanside, Interstyle, Hakatai, and Villi can provide exact figures on their products.

“Glass is s a hard surface and is easy to use anywhere,” says Raffi Jacobson of Raffi Tile in Los Angeles. “Of course, it can scratch with heels, so I wouldn’t recommend using a glossy finish on the floor in a high-traffic area. But in the shower, bathroom, kitchen, it is great,” he adds. “I love the translucence and vibrancy of color and the glass itself, it is such a beautiful material. There’s nothing more cheerful than waking up in the morning and walking into a shower with bright turquoise glass.”

According to Oceanside’s Merckx, “Glass tile is art that is both attainable and user-friendly.”


Distributors Adopt CCTS for Training and More
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

If you’re considering making the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) a big part of your company’s training program, you’re not alone. More and more industry leaders are coming to the same conclusion—CCTS offers the opportunity to quantify and demonstrate knowledge of ceramic tile products and installation. At a time when every sale is important and differentiating your company from the competition is key, developing and quantifying the industry knowledge of your sales staff can add real value.

Harold Yarborough, Vice President of D&B Tile Distributors, Sunrise, Florida, is hoping 35 employees take the test late this summer. “You can’t put it in a cash register,” says Yarborough. “But I believe the investment now will pay off later.”

John Zolman, Sales & Marketing Manager for Miles Distributors, Inc., South Bend, Indiana, believes the benefits are essentially two-fold. First, he likes the idea of offering industry education and the sense of accomplishment it breeds in his employees. Second, he recognizes it has a long-term impact in the industry. He points out that certifications in many industries, like kitchen and bath, carry a lot of weight with buyers and the public in general. CCTS may be new, but as more industry pros earn that designation, it has more and more value.

CCTS is about industry education
The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) designed the CCTS program to deliver knowledgeable, professional service to the customer, to quantify the considerable expertise of the salesperson/dealer, and to promote quality manufactured materials. Certification distinguishes the professional and documents his or her expertise.

Any educational opportunity requires a big commitment, says Zolman, who also recognizes the sense of accomplishment of those employees who meet that challenge.

Yarborough is clear about what he sees as the value of industry education. “Our focus is always on educating our staff and our customers…I think that’s a big part of our success and our longevity.”

Making CCTS a company-wide priority
CTDA members are increasingly recognizing the impact the CCTS designation can have, particularly in their showrooms. Zolman expects to have twenty employees taking the CCTS later this year, including outside sales professionals, counter people and managers. Zolman, who has already passed the CCTS exam, has a few challenges in helping his staff prepare for the exam. Because Miles Distributors is so wide-spread geographically—from Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—he says the candidates will work in study groups, then travel to one location for the testing.

Although group study is not for everyone, anecdotal evidence suggests that study groups are helpful to CCTS candidates. They allow participants to pool their knowledge as they work through various sections of the materials, sharing their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Everyone benefits from the “we’re-all-in-this-together” mindset.

One of the challenges of the program is learning to use all of the resources including the TCNA Handbook and applicable ASTM standards. (The CCTS exam is an open-book test.) For those who are not already familiar with the materials, it’s a process that’s often easier in a group.

The Next Step
CCTS is proof of the professionalism of your staff. They have been trained and tested and have the skills to best serve your customers. Now the question is—what are you waiting for? To learn more about the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson program, please visit the CTDA website at www.ctdahome.org.


Showroom Seminar: Hardware and Accessories Help Boost Sales in a Slumping Economy
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

By Kathleen Furore

May was not a good month for Home Depot. That’s when the world’s largest home improvement chain announced it would close 15 stores, axe 1,300 jobs, and nix plans to open 50 new stores. It was the third round of Home Depot job cuts this year, and the company warned more could follow if the economy doesn’t improve.

The economic downturn is clearly impacting the home building and remodeling industries. New home construction dropped 27 percent during the first quarter of 2008, while homeowner spending for home improvement activity is expected to decline by an annual rate of 4.8 percent through the end of 2008, the Leading Indicator for Remodeling Activity (LIRA) says.

“It looks unlikely that we will see any improvement in the remodeling market until 2009,” Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, says. “Currently, the second half of this year is shaping up to be weaker than the first half.”

It’s not a pretty picture to say the least
But there are bright spots for tile dealers willing to adjust their inventories in ways that will attract budget-conscious consumers. Adding and merchandising decorative hardware and accessories is one option, since customers who are postponing high-end bath and kitchen renovations are looking for products that will enhance their homes without breaking the bank. And it’s an added “plus” if those items can be used in do-it-yourself projects, industry experts say.

“DIY has become a very hot trend due to the economy,” Kathleen Schomburg, assistant to Eric Herbst, the CEO at Croydex USA (a division of FFI Corporate), reports. The company’s Twist N Lock products—which include easy-to-mount bins, robe hooks, soap dishes, shelves, towel rings and toilet paper holders–are examples of items that give customers a cost-effective way to update baths and kitchens without the added cost of a contractor.

John Pelka, vice president of marketing for Hickory Hardware, a company that designs and manufacturers decorative hardware for a variety of applications, agrees: Do-it-yourself projects are on the rise and give tile dealers a way to capture sales in today’s very tight market.

“Changing the decorative hardware is an easy weekend project that homeowners can take on that makes a drastic difference in the home’s appearance,” Pelka explains, noting that hardware “can be an excellent vehicle to attract new customers.”

The Importance of Price
While cost has always been a consideration, price is more important than ever for customers who want to upgrade baths and kitchens today. That’s where hardware and accessories come into play. The majority of Hickory Hardware’s products, for example, sell for between $3 and $6.

“With most kitchens averaging about 20 to 30 knobs or pulls, a homeowner could update all the hardware in their kitchen for under $150, so the option to invest in new hardware is affordable for those looking to redecorate and update rather than taking on a large remodel,” Pelka notes.

Even customers who are investing in larger tile projects are concerned about cost. Companies including Wheeler Tile & Company of Santa Barbara and Innovative Tile Systems in Burnsville, Minn., offer add-on items that give customers affordable ways to create decorator looks and give tiledealers opportunities to boost sales.

Wheeler’s QuickShelf, a recessed shelf that adds valuable storage space for shampoo, shave and shower items without the loss of elbow room or floor space, is a cost-effective way to add a high-end custom upgrade feature to any tiled area, Owner Dan Wheeler, who designed the product, says. Priced at $39.95, the wall insert is an all-in-one waterproof liner and tile form that can simply be nailed in place. Tile is then installed directly to the product. “QuickShelf is a terrific upgrade item for tile dealers…it gives them the opportunity to realize additional profits from the sale of added trim tile, decorative accent or field tile, as well as installation materials for every bath project they are already supplying,” Wheeler says.

The Integral Slant Base™ (ISB) from Innovative Tile Systems—a product that won “Best New Product of the Year 2008” at the Surfaces 2008 Convention in Las Vegas—is popular with homeowners seeking an affordable but distinctive, ‘high end’ appearance in their kitchens and baths. “ISB can be less expensive than some tile cove base pieces on the market,” Erik Forston, vice president of sales, says. “It also answers the questions, ‘Do you have matching sanitary base for this tile?’ or ‘Do you have matching cove base pieces for this tile? Dealers no longer need to lose sales due to the lack of matching base.”

Marketing Matters
Including hardware and accessories in your product lineup isn’t enough to guarantee added profits. As Pelka stresses, “Success is dependent upon an integrated marketing program that targets customers who may be remodeling, who have just bought a new home, who are in the process of selling their home, or even customers who are just looking for something special for the holidays or the new season.”

Most manufacturers—Wheeler and Hickory Hardware among them—have products and programs that help tile dealers offer a wide hardware selection in a way that allows them to compete effectively with showrooms that focus on kitchens, baths, and lighting products. Wheeler, for example, provides partially tiled showroom displays to QuickShelf distributors so they can visually introduce the recessed shelf to their customers.

“By purchasing a display unit or merchandiser to display the hardware, the dealer is not required to carry inventory in the store, but is able to give customers many different product options,” Pelka explains. “The use of display boards, rather than catalogs, is often more effective in selling decorative hardware to customers because it allows them to see and feel the hardware firsthand before they order it.”

Product Roundup
Here’s a handful of products are among the myriad hardware and accessory items available to tile dealers nationwide:

CroydexUSA’s Twist N Lock Suction-Fix Bathroom and Kitchen Accessories
Featured on the HGTV Kitchen and Bath Special, these affordable, durable and easy-to-install accessories require no drills, screws or glue to install.
Phone: 866-237-2882 or 203-234-2882
E-mail: sales@CroydexUSA.com
Web: www.croydexusa.com

Hickory Hardware’s Basaltic Cabinet Hardware
This collection of cabinet knobs has the rustic look and feel of antiqued, weather-distressed iron, simplistic styling and the rough texture of volcanic rock. All pieces are available in a range of sizes and finishes and complement rustic and traditional home décor.
Phone: (877) 556-2918
E-mail: customerservice@HickoryHardware.com
Web: www.HickoryHardware.com

Innovative Tile Systems’ Integral Slant Base™
Few tile manufacturers produce a sanitary base to match their product, and many that are produced can be costly and may not guarantee a perfect match. The ISB is an affordable ceramic sanitary base that creates a hygienic method for treating floor to wall tile transitions and can match the materials of any room.
Phone: 952-224-9141
E-mail: info@innovativetilesystems.com
Web: www.innovativetilesystems.com

Wheeler Tile & Company of Santa Barbara’s QuickShelf Wall Inserts
Made of tough, textured ABS plastic, the QuickShelf is easy to use with any size or type of tile or stone. The shelf—available in square and rectangular sizes—is compatible with all installation systems and techniques, and can be installed over tile backerboards.
Phone: 800-965-9501
E-mail: sales@QuickShelf.net
Web: www.QuickShelf.net


Getting LEED Credit for Floors: Looking at the Trees in the Forest of Green Building
 
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

By Diane Choate

So many people in the construction industry are throwing around green terms—“Green building,” “green products,” “environmentally friendly,” “LEED,” “LEED-certified,” “USGBC”—that it is sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. If we follow this analogy, the forest reflects the environmental commitment of the construction industry and the products used in construction are the trees. It can benefit us all if we take a clear look at what green means in terms of those products used in flooring installation systems.

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has developed the LEED® Green Building Rating System™ as a yardstick for measuring the sustainability and environmental impact of new construction and existing buildings. LEED is an acronym for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” Ecologically designed and constructed buildings contribute to a healthier environment today and sustain our world in the future. Building owners seek a LEED rating as an added advantage to offer to potential occupants.

A careful review of the LEED guidelines shows that the use of LEED-compliant flooring installation systems can contribute toward LEED certification in four areas:

1. Materials and Resources MR Credit 4.1 and 4.2: [Manufactured with] Recycled Content

2. Materials and Resources MR Credit 5.1 and 5.2: [Use of] Regional Materials

3. Environmental Quality EQ Credit 4.1: Low-Emitting Materials: Adhesives & Sealants

4. Environmental Quality EQ Credit 3.2: [Development of a] Construction Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Plan: Before Occupancy [Particulates]

Recycled Content

Builders can contribute 1 LEED point to a building’s rating if the building products used contain 10% recycled content (MR Credit 4.1). An additional point is added to the rating if the recycled content amounts to 20% (MR Credit 4.2). Gaining these two points is a little tougher than it looks. The points are awarded only if the sum of the recycled content constitutes at least 10% (or 20% respectively) of the total value of all the materials used in the project. This means flooring installation products containing recycled materials are only part of the total recycled value being calculated for these two points.

If he can only make a partial contribution to 1 LEED point, why would a flooring contractor go to the extra work of ensuring that the installation products he uses contain 10% or 20% recycled materials? The LEED instructions suggest that the builder should “establish a project goal for recycled content materials and identify material suppliers that can achieve this goal” (LEED for New Construction, Version 2.2). Contractors who use installation materials with recycled content have an advantage when bidding for projects seeking LEED certification.

When a manufacturer states that one of its flooring installation products contains 10% recycled content, the 10% must come from post-consumer and/or pre-consumer waste. If the recycled content is from pre-consumer waste, only half the amount of recycled content counts toward the 10% calculated by the LEED rating system. It is very important for a contractor to obtain a written letter from the manufacturer regarding recycled content in its products.

Regional Materials

Another area where builders can contribute 1 point toward LEED certification involves the use of regional materials manufactured within 500 miles of the project jobsite. According to the LEED manual, this standard supports “the use of indigenous resources and [reduces] the environmental impacts resulting from transportation.” During the construction of the building, the builder will quantify the total percentage of all local materials used. If the total of all regional materials equals at least 10% of the cost of all the materials used, the project can qualify for 1 LEED point. If the total is equal to 20%, the builder can gain an additional 1 LEED point (MR Credit 5.2).

By using materials that have been manufactured regionally (within 500 miles of the jobsite), flooring installation contractors have another advantage when bidding on projects seeking LEED certification. Showing that their installation can contribute in multiple ways to valuable LEED points helps establish a strong working relationship between the builder and the contractor.

Low-Emitting Materials: Adhesives & Sealants

The purpose of EQ Credit 4.1 is to “reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants that are odorous, irritating and/or harmful to the comfort and well-being of installers and occupants.” If all the adhesives and sealants used in the project meet the VOC limits as specified by South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule #1168, the builder can qualify for 1 LEED point. These products can include general construction adhesives, flooring adhesives, fire-stopping sealants, caulking, duct sealants, plumbing adhesives and cove base adhesives.

The requirement states that all adhesives and sealants must meet the VOC limits in order to gain this LEED point. If the flooring installation contractor can provide documents certifying that his installation products meet these limits, he is providing the builder with a powerful motivation to choose his company for the current project and future projects.

Carpet adhesives that meet the standards for VOC-compliant products can also help contribute to an additional LEED point under the EQ Credit 4.3: Low-Emitting Materials: Carpet Systems.

Construction IAQ Management Plan: Before Occupancy

The intent of this LEED credit is to “reduce indoor air quality problems resulting from the construction/renovation process in order to help sustain the comfort and well-being of construction workers and building occupants.” To gain 1 LEED point in this category, the builder must develop an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Plan and implement it during the pre-occupancy phase of construction. Once construction ends, the builder must flush out the building with 14,000 cu. ft. of outdoor air at 60°F and 60% relative humidity, or conduct baseline IAQ testing that demonstrates maximum concentrations of contaminants in line with EPA standards, including 50 micrograms per cubic meter of particulates (dust).

Summary

Flooring installation contractors can contribute significantly to the forest of green building by helping build individual trees in the LEED Rating System. A clear view of the “trees” to which flooring-installation contractors can contribute includes (1) recycled content, (2) regional manufacturing, (3) indoor air quality and (4) IAQ management plans for particulates. The most important role manufacturers can play is to provide contractors with easy-to-access documents they can include in their bids and in their discussions with builders.

Diane J. Choate is PR/Corporate Communications Specialist for the MAPEI Corporation.

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