Choosing Stone or Ceramic: Educate Customers to Choose Well
 
November 2nd, 2008

November – December 2008

Beneath the Surface

When humankind goes up against Mother Nature, the outcome is usually predictable. Despite the best efforts and greatest technology of man, nature triumphs.

Some would argue the same holds true in the world of coverings. When man-made tile competes against natural stone forged through the ages by geophysical forces, they say, stone’s unsurpassed beauty, strength and uniqueness carry the day.

Makers of ceramic and porcelain tile would beg to differ, however. In recent years, breakthroughs in materials and technology have yielded man-made coverings that boast stone’s beauty and uniqueness, and surpass stone in hardness and durability. And they do it with greater quality control and more attractive pricing.

This issue, TileDealer goes beneath the surface to probe the rivalry between the natural and man-made materials, finding the former’s superiority no longer set in stone.

Stone: Natural Selection

Authentic natural stone has one great head start on any other covering material. It is nature made and millions of years old. “There are stone structures and floors that are still performing well after thousands of years,” says Donato Pompo, consultant with Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants Inc. in San Diego.

Moreover, stone has an innate beauty that’s hard to match. Whether it is marble, granite, limestone, slate, travertine or any other type of natural stone, stone’s beauty alone imbues a cachet that makes it increasingly a favorite of homeowners.

Stone also has a huge advantage over man-made materials in its status as a one-of-a-kind covering, says Lynle Hawkins-Struble, owner of San Diego’s Lynle Ellis Design. Upscale homeowners she serves in San Diego condos and nearby suburbs such as Delmar and Carlsbad appreciate the stone they add to their homes is uniquely different, and unmatched by any other covering. “Part of the beauty of it is it’s not all the same,” Hawkins-Struble says. “No two stones are exactly identical.”

Add to this the fact that stone can be given a “tumbled effect,” she says. To create a tumbled look, stones are actually tumbled with other stones to produce a worn, walked-on and ageless appearance that makes it look as if the stone has been part of a French chateau for centuries. A similar tumbled look has been tried in ceramic through forming, Hawkins-Struble says, but without the same stunning effect.

Finally, with stone tile available in various sizes from mosaics to 18- by 24-inches and larger, stone offers new levels of choice. Part of its surge in popularity, she says, results from the emergence of different colors and textures, as well as patterns such as Versailles or herringbone. “There’s a lot of flexibility,” she says of stone’s designability.

Ceramic: Carefree Choice

For all its advantages, stone is not for everyone. If freedom from scratching, staining and other maintenance is a priority, if there are children whose hijinks may do damage to a covering, if certain types of creativity are sought, or if the concern is cost, it’s likely the choice of surface will not be stone but ceramic or porcelain tile.

As a sub category of ceramic, porcelain offers much of the beauty and even the appearance of stone. At the same time, it is even harder than many types of stone, and requires less maintenance to ensure it continues looking great.

“If you have someone choosing ceramic, it’s typically because of maintenance issues and cost issues,” Hawkins-Struble says. “If you have a family with four children, ceramic tile is easier because it’s more durable and less porous.”

Porcelain’s lack of porosity, for instance, helps ensure wines or dark-colored fruits like strawberries won’t stain a tiled surface. Moreover, the age-old problem of ceramic chipping has been solved with porcelain’s through-body colors, she says.

Like stone, ceramic and porcelain tile can provide great beauty. “Lots of times, [clients] come to me and they want the look of stone, but in ceramic,” Hawkins-Struble says, noting dramatic improvements in the industry’s ability to add color and texture to tile. “But the people who go with ceramic don’t want anyone to know it’s ceramic.”

Cost can also be a factor, Hawkins-Struble says. The fact that ceramic tile is easier to install often results in lower installation costs. For instance, ceramic tile allows for a comparatively simple thin-set installation. But the irregularity of stone frequently requires a thicker “mud” adhesive installation involving more effort, she notes.

Stone Vs. Ceramic Head-to-Head

As noted, stone and ceramic have distinct pros and cons. Therefore, a head-to-head comparison is the best way to illustrate the plusses and minuses of each.

Maintenance. Good quality ceramic floor tiles will not easily wear out, and tend to be resistant to both stains and scratching, Pompo says. Porcelain tiles are very durable and generally perform better with less maintenance than natural stone, he says.

Noah Chitty, technical services director with Chicago-based StonePeak Ceramics, which specializes in porcelain tile, agrees. “We like to think of porcelain tile as providing the same aesthetic as stone, without the same problems,” he says.

By contrast, natural stone requires far more maintenance, which can include sealing and repolishing every year or so, depending on conditions, Pompo says.

Dave Gobis, Racine, Wisc.-based technical director with the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, echoes the opinion that careful attention is essential to keep stone looking great. “We get calls all the time from people about stone tile cracking,” he says. “That’s the nature of the beast. A lot of people like the beauty of stone, but aren’t prepared for the maintenance stone requires . . . Every vein in marble is a crack waiting to happen. If you don’t have a supporting structure, then there’s going to be cracks.”

Within natural stone, significant variation exists in terms of durability, says David Butler, president of Nantucket, Mass.-based Cornerstone Granite Company. Some stones, such as granite, are highly stain and scratch resistant. Others, such as marble and limestone, are softer and more susceptible to damage.

“In my opinion, marble and limestone should not be installed as a polished surface,” he says. “Instead, they should be installed as a honed surface, so they can be maintained for years to come.”

Appearance

Stone is acknowledged as being naturally beautiful. Its wonderful veining, rich colors and varied textures have made it a favored material for eons.

But porcelain tile makers have perfected technology that helps provide similarly stunning looks. For instance, StonePeak Ceramics is a leader among U.S. companies in creating glazed, unglazed and colored-body materials. “Using one of those three types, you can replicate virtually anything available in stone,” Chitty says. “Obviously, the better your technology, the better it gets. But the technology is there.”

Moisture resistance

Natural stone is often moisture sensitive, Pompo reports. Ceramic and porcelain tile vary widely in moisture resistance. Ceramic tile tends to have a moisture gain of about three to four percent, and can reach seven percent. By contrast, porcelain tile is considered impervious to moisture, meaning it is limited to a moisture gain of no more than one-half of one percent, Gobis says. That impervious nature can make it harder to bond in some cases. “You have hardly any pores at all in porcelain, and cement bonds by grabbing on to the pores in a tile,” Gobis explains.

Chitty, however, disagrees. “With the technology these days in the thin set, we don’t get issues of de-bonding due to lack of porosity,” he says of porcelain.

Creative Shapes

In stone processing, a straight-line cutting method is often used, says Stephen Powers, president of Keene, NH-based Trikeenan Tileworks, internationally renowned for its award-winning ceramic tile. “That means if you have a hard material and need to cut it, they are set up to make straight cuts like squares and rectangles,” he says. “It’s really hard to get an undulating shape with stone.”

Ceramics provide a far more malleable material with which to work. “You can create three-dimensional tile, round shapes and undulating edges,” Powers says.

Finishing and Refinishing

Stone tiles can be easily ground and polished to provide a finished edge. Porcelain through-body tiles can also be ground and polished, but other ceramic tile cannot be. Natural stone can be finished to look like new, Pompo says. On the other hand, glazed ceramic tiles, once worn, can’t be repaired.

Consistency

Stone boasts natural variations in color, texture and appearance that help make each piece unique. Ceramic tile, on the other hand, is a product that is generally manufactured to be consistent. “Stone has more variation in color, and some stones vary so much in color that the buyer believes it’s a different tile,” Pompo says.

“The buyer of stone has to like natural variation. While some stones are very consistent in color and texture, there is always some variation.”

Not all buyers appreciate that characteristic, Butler notes. “Some people do not like variations—in color and pattern—in natural stone,” he says. “For these people, a synthetic stone like a caesarstone or a fifestone are much better products.”

All the same, in the area of consistency, technology has again helped eliminate some of the differences between stone and porcelain. StonePeak’s technology allows it to make consistent tiles from piece to piece, as well as a completely random and different tile every time. In the marble-look porcelain tiles it creates, for instance, the company can produce completely unique veining with each marble tile, Chitty reports.

“In some cases, unless you turn the tile over and look for a back-stamped pattern, you could not tell the difference from the face,” he says. “Side by side, you couldn’t tell the difference between that and genuine marble.”

Installation Cost and Difficulty

Stone is often more expensive to install because it tends to be less consistent in size, Pompo says.

“In other cases, the stone is cut to size, gauged and is very consistent [in size], but because the homeowner wants small grout joint widths, more time and effort is required for installation,” he notes. “Because stone can be ground and polished after it is installed, some people will pay extra to have the tile installed first, ground flat and smooth and then polished to provide a perfect looking floor.”

While the line has blurred a bit in the past two decades, tile installers still don’t tend to install stone, Gobis says. “Stone has very special considerations,” he says, noting black, green and red marble tiles are so moisture sensitive that if a thin set used for ceramic tiles is used to set these pieces, the marble will absorb moisture and curl. “Good coverage is more important with stone than with tile. It goes back to support. If you have a vein without support, you will have a crack. If you bond two sides of stone, and there’s a vein unsupported in the middle, it’s a crack waiting to happen.”

Quality Control

Stone’s hugely increased popularity over the past two decades has fostered not only an enormous surge in stone imports, but serious quality issues as well, Pompo says. “People bring in stone from India, for instance, and these products are being used in applications for which they aren’t suitable,” he observes.

“Buyers think they are purchasing a stone of a certain grade or classification, but when it’s tested, it’s found to be substandard. And the trouble is it’s not generally tested until there’s a problem. People think they are getting a good deal with a great price on a travertine, for example, but the physical properties are lacking.”

In some cases, the physical properties are substantially less than those specified by ASTM International for each classification of stone, he adds. One stone may be significantly better quality than another, based on which country, quarry or even part of the same quarry it emanated from.

“You can’t tell by looking,” he says. “With experience, you may see symptoms suggesting this stone may not be up to standards. Importers are not testing the stone they’re buying to substantiate [that the] products they’re selling are meeting minimum standards.”

Cost

For years, the high cost of mining, cutting, shipping and processing stone left it beyond the budgets of the average American. But improvements in technology, as well as an increase in the number of exporting countries and the greater affordability of cutting machinery, have brought it within the budgets of more and more homeowners.

Butler believes the cost to produce stone has come down in recent years. But that reduction has been more than offset by other dynamics.

One is the devaluation of the dollar versus other world currencies. An even more crucial factor has been the increase in energy costs required to ship stone from quarries worldwide.

“The result is that there’s been an overall increase in prices,” he says.

Ceramic and porcelain are considered more affordable than stone. But Powers cautions buyers shouldn’t assume price advantages extend across the board.

“Ceramic is a less expensive product,” he says. “But they’re making higher-end mosaics and ceramics, so there’s a broader range of costs than ever before.”

Interior and Exterior Applications

Stone is often considered superior in outdoor applications vis-à-vis ceramic tile, Pompo says. Most stones can be used both indoors and outdoors, while many ceramic tiles are too slippery to be used outdoors. Most stones are freeze-thaw stable, a characteristic not shared by all ceramic tile.

Educating Customers

Tile dealers can take a number of steps to make sure their customers are fully informed and educated about stone and ceramic tile, Pompo says. Among the more important guidelines he recommends are the following:

Stone and ceramic tile must be displayed to show full range of colors.

Samples from new shipments of stone should replace showroom samples.

Dealers should require stone suppliers to provide test data demonstrating the stone meets the respective minimum ASTM International physical property standards.

Ceramic and stone suppliers should furnish dealers with high quality installation products that come with guarantees, as well as guidelines for use.

Dealers should also provide maintenance guidelines for all their stone and ceramic tile products. “This helps buyers properly care for [the products] and have a happy experience,” Pompo says. “The dealer makes added sales and profit by selling maintenance products, and the buyer keeps coming back to buy the products, spurring additional sales.”

What does the future hold for stone and ceramic coverings? Hawkins-Struble applauds the strides of ceramic and porcelain tile makers, but believes it’s a stone-cold lock one segment of the buying populace will remain highly partial to stone.

“As the tile industry gets better, as they make tile look more like stone, there may be a shift of the middle to upper-income homeowner to ceramic and porcelain,” she says. “The super-wealthy are always going to want stone. It’s unique and natural.”

SOURCES:

David Butler, president

Cornerstone Granite Co., Nantucket, MA

508-228-7771

Noah Chitty, Crossville-based technical services director

StonePeak Ceramics, Chicago

931-459-2518

Dave Gobis, Racine, Wisc.-based technical director

Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, Clemson, SC

864-226-1804

864-222-2131

Lynle Hawkins-Struble, owner

Lynle Ellis Design, San Diego

619-985-8081

Donato Pompo, national consultant

Ceramic tile and Stone Consultants, Inc.

San Diego, CA 619-669-2967

Stephen Powers, president

Trikeenan TileWorks, Keene, NH

603-352-4299


Enterprise Software: Software that is increasingly user-friendly but also sophisticated in the range of solutions it offers
 
November 2nd, 2008

November – December 2008

By William & Patti Feldman

Enterprise software targeted to the tile industry is a crucial and even indispensible tool that can improve daily operations and customer relationships, maximize sales potential, and boost the bottom line.

Solutions can be UNIX-based, Windows-based, or delivered as a Web-based application. An industry specific program is one that is designed especially for the flooring or tile industry and, in addition to the usual complement of business applications, includes the abilities to keep track of inventory by dye lot and make accurate conversions between square feet, pieces, and cartons, enabling tracking of inventory and orders in tile-industry specific units.

The three solutions profiled below all have strong capabilities that will help streamline daily business operations. Prophet 21, by Activant, is a Unix-based solution that features a familiar Windows look and feel and is powered by an SQL Server that can be delivered traditionally through client server technology or via the Web. FloorPro III Enterprise, by American Business Software, is a Windows-based client/server system that operates across the Internet or installs on each customer’s in-house server (customer’s choice). Dancik Distribution, by Dancik International, is Web-based, with all information accessible online from any computer.

Core capabilities of enterprise software for the tile industry include order processing and inventory management, purchasing, pricing, warehouse management, customer relationship management, and e-business.

Full featured inventory management can help a distributor manage inventory effectively to ensure the right minimum and maximum levels on all shelves, with optimal replenishment schedules. A solution with shade tracking as part of order processing enables a distributor to fill an order with all the tiles coming from the same shade.

Warehouse management capabilities often combine RF (radio frequency) scanning and barcoding with such efficiency building capabilities as space-saving pallet building; prioritizing of picking based on truck routes, type of order or type of customer.

Tile industry-specific programs include the ability to convert cartons to square footage or to individual units as needed to fulfill orders, enabling each order to correspond accurately to physical inventory; and the abilities to handle slab tracking, sample tracking, branch transfers of material, and point-of-sale transactions. Solutions that automatically convert metric measurements from overseas manufacturers into inches and feet simplify the process of importing product and reduce the chance of errors in ordering and pricing.

Slab tracking is helpful for tracking large pieces of granite—it assigns each piece a unique serial number and then tracks its dimensions and location from arrival in the warehouse until it leaves (and sometimes beyond) along with associated costs, taking into consideration any cracks or fissures and waste after cuts.

Sample tracking keeps tabs on pieces taken by customers from the showroom in a separate sample inventory account. Even if you charge nothing, you should track what leaves your showroom to better calculate inventory costs, follow up on sales opportunities, and track popularity trends, as well as let staff pursue the pieces you want customers to return. In some solutions, an order can track multiple serial numbers of any type of stone.

With any program with Internet connectivity, such as the solutions below all have, salespeople with Blackberries or other handhelds have access to productivity information remotely from the road as well as in the office.

Aimed specifically at distributors, Activant’s Prophet 21 addresses order entry and inventory management, purchasing, pricing, financial management, customer relationship management, business reporting and analytics, e-business, and wireless warehouse management.

The program allows users to handle stock in units of measure that fit their business environment—pallets, cases, boxes—all the way down to “each,” which may be the smallest unit of measure the distributor wants to sell—for instance, one piece. Each distributor sets up the default unit of measure at the time of creating an item. Once it has been defined it will automatically convert the various quantities available based on the selected unit of measure during the order/quote process. The default unit can be changed at any time.

The order entry module can convert any order into square feet or pieces and the application will properly price the sku based off of the appropriate unit of measure. The ability to break cartons “gives the distributor the flexibility to meet a walk-in customer’s demands, as well as a large contractor’s demands,” points out Frank Heenan, Director of Product Management and Marketing at Activant.

The Inventory Control module sports the ability to differentiate color lots by shade to ensure pickers always pull single orders from the same color lots, reducing the chance of returns. Pick tickets can list the master pallet, carton, and/or piece quantities for the same item. Full shade lot tracking can even include user-defined “lot attributes”—such as ‘country of origin’—for further segmenting of inventory. Groupage capabilities enable the building and tracking of a container that contains purchase orders from multiple vendors.

Other distributor-friendly features of Prophet 21 include real-time transfer of inventory among multiple warehouse locations; the ability to accommodate multiple forms of payment—cash, check and credit card—for a single order, which is helpful for distributors who also have showrooms: and the ability to search each customer’s complete sales histories by self-determined criteria to streamline repeat orders even without the original invoice or knowledge of part numbers.

Prophet 21’s open database facilitates easy uploading of manufacturer price lists and data sheets and automatically converts metric measurements into feet and inches. The solution, which features complete foreign currency support for accounts payable and receivable, can determine the distributor’s true landed cost of an item, after all costs involved in sourcing the product (including manufacturer’s invoice price, freight and broker charges, duties and tariff taxes, if applicable) are factored in. The program will also track containers from point of departure overseas all the way to the distributor’s warehousing facilities.

The program generates user defined workflow e-mail that automatically informs customers of order shipping and other events, saving employees from fielding calls from customers requesting updates on status of orders. The system also offers the option of e-commerce via a web-based storefront which a retailer or contractor can visit to request quotes, order material, check inventory and order status, and also check invoice information and purchase history.

American Business Software’s FloorPro III is a modular Windows-based solution capable of handling the full range of tile distributor functions, from order entry, invoices, inventory tracking to point-of-sales, sales analysis, and accounting, and including conversion between feet, prices and carton and ability to keep track of inventory by dye lot. The software is customized to each business.

Among specialized features of the program are automated reorder, which can minimize the amount of inventory you need in stock as well as semi-automated reorder, which enables keeping the lowest possible inventory. These are potentially valuable cost-saving mechanisms that the software developer suggests can save a distributor up to half the cost of inventory sitting on a shelf for a year.

“We did a study on the total cost of carrying inventory over a year and found that it costs about 1/3 the value of the inventory to leave it sitting on the shelf,” explains Joe Flannick, company president. “Every $1 million of ‘excess’ inventory costs distributors money in interest, warehouse space and insurance, tying up funds unnecessarily.”

By taking advantage of various efficient mechanisms to automate or semi-automate re-orders, the program can calculate the optimal inventory for every single SKU, saving shelf space on low-turn products while also minimizing risk of items having to be backordered, potentially jeopardizing a sale.

Because the software can calculate and report on inventory turn for each SKU—keeping track of which are low-turn excess and which are no-turn obsolete, a distributor can make informed decisions when to tag overstocks for specials or even package together a full skid of a particular run that hasn’t sold over a long period to sell off as a remnants package, Flannick points out.

The program allows the user to enter the currency conversion rates in the morning, and once the distributor’s prices and costs are established, the distributor can select the currency for the order, convert the local currency based on the current exchange rate, and add a margin on top of the quote.

The “Optical Disk Invoice Storage and Retrieval System” module eliminates the need to print and file invoices.

A recently introduced fully integrated “wireless warehouse” module supports RFID (radio frequency identification which can find inventory regardless of where it is stored), bar coding, truck routing and manifests.

ABS’s e-commerce program, COLA (Customer Online Access Software) gives customers with online access the ability to check stock and pricing, place an order, and print confirmation through the Internet.

Dancik Distribution, by Dancik International, is targeted to all parties in the tile, natural stone or general flooring industry including retailers, distributors, and manufacturers. Because it features a Web-based interface, there is no maintenance on the desktop and the desktops can be basic, even low-powered computers.

The software features several unique characteristics and capabilities that, according to the developer, address concerns of interest to distributor/dealers—both wholesalers with showrooms that sell retail and retailers who have branched into importing and buy wholesale.

The software, which is fully web-based, features both a UNIX-style “industrial” interface for high speed transactions and a Web-based interface for sleekness, points out Mitch Dancik, President of Dancik International.

The solution addresses inventory and warehouse management issues for the tile business in depth, including management of shades and dye lots, efficient space-saving building of palettes of tile (larger on bottom, smaller on top), and navigation of the nuances of importing, including currencies, duty, and freight. Also, the program, which supports conversions between square feet, pieces and carton, allows multiple users to work in their own choice of units of measure simultaneously—e.g. one user working in cartons, another in meters, yet a third in square feet.

Even when accessed via the Web, the system is highly secure. Users with a recognized name, user ID, and password can access the site only from an authorized computer with a registered IP address.

The program’s warehouse management system was built from the ground up for tile and flooring, so the system understands and fully accommodates how tile needs to be picked and packed—i.e. often from more than one warehouse or from one or more transfer trucks. The software “sees outside the walls of the warehouse,” Mitch notes. Automated inventory selection manages and optimizes the use of shades, warehouse location, use of bulk storage, and use of transfers.

The solution features different interfaces optimized for the task. For example, Dancik says, sales people working in a ceramic showroom have more design and estimating tools on screen to guide customers in selecting tile, while a counter clerk has easy access to tools specific to order taking and generating of picklists. And the software is very flexible in handling various types of counter sales, equally competent to handle an order from a tile contractor who has an account as one from a consumer wishing to buy tile as a retail sale.

Other features targeted to tile distributors: an integrated visualizer—a photo manipulation program—that gives the ability to see what any tile will look like inside any room by combining photos of the tile with photos of any room, and Dancik RADAR, a user customizable dashboard for use by the sales force and management that shows the information on an iPhone, Blackberry or Treo device as well as on a computer.

Dancik also offer an e-commerce module, Decor 24, which provides round the clock web access to customers with passwords for placing orders, checking stock, checking order status, and getting pricing.

According to Dancik, the distinction among tile merchants as to whether they are wholesaler, retailers, or manufacturers, will matter less and less as more and more of the industry connects through the Web through their entire supply chain and their entire customer base. “They have to be connected for marketing, for transactions, for general communications, and therefore software has to embrace that.”

Down the line, the Floor Covering Business to Business Association (www.fcb2b.com) is promoting a B2B standard that would bring information exchange between distributors and vendors fully into the 21st century. The standard would enable a tile distributor to quickly and accurately exchange business transactions with a vendor electronically across the Internet. Distributors would take advantage of current electronic catalogs with updated pricing and have the ability to place orders, receive real-time status updates and notification of incoming vendor shipments, receive invoices electronically, all of which is potentially less error-prone and faster than similar communications by technologies once themselves considered cutting edge (mail, phone, or fax). Progress marches on.

For further information:

Activant (Prophet 21)

800-776-7483

distribution@activant.com

http://distribution.activant.com/tile/

American Business Software (FloorPro III)

800-900-4POS

info@AmericanBusinessSoftware.com

www.AmericanBusinessSoftware.com

Dancik International, Ltd. (Dancik Distribution)

919-379-3800

info@dancik.com

www.dancik.com


Green Building: Fad or Fact of Life for the Tile Business?
 
November 2nd, 2008

November – December 2008

W hen you hear “Green” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you’re like most Americans, you think of the environment and you have definitely been influenced one way or the other. You may have been green-washed into the hype, or you might actually be a seeker of a greener world, but one way or another you have been touched by “Green.”

So, how does this affect us in the tile and stone industry? Do we really have to get prepared for a change in the way we DO things?

Let’s look at an example. There is a respected specification writer at one of America’s Top 5 Green Design Architectural Firms, who has ultimate responsibility for all of the firm’s specifications. Every time he hears green-anything, let alone the “L word” (LEED), he groans, and rolls his eyes! It has been said “he hasn’t acquired a taste for the green Kool-Aid yet.”

In actuality, he is very knowledgeable about green building practice; he is just tired of trying to sort through all the green hype for the facts. Where do you go for the facts, and who verifies something’s greenness? You can’t even trust a good Wiki, let alone a piece of literature from a manufacturer. The fact is there aren’t many good green barometers in this fast paced, “get it now” world, and as a result the consumer choices to be green are limitless and very difficult to verify.

So do you understand all the issues surrounding the green movement? Are you a supporter or a foe? It is becoming increasingly difficult to stay neutral.

The greening of America has introduced itself into every aspect of life. It’s in the products we buy, the education of our children, our buildings, our news, our politics, the cars we drive, and even our homes. How do you wade through all of the issues to know if you are even on the proverbial bandwagon or not?

Long gone are the extremes of left-wing, tree-hugger environmentalist and right-wing, air-polluting, land- gobbling, big-money business. Today we have a media-certified version of a conservationist that allows us to label ourselves as “green” without sacrificing any creature comforts. To top it all off, we are even willing to spend MORE money to be able to label ourselves “concerned about the environment.”

Extremes of Green

So what are the modern day two extremes of green? They come down to our choices and whether they are based on moral or economic factors.

If you are on the moral side of the green fence, you probably recycle, turn off unnecessary lights in your home, and maybe even take shorter showers. We do these things because we have been influenced that wasting natural resources is bad. This moral seed of green was planted in our psyche with the oil embargo crisis of the early 1970’s. The concept of modern recycling efforts was launched at the very first Earth Day April 22, 1970, Greenpeace followed in 1971, and the very first environmental legislation was enacted for clean water, pure air and energy conservation. While there are definitely economics to this personal choice approach to green, for the most part we have always made these green decisions because we want to practice conservation of our natural resources—energy, fuel, air, water and land.

If you’re in ANY sector of the construction industry, you’ll also associate “Green” with the built environment and the economics of building. Consume Less energy = Lower Operating Costs, Less Emissions = Better Air Quality, Water Efficient Faucets and Toilets = Less water wasted, and Less Construction / Remodel Waste = Fewer acres converted to landfills.

Documented efforts to “Green” our buildings started in the late 1980’s with organizations such as the AIA Committee on the Environment 1989 and were furthered by the EPA Energy Star Program 1992 and the USGBC founded in 1993. While these efforts have their roots in the moral decisions of conservation, their growth has definitely been fueled by the continually rising costs of all the natural resources required to construct and operate our buildings. Many a foe of “Green” has “drunk the Kool-Aid” in the belief that their choice will gift them with future economic reprieve.

Throughout history, we have learned that today’s great invention could become the environmental catastrophe of tomorrow. Think of lead paint, asbestos, burning coal, nuclear energy and waste, plastic, clear-cutting forests and so on. There has always been a division between the most cost effective way to manufacture the products we need, and the balance of the earth’s chemistry.

Environmental Choices

Recently, environmental choices have become a daily part of our social structure. This main stream approach has nurtured a new focus on the need to be able to systematically measure different products and process for their greenness. A whole new industry has emerged that is focused on removing the green hype and offering apples to apples third party certification of products.

In the construction industry, the most well known tool for measuring green is the USGBC measurement system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). As a not for profit group, the USGBC is made up of people from all different views of the green issues. Collectively, as a voice they want to influence the greenness of our built environment.

At first, the focus of the group was on new construction, and it has now grown into specialized programs for schools, hospitals and even homes. Through volunteer lobbying efforts, the group has been able to gain the support of government jurisdictions to adapt the LEED parameters into legislation as either guidelines or in some cases certification. There are many other regional and global types of these organizations all focused on one common goal—making the world greener.

History proves that as public awareness and concern for the environment grows, so does the pressure to create legislation. Our first major federal environmental legislation as a country came in the form of protecting our land with the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. This act allowed the president to set aside land in the public domain. Then with state legislative pressure, congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act in 1955. In the 1960’s, Americans went through a whole new outrage with oil spills and abuse of the earth and its inhabitants.

As a result, the 1970’s saw aggressive legislation from Congress on all sorts of environmental factors including, land, air, water, endangered species and energy. This is also when the Department of Energy was created in 1977. This creation consolidated energy related functions from several federal agencies into a single cabinet-level organization.

For the next two decades, environmental legislation was enhanced and amended. In the 1990’s there was renewed focus on better air quality, more fuel efficient, lower emission vehicles and development of alternative energy. Then came the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which required the Secretary of Energy to set efficiency standards for all new federal buildings and outlined plans to decrease America’s dependency on petroleum. This act was furthered with EPACT of 2005, which tied in significant tax credits for conservation and energy efficiency programs.

Economic Necessity

So what binds together the moral, economic and legislative choices, and keeps today’s “green” from just being the next fad? Many believe that a marriage has been born out of economic necessity, much like the panic of the 1970’s. As a result, we are at the precipice of the true “greening” of our legislation. The environmentalists may have started the race, but manufacturers and retailers have picked up the baton. Corporations and homeowners are concerned and are pushing our government at all levels to become “green”.

Also take a look at the organizations that are relied upon when setting our standards. The American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have agreed to jointly promote the goal of net zero energy building by 2030. To put that into plain English, the groups that help set our federal standards, design our buildings and pen our guidelines for the amount of electricity we use are pushing for buildings that don’t use ANY energy off of the public grid. Think wind mills and solar panels on every hospital and two story office building.

You think that’s scary? Google the newest federal legislation—the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) signed by President Bush December 21, 2007. This bill was designed to build off of the EPACT of 2005 and further define our environmental goals for the 21st century.

Are you concerned that in your wired-in 24/7 world that you’ve never even heard of this act? Don’t be. Like most of our legislation, the impacts are not felt until long after their implementation. If you actually caught the blip on CNN, you probably remember something about improved vehicle fuel economy and the phase out of the incandescent light bulb. But read deeper—section 422 establishes a net zero-energy goal for all high-performance commercial buildings built after 2025. Currently our commercial buildings use 70% of all the energy consumed in America. We were going to take that to zero in 17 years? With what renewable energy source? Our technologies for harvesting and storing solar and wind energies are in their infancy.

Why Care?

So at this point, you are thinking, “Well that’s a great history lesson, but I’m in the tile business, so why do I care about all the energy stuff?” Let me bring it closer to home. That ASHRAE group and the IESNA and USGBC have joined together to create Standard 189 which, if adopted, will be the first green building standard in the United States. It outlines minimum guidelines for all commercial buildings and major renovations by addressing water efficiency, use of land, air quality, energy and materials and resources. Guess where tile and stone falls? You got it: Materials and Resources with a nod to air quality.

Are you reminiscing on a recent experience or story you’ve heard about a LEED project? Well get ready, this standard is not a rating system like LEED, or even an industry design guide. This is a Government Standard that will be a Certificate-of-Occupancy checklist item for local building code inspectors. That means if Standard 189 is adopted, the GC will have to meet certain minimum “green” standards in order to get a CO on the project. And the building inspectors are there to ensure compliance! How’s that for a light year leap into your projects?

So whether you’re the person that conserves everything, and uses alternative measures to get to work or the person that started out this article wondering why you’re reading about the history of the color green—beware. Green Fad is about to collide with Green Fact, and we’ve got Government Legislation to red tape it together. Has all this reading gotten you thirsty? How about some of that “green Kool-Aid”?

Kirby Davis, CSI, CCTS, CDT, LEED AP, is Senior Architectural Specialist, Dallas and South Central USA, for LATICRETE International, Inc.


It All Moves – Plan on It
 
November 2nd, 2008

November – December 2008

By David M. Gobis

This month we are going to talk about what causes the overwhelming amount of ceramic tile failures. In my opinion, it is lack of movement accommodation. This is not a belief I have always had nor would I have even been receptive to, until the past 10 years of answering email and phones.

Being industry based, we typically get a different type of caller than most do in sales and manufacturing. If someone calls an industry-based organization they are looking for information, not claim accommodation, which is a whole different call or email. We tend to get much more information and are more able to get a factual picture of the issue at hand. That is not to say we are able to get all the facts. My most commonly uttered or typed phrase is “based on the information provided.” Nonetheless, people can be quite candid when they want to learn, as opposed to making a call which affects their financial well being. This is the reason I have come to my opinion on movement accommodation.

But wait a minute—we are talking about ceramic tile, and most commonly porcelain tile (called porcelain stone tile by some)—solid as a rock! Rock solid or not, all tile moves! Not only does all tile move, but so does every other product known to man—even the strongest steel or concrete has a movement rate that must be accommodated in the design process.

START WITH THE TILE

So just what necessitates this overwhelming need for movement (expansion) joints? It starts with the tile itself. Many people are quite surprised to hear that ceramic tile, a product manufactured by firing clay and other minerals at several thousand degrees, expands when exposed to direct sunlight. Porcelain tile, a very dense-bodied product with a very low thermal expansion rate, expands approximately .000004 inches per degree Fahrenheit. Sounds minimal, but that same porcelain tile covering 40 linear feet exposed to a change in surface temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit has the potential to expand between 1/16″ and 3/32″.

The adhesion of the bonding material to the tile and substrate reduces the actual amount of expansion but does not eliminate it. This is where coverage and type of thinset can make a big difference in whether the tile stays in place or not.

Types of tile other than porcelain, especially glass, are much more expansive under heat. Thermal expansion is a two-way street. Tile both expands and contracts due to thermal variation. This is one reason for my personal preference for using the term “movement joints.”

MOISTURE IS EXPANSIVE

If I were only concerned about moisture, then I could use an expansion joint. Why? Moisture is an expansive force on ceramic tile. Once it expands, it does not contract. This growth rate is very slow and very minimal. Except for this minor amount of growth, ceramic tile is unaffected by moisture or water; it is an inert material.

When someone says they have a tile failure due to excessive moisture, what they should really be saying is “due to defective workmanship.” Either they used the wrong thinset—it did not allow full curing prior to

moisture exposure—or there are no expansion joints and likely a few other ills.

Failures due to moisture expansion can happen in as little as a few years in areas of very high water exposure applications, such as an exterior deck or restaurant kitchen with no movement joints. However, most often they take a number of years to occur. Coastal areas such as Florida and New Orleans which have very high ground water tables show a disproportionate amount of slab-on-grade moisture-related failures, most commonly due to a lack of movement accommodation joints.

Ironically, I just finished that paragraph and received an email about multiple failures in a slab-on-grade application that is between two and three years old. I would say the thoughts the flooring contactor expressed, while vastly inaccurate, are typical of what we receive. Here is the unedited text of his letter to the owner (with the name altered, of course):

“Wearethebest Floor Company does not consider the ceramic tile installations that are shearing off the floors in your home’s a result of improper installation or due to defective material. Therefore, these occurrences are not covered by Wearethebest Floor Company’s warranty. Upon review of inspection reports and photographs, it is our opinion that one or two circumstances or a combination of both caused these failures. Vapor transmission, also known as vapor pressure, occurs in all concrete surfaces in the form of a gas vapor. This process of moisture emission is natural, necessary, and driven by nature through capillaries within the concrete. Water vapor always migrates from a cool wet environment (concrete slab) to a warm dry environment (building interior) through a process known as diffusion. Moisture movement can occur from capillarity, absorption, and gaseous diffusion. Vapor pressure can be measured but not calculated (predicted). Concrete permeability and porosity govern vapor emissions. Since all the failures occurred after the Wearethebest Floor Company’s warranty period, something occurred to cause a drastic increase in vapor transmission (i.e. extreme rainfall that occurs with a hurricane), the increase in the vapor transmission would result in increased release of alkaline salts from the concrete. When the vapor comes in contact with the bond line, it then turns into liquid and the salts in the liquid infect the bond line and cause the tile to release The tiles inspected typically had thinset on the tile, but it had broken free at the concrete, which is what happens with this phenomenon. There are tests that can be done on the concrete, and I could provide you with the independent company that performs these tests. As a word of caution, these tests will not show how many PSI were in the concrete at the time the tiles sheared from the floor.”

In my opinion the evaluation is completely off base and the explanation without merit. To insert my response would take more space than allowed for this article. The only effect moisture had on this installation, even if the home was flooded, was moisture expansion of the tile and concrete, which happens in every slab on grade installation. Thinset does not liquefy; it is very alkaline and, like concrete, it is made out of cement. That it is stuck to the tile and not the slab does provide some insight.

While I have not seen this particular project, based on the information provided, I would speculate a lack of movement joints combined with tile thinset over curing compound. I did later receive confirmation that both were correct. This project, in a coastal area, is very typical of the calls and emails we receive. The company, a well-known and respected entity, says they never use movement joints on residential projects and this is just one of the normal installation issues in their area.

Now that is truly burying your head in the sand. If I sound irritated, I am. These good people who chose tile for their homes deserved properly trained installers and sales personnel. Instead, they now face substantial personal expense in either repairing the floor or for attorneys’ fees to sue for a latent defect in installation.

Lest we further digress, what are some other good reasons for movement/expansion joints?

WOOD MOVES

Wood structures are going to move. All wood supported floor systems have a certain amount of deflection. Too much movement can cause a host of problems, but even normal movement from bending stresses must be accommodated.

Perimeter joints are critical in wood structures to accommodate the normal movement of the structure and seasonal moisture changes in the wood itself. If there is a beam running down the center of the room or home, common sense tells us that is a pivot point from which the floor will deform on either side, like a board over a fulcrum. It would be prudent to put a soft joint or movement profile over that area to allow the floor to move without putting the tile assembly in stress.

Another area of consideration is doorways. Take the example of a kitchen with an adjoining dining room. If we have a 300-square-foot kitchen with a doorway to a 250-square-foot dining room, both installed over backer board, we have roughly 1800 pounds on one side of the wall and 1500 pounds on the other side, joined together at a 3-linear-foot doorway, like a barbell. Again, common sense would say this is not a good idea and real world experience confirms it isn’t—you need a movement joint.

Most areas of the country go through seasonal changes in humidity levels. These changes affect the dimensional stability of the supporting floor structure. This moisture-induced movement is magnified several times if the method of construction utilizes a crawl space, which subjects the supporting structure to a much greater level of dimensional instability.

CONCRETE SHRINKS

Concrete does not earn a free pass on stability either. Did you know that concrete spends its whole life moving? Concrete has a natural tendency to warp. Control joints are placed primarily for concrete shrinkage during the initial curing process. Because a concrete control joint is not cracked at the time of tile installation does not mean it will not crack at some point. In all likelihood, you can be fairly well assured it will. If there are no control joints in the slab this cracking will occur at random locations over a period of time, which can be many years.

Movement/expansion joints must be provided at all control joints. As the concrete continues to fully cure, which can take as long as a year, some additional shrinkage will occur, and control joints provide the means for dictating where the separation will happen. Even after the concrete is fully cured there will be some minor warpage. If tile is installed without the proper movement accommodation joints it is quite possible that it may either crack or debond.

Using a membrane does not eliminate the need for movement joints. For a membrane to function properly movement joints must still be placed in the installation, though some products and methods will allow you to select a more atheistically pleasing location.

The physics of concrete is very complicated but it is not as unpredictable as many think. The cause and effect is actually rather well defined. It is a fact, all building materials move, none at the same rate. All structures move by necessity. This movement coupled with the dimensional characteristic s of the flooring material must be accommodated in the design process.

INCLUSION A CHALLENGE

Architects, general contractors, owners and end users are very averse to seeing caulk and sealant joints or movement profiles that they feel destroy the ambiance of their home or structure. I am from the real world of installation and understand the challenge of their inclusion. It was a battle I fought on nearly every job of any substance.

Awareness of the need for movement joints in tile installations needs to begin at the sale or specification stage, well before ordering products and certainly before the installer arrives on site. Asking the purchaser or end user how they prefer these joints to be treated should be no different than, and is of much greater importance than, selecting grout color. Caulk, sealant, or profiles should be ordered at the time of sale to make sure they are on hand for the installation process.

Tile flooring is an investment, not a commodity, and measures should be taken to protect it as with any investment. Why not take a look at your current policies regarding expansion/ movement accommodation joints and see what you can do to better protect your company and those who invest in your products?

 

David M. Gobis, a third-generation tile setter, is the Technical Director for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. He has been in the trade for over 35 years and owned a successful contracting business for many years prior to his current position. Mr. Gobis is an author of numerous trade related articles and a frequent speaker at industry events. He is member of the Construction Specification Institute, International Code Council, American Concrete Institute, National Tile Contractors Technical Committee, voting member of The American National Standards for Ceramic Tile Installation and Setting Materials (ANSI A108/118), American Society for Testing of Materials (ASTM) C-21 Ceramic Whitewares, and Tile Council of America Installation Handbook committees. © 2008 Dave Gobis CTEF


Mosaics: Making the Most of Small Format Tiles
 
November 2nd, 2008

November – December 2008
by Kathleen Furore

Think about your business and what comes to mind? Tile, grout and accessories are the most likely responses. But fashion? That’s what Barbara Briskin of Emenee Tile in Bronx, NY thought of when asked about trends in today’s tile industry.

“It’s amazing how quickly trends change with regards to tile,” Briskin says. “We’ve learned that the tile business is actually a ‘fashion’ business. It changes as often as hemlines!” And mosaic tiles, she says, are among the most fashionable items on the market today. “Mosaics are everywhere,” Briskin reports. “They run the gamut from glass, to stone to ceramic.”

Not only are mosaics everywhere; they also give dealers who merchandise the small tiles a leg up in a very competitive market, industry experts agree.

“From whole fields of mosaics to small accent areas, mosaics—especially glass mosaics—offer exciting options for dealers to get creative with their customers,” Jim Fry, president of Ohio-based Seneca Tiles in Seneca and Epro Tile in nearby Bloomville, says.

Helen Zhao of Hirsch Glass Group in Dayton, NJ notes that mosaics—with margins “relatively more than those of common field tile”—give tile dealers a competitive advantage over those who offer commodity tile alone.

Simply put, Briskin says there is one key reason tile dealers should inventory mosaic tile: “They should consider it because it’s in demand.”

Mosaics defined
The dictionary definition of mosaic is “a picture or decoration made of small, usually colored pieces of inlaid stone, glass, or other materials.”

Designer Jamie Gibbs of New York City’s Jamie Gibbs and Associates takes it one step further. “The specific detail that sets a mosaic aside from other tile is that it is purchased as a pattern in full repeats instead of by the tile or square foot,” she explains. “For example, you would buy a circular 36-inch mosaic floor insert as a unit. You would then calculate the remaining floor surface and order field tile to fill this area.”

According to professional designer Sarah Boyer Jenkins of Chevy Chase, MD, mosaics initially were used in Italy, Spain and other areas surrounding the Mediterranean, with a heavy emphasis on religious patterns used on floors or wall decorations.

Today, mosaics are used in myriad spaces, and can be made of glass, ceramic, porcelain, natural stone (including travertine, marble, granite, and slate), stainless steel and other metals, Portland, OR interior designer Marlene Buckner says. “In contemporary design, I see them used for the entire tile installation or as borders in the floor or backsplashes in bathrooms behind sinks,” she adds.

Design Trends
Several factors are fueling the popularity of mosaic tiles—price, flexibility, ease of installation and greater selection among them, tile professionals say. Understanding what is driving the market and exploring current design trends are steps dealers must take to make the most of mosaics.

“Many more patterns and materials are cost-effective thanks to laser cutting,” explains Gibbs. “Netted mosaic patterns are easy to install; mosaic borders and plaques make a great upscale statement; some mosaic patterns have texture and 3D qualities; and many netted mosaic patterns have very tight grout lines which make maintenance in a bath or kitchen easier.”

The entry of new, eco-friendly materials into the market is another plus—something all dealers should consider when choosing the kinds of mosaic products to purvey.

“One major trend is using any and all available materials to make the tile, many of which are sustainable materials. Porcelain, ceramic, natural stone, and glass can all be recycled and are environmentally friendly or ‘green,’” Buckner says. “Many of the glass mosaics available for sale are manufactured out of recycled glass material.”

Glass, in fact, is driving mosaic demand in most markets thanks to its design flexibility, Zhao reports. “Glass seems to be the most popular right now,” Fry concurs. “The colors that are available in glass seem to be almost unlimited, thus there is something for every application.”

Size, shape and installation trends, too, have evolved as mosaics have come into their own. “A couple of years ago, 1-inch by 1-inch mosaic tiles were everywhere. Now we see a trend toward more brick patterns—1-inch by 2-inch, for example—and irregular patterns where each individual tile is a different size and shape,” Bucker says.

“Most of the time when I see them emphasized in magazines or articles, it’s using them for the whole design—an entire wall, for example,” she adds. “I find subtly blending them with other materials creates value for the consumer. On a per-square-foot basis, mosaics can be reasonable in price, but have a very large impact on the overall look of the installation. There is a lot of value added by incorporating them into the design process.”

The custom market, too, offers profit potential—but that profit won’t come without a serious commitment from tile dealers. As Zhao notes, it is a “design-oriented, time-consuming and costly process”—all reasons she says she hasn’t seen a lot of dealers jumping onto the custom mosaic bandwagon.

Briskin, however, says custom mosaics are “particularly hot in commercial installations” right now. And Fry believes custom mosaics “are the logical next step for the marketplace and design community to trend toward.”

“As the mosaic offerings get more and more high-end, customers strive for their own unique look,” Fry continues. “Whether it’s for a certain color to match something they already have, a special size needed for a personal design, or an intricate mural maybe no one else will have, the custom customer has the means to afford it.”

Marketing Mosaics
However extensive a program they offer, the way tile dealers showcase mosaic offerings will strongly impact how successful sales will be. The biggest challenge: to carve out enough space to adequately show samples.
“The best ways for tile dealers to promote mosaic tiles is by devoting as much space as possible to actual samples and concepts,” Fry notes. “But this is a never-ending issue that they have to deal with, because as more and more creative ideas are developed, they need more and more space to effectively convey the message.”

It’s a hurdle, but not an impossible one to jump, the pros report. The ideal, of course, is a real installation. “This way the customer can actually picture the tile as it was meant to be shown,” Briskin explains. “Once a mosaic has been grouted it takes on a completely different look—it’s like night and day.”

In-store installations should clearly show how mosaics can overcome architectural difficulties like curved walls, angles, dormers, curved counters, and recessed niches, Gibbs adds.

Other options, however, do exist when “real world” installations aren’t possible. Briskin says grouted boards work well, while Gibbs suggests using “great photography” in small showrooms. “Since showroom space is at a premium, professional photography of quality, real-life installations will help explain the product,” Gibbs says. “The photography needs to be large and well-mounted, not pictures in a scrapbook taken with a digital camera.”

However you market them, mosaic tiles are here to stay. And consumers and design professionals alike are looking for new materials and design ideas that can ultimately drive new business to your showroom floor.
“From a design standpoint, we like to see new things added throughout the year,” Buckner concludes. “None of us like using the same product over and over. Being in the industry, there are a lot of fantastic products that the consumer finds interesting and unique that we’ve seen or used enough times in one format or another that we desire to see something fresh. Mosaics are limitless, so the combinations and options don’t tire as quickly as some other products do.”


One-on-One…with Glenn Feder
 
November 2nd, 2008

“There are not a lot of other shows tied to this industry setting records.”

November-December 2008

By Jeffrey Steele

When Glenn Feder joined National Trade Productions, the Alexandria, VA firm that stages Coverings each year, he brought with him a wealth of experience. In the previous 15 years, he had climbed the corporate ladder in sales, launched and grown his own start-up venture and made a name for himself in a Fortune 500 company.

All that experience served him well when he arrived at NTP in 2001. Three years later, National Trade Productions took over responsibilities for Coverings, and Glenn’s job responsibilities—and achievements—have done nothing but multiply ever since. Having shepherded Coverings to record attendance in 2007, and the promise of even larger numbers this year, Glenn recently took time out for a wide-ranging interview with TileDealer. In this insightful exchange, he reveals how NTP measures the success of each show, talks about expectations for Coverings Boutique and explores the ways Coverings and NTP are evolving, even in the face of today’s troublesome economy.

TileDealer: What is your background, and how did you come to your current position at National Trade Productions?

Feder: I was born in Rhode Island, grew up in Massachusetts, and went to college at the University of Massachusetts, where I majored in marketing and got a bachelor’s of business administration degree. From there, I moved down to Maryland to work for American Hospital Supply Corp., now Baxter Healthcare.

After five years there, I started my own ground transportation company in Maryland. After another five years, I sold that, and in the mid-1990s went to work for Budget Group, and spent another five years there, and that rolled me into NTP. I have entrepreneurial experience, Fortune 500 experience, and cut my teeth in sales.

I’ve been with NTP for seven years, starting in 2001 as a sales director. Since that time, we have more than doubled the size of the company. I moved into the position of vice-president of sales, and after several years there, moved into the presidency. I’ve always been involved in Coverings since we took them on in 2004.

In my current role as president of the division, which I moved into in late 2006, I now have oversight responsibility for marketing, in addition to sales and revenue, and matrix management responsibility for operations as well.

TileDealer: Why did NTP decide to convene Coverings in Chicago in 2007 and 2009, when the show had been in Orlando for so many years and will be again in 2008?

Feder: There are a lot of answers. The primary answer is when we took the show over in 2004, we heard resounding requests that people wanted to try a new venue. While Orlando was great, they wanted to try something new.

When you look across the country, there are not that many places that could take us. It’s four or five: New Orleans, Las Vegas, Chicago and Orlando. That narrows the field significantly. There were no available dates in Vegas. We had a 16-day show requirement from move-in to move-out, and only Chicago could accommodate that.

Some of the other reasons for choosing Chicago included the number of architects and designers—a community we’ve been targeting—in that market. And it offered attendees a new venue to enjoy. People attend shows in part based on how much fun they will have. And Chicago is a major city with a lot to offer that way.

TileDealer: How does NTP measure the success of each Coverings?

Feder: The answer that comes out of any successful trade show manager’s mouth initially is attendance—and square footage. Beyond this obvious metric, we gather a lot of anecdotal feedback from everyone, attendees and exhibitors alike. We devote a lot of attention to pavilion coordinators/representatives. They represent, on a broad brushstroke, the sentiments of their members. We conduct focus group surveys with attendees as well. Anecdotal observations are part of that, but we also do formal attendee and exhibitor surveys where we ask a battery of questions to solicit feedback.

TileDealer: What is the fallout of that measurement?

Feder: Exhibitors always want to see new and different attendees, and attendees always want to see new products, new designs and new opportunities to bring back to their firms. The show has sold out every year since we’ve taken it on, and has sold out this year.

That covers your net square footage piece. We’re coming off a record attendance of 37,000, and we are right now well ahead of last year’s pace.

Trade shows in general will draw 30 to 40 percent of their attendance from the region in which the show is held. Going into a new region with an especially aggressive marketing campaign, and into a better-

populated region, we were able to drive attendance levels to new records last year. The greater attendance this year is part of the compounding effect of moving the show. You don’t want to move it every year. But a rotation makes sense because it captures a new audience, pulls some of your most loyal audience from the other venue, and makes for a better-attended show.

Fifty percent of those in attendance last year had not attended Coverings before. So one of our efforts this year is to pull as many of those people into Orlando this year, and that’s one reason we feel Orlando is looking especially strong.

TileDealer: Considering the economy, particularly with respect to housing, how is National Trade Productions adjusting its expectations for 2008 and beyond?

Feder: Results speak to that. We are investing in this event; we are marketing aggressively. And it’s our philosophy to market in a down economy, because it will be back. If you look at some of the other events that would track against the housing market, I think Coverings’ record-level attendance and sold-out events stands it at the top of the industry. A lot of other shows are struggling.

There are not a lot of other shows tied to this industry that are setting records. The fact that we are is due to our aggressive marketing, the fact we’re taking the show to new attendees, and are employing new tactics and strategies.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for NTP—and for Glenn Feder?

Feder: NTP as always is continually in an aggressive growth mode. We want to take on new clients with existing shows, and start new shows of our own, and continue to grow our Creative Solutions Group in-house design division. That’s a division we started as a part of the growth initiative begun in 2001 to bring design and marketing services to current and new trade show clients, as well as other corporate clients in need of marketing expertise. One other thing: All of this is taking place while we’re delivering unsurpassed customer service to clients, exhibitors, attendees and vendors alike.

MEDIA CONTACTS AT NTP:

Jamie Tiburzi, senior marketing manager

703-706-8218

Elena Grant, executive director of marketing

703-706-8246


Tile Tour 2008: America
 
November 2nd, 2008

November-December 2008

IRONROCK OFFERS TROPICAL SEASCAPE AND ENVIROQUARRY™
Ironrock, an Ohio brick and tile maker for over 100 years, offers the Meredith Collection® with the Tropical Seascape design, four deep-relief, hand-painted 5" x 8" tiles, each depicting a different shoreline view. Tiles are interchangeable for mixing, matching and creating panoramic extended borders. Ironrock’s Metropolitan Ceramics® has introduced ENVIROQUARRY™, ½ inch thick, available in 6" x 6" and nominal 4" x 8" and 8" x 8" sizes. It contains more than 60% recycled material. Random shade variations provide a classic traditional look.
www.meredithtile.com and www.metroceramics.com

TRIKEENAN OFFERS NY MODULUS AND METRO COTTON
Trikeenan Tileworks’ NY Modulus line has 50 colors in sizes from 3" x 3" to 4" x 16", and the unique Ebb and Flow tiles shown. Glazes coordinate with Trikeenan’s 15 glass tile colors and 47 Basics glazes. Part of NY Modulus, the Metro Cotton collection offers five white and off-white shades complementing the most popular natural stones used in architecture today. Sizes range from 1" x 1" mosaic to 8" x 8" and
4" x 16" field. Trikeenan has New Hampshire and New York factories.
www.trikeenan.com

CROSSVILLE ADDS COLOR BLOX EC
Thinking “out-of-the-blox,” Crossville offers Color Blox EC, a Porcelain Stone® tile with 20% recycled content and third-party certification that can contribute to LEED MR 4.1 and 4.2 credits. With rectified edges, it comes in six Color Blox colors: Sandbox, Slinky, Mud Pie, Sea Otter, Camping Out and I See the Moon. Sizes are: 12" x 12", a large format 24" x 24" and plank shapes in 6" x 24" and 12" x 24". Bullnose and cove base trim are available. Color Blox EC works with Bentley Prince Street carpets. Tennessee-based Crossville is the largest U.S. porcelain stone manufacturer.
www.crossvilleinc.com


Innovations
 
November 2nd, 2008

November-December 2008

Cast Color from Questech
Questech Tile is launching the Cast Color Tile line, elevating everything we know about glass tile. Questech has infused innovation at every level; the possibility of chipping and cuts are replaced with beauty and easy care. Cast Color Tile is a proprietary composite made using real glass, with the beautiful look and feel of glass, but without the splintering, scratching and finger printing that can sometimes happen. Beautifully designed to put a fresh twist on the kitchen or bathroom, the Cast Color line gives space a luxurious look without the price tag to match. Cast Color Tile is a durable and easy-to-clean material. As with all Questech tiles, the Cast Color lined is sealed with their innovative product, Q-Seal®, a permanent protective sealer that is baked right into the tile at the factory. Q-Seal® is chemically resistant so acids from cleaning products and household spills can’t damage the tile. It also boasts anti-microbial protection, Ultra-Fresh®, which inhibits odor and stain-causing bacteria to fight mold.

MetroLife
Mediterranea has launched the MetroLife collection of large format thru-body porcelain tile, offering a highly artistic rendering of a stained concrete floor for high-traffic commercial applications or residential spaces. Produced in the USA and readily available for timely distribution, the MetroLife collection was created using Mediterranea’s exclusive TruColor™ technology, featuring the random mixing of colored clays throughout the entire body of the tile, combined with double-loaded technology, resulting in a highly textured surface full of artistic shading and random movement. The MetroLife collection meets all ADA requirements for slip resistance in high-traffic commercial areas, and the contemporary urban flair of this vibrant, colorful collection of fully rectified, double-loaded porcelain tile is ideal for high visibility installations. The MetroLife collection from Mediterranea is produced in five different sizes, complete with bullnose accessories and two different styles of mesh-backed mosaics mounted on 12" x 12" sheets. The MetroLife collection will offer traditional square size mosaics, but will also offer a new, 1" x 2" rectangular mosaic format in a broken joint brick pattern. This highly artistic, stained concrete-look collection is produced in 24" x 24", 12" x 24", 18" x 18", 12" x 12" and 6" x 6" sizes, and in four vibrant colors: Macchiato Brown, Cinnabar Red, Melted Bronze and Graphite Charcoal.
www.mediterranea-usa.com.

Designer Drain Plates
Tile Redi has launched an exclusive line of designer drain plates for a perfect fit when used in combination with the company’s easy-to-install waterproof shower pans. Since all Tile Redi shower pans allow ceramic, glass or stone tiles to be adhered directly to the surface, each drain is manufactured in a square form, rather than a circle, to make the drain easier to tile around. The designer drain plates are available in 18 variations of the standard base colors, including Black, Brass, Bronze, Chrome, Copper, Nickel and White, in order to match the existing hardware in the bathroom. For both the residential and commercial construction sectors, Tile Redi shower pans are mold-free and 100 percent leak-proof with no additional on-site shower pan waterproofing required at the time of the installation. Tile Redi patented and UL-listed shower pans are manufactured as pre-formed, one-piece molded shower modules. Complete with fully integrated drains, curbs and splash walls, each leak-proof unit is pre-pitched for easy drainage. By solving water intrusion problems, Tile Redi shower pans inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.
www.tileredi.com

Bamboo, from Imagine Tile
Imagine Tile, the industry leader pioneering the use of high-resolution imagery in ceramic tile adds Bamboo, a new photo realistic design to the Nature Series. Bamboo, from Imagine Tile, captures the natural beauty of real bamboo wood in an easy-to-care-for ceramic tile. Enhance a room, indoors or out, with Bamboo’s rich, exotic look. Bamboo ceramic tile has a commercial wear rating, is unaffected by UV light and resistant to strong chemicals. Available for floors, walls or counters, Bamboo is ideal for residential or commercial installations. In 16" x 16" or 8" x 8" sizes.
www.imaginetile.com

ProSpec® Launches Lightweight Thin Set Mortar
ProSpec, Bonsal American’s brand of professionally specified products, has introduced PermaFlex® Lite 525, a lightweight thin set mortar for tile and natural stone installations. The lightweight technology allows for the same coverage as a 50 lb. bag of traditional mortar in a 25 lb. size. It also incorporates post-consumer recycled glass microspheres, rather than sand, to help divert the waste from landfills. The reduced weight per bag means easier lifting for the installer. These design features mean the product contributes to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project points. The new lightweight technology also boasts superior workability that makes it easier to mix and trowel. It is ideal for interior or exterior installation on walls, floors or ceilings. PermaFlex Lite 525 sets most types of ceramic tile or stone including glass, porcelain and quarry tiles, pavers and marble. Its non-sag formula also makes it ideal for installing heavy ceramic tile, without slippage. PermaFlex Lite 525 is classified as a C2-E-T-S1-P1 performance product and meets ISO 13007 performance characteristics. These specifications categorize it as an improved cementitious adhesive that meets special performance characteristics including extended open time, slip resistance, deformability and adhesion to exterior grade plywood. PermaFlex Lite 525 is available in 25 lb. bags in both white and gray.
www.prospec.com

GranitiFiandre Introduces Crystal Collection to US Market
Italian stone and tile manufacturer GranitiFiandre has recently introduced their patented Crystal Collection to the United States market. Crystal is a group of luxurious porcelain slabs rich in crystal inclusions that accent the material’s distinctive fullness of hue. “The technical excellence and innovation that characterize GranitiFiandre’s style are indubitable with the development of Crystal,” said Jeanne Nichols, vice president for GranitiFiandre in the United States. “This captivating collection offers designers a dazzling, original porcelain material perfect for creating sophisticated interiors.” GranitiFiandre received a patent for Crystal’s technical excellence and product design, which features evenly distributed sparkling crystals over its surface. The crystals produce a light reflecting, visual effect similar to mica found in natural stone formations and highlight the material’s deep color. Blue Crystal, Purple Crystal, Cinder Crystal, and Black Crystal are available in 36" x 18" and 18" x18", along with 1" x 1" mosaics, Project 11, and a variety of liners, dots, and steptreads. Crystal finishes include polished, honed, and silk-touch. Crystal is part of GranitiFiandre’s GeoStyle product line that showcases their most innovative design concepts and expansive R&D efforts including GeoDesign, GeoDiamond, GeoStyle, and Luminar Collections.

NEWCO.DE COLLECTION ADDS EXTERIOR SURFACING OPTION
Italian stone and tile manufacturer GranitiFiandre has expanded its contemporary NewCo.de Collection with a product specifically designed for exterior application. Co.de Exte continues to build upon the collection’s minimalist style with its varying textured surface designs and new slate finish. “Co.de Exte’s tile-to-tile surface variations, slate finish, and earthy color options work perfectly in minimalist exterior designs where the focus is on a relaxed, natural space with careful attention to finishing details,” said Jeanne Nichols, vice president—sales and marketing for GranitiFiandre in the United States. Co.de Exte is available in 12" x 12" and 8" x 8" slate finish formats in Desert Exte, Moka Exte, Urban Exte and Graphite Exte. NewCo.de finishes include a silk-touch finish—inspired by the softness of silk— and a fiber finish—inspired by the unevenness of raw fabrics—as well as honed and diagonal textured finishes. Coordinating mosaics, bullnose, and steptread are also available.
www.granitifiandreusa.com

DUPONT™ LAUNCHES NEW SEALERS AND CLEANERS
DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional Natural Stone Countertop Sealer protects natural stone against unsightly, damaging stains. It combines DuPont™ BulletProof® technology with the convenience of a spray dispenser to deliver superior protection against water- and oil-based stains while preserving the natural look of the stone. Available in a 24-ounce trigger spray bottle, this advanced penetrating microbond sealer works well on vertical surfaces such as backsplashes and natural stone tile shower walls. It can be applied to damp surfaces so the job can start and finish more quickly. DuPont has tested and verified the use of this water-based countertop sealer on surfaces including marble, granite, limestone, travertine, slate, flagstone, saltillo, bluestone and sandstone. Likewise, DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional has introduced two new cleaners specially formulated to remove the toughest problems from ceramic, porcelain and natural stone surfaces. DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional Heavy Duty Alkaline Cleaner is a water-based professional grade cleaner that removes stubborn grease and dirt on porcelain and ceramic tile, as well as natural stone. An economical concentrate available in one-gallon containers, the cleaner is diluted at a 1:1 ratio with warm water. It can be used on natural stone surfaces including marble, granite, limestone, travertine, slate and sandstone as well as ceramic and porcelain tile and epoxy and cement grout. It also works well on masonry, concrete surfaces, DuPont™ Zodiaq® and other engineered stone, DuPont™ Corian® and other solid surfaces. DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional Epoxy Grout Haze Remover easily cleans off epoxy grout haze from newly installed ceramic, porcelain and natural stone surfaces without a strong odor. It is a highly effective low-odor, water-based remover safe for ceramic and porcelain tile and a variety of natural stone surfaces including slate, granite and marble.
www.stonetechpro.dupont.com

ORNAMENTAL CLASSICAL FIELD TILE
COLLECTION INTRODUCED

Dunis Studios has added ornamental field tile and borders to its historical collection of classical tile. The new designs are intricate motifs, hand-cast and hand-painted, which fit together to create an overall patterned frieze. These imaginative interpretations of classic Renaissance and Baroque designs are beautifully hand-crafted with fine detailing. These new designs and any of Dunis Studios’ Classical Collection are available in over 300 colors. They are designed and made exclusively by Dunis Studios, a leading United States-based art tile design company.
www.DunisStudios.com

WAVES OF COLOR MARK LEVEL’S WAVE PORCELAIN TILE COLLECTION
Level has announced Wave, the latest porcelain tile collection for this new brand. Developed from Italian design and created via modern tile manufacturing and glazing techniques, Wave offers distinctive styling and customizable modularity on floors and walls. It is available immediately in the U.S. and Canadian markets in four through-body colors (Oro, Beige, Blu and Noce), a blend of warm and cool tones. With its stone appearance, Wave is versatile for residential and commercial applications. Its heavy shade variation adds dramatic interest and authenticity, heightened by the clever “waves” of color—carefully crafted striations in the glaze applications—that add detail to each individual tile. All colors come in 20" x20", 13" x13", 10" x 20", 6½" x 6½" and 3½" x 6½" field tiles and 3" x 13" bullnose. Additionally, each color comes in 13" x 13" mosaic tiles comprised of 31/4"x31/4" cut pieces mounted on mesh-backing for simple installation. Complementary 2" x14½" mosaic listellos are offered for each colorway, blending tonal, linear strips with deeper, contrasting cut pieces.
www.level-usa.com

STONEFONE SOFTWARE DEBUTS
StoneFone, LLC announced the premiere of its StoneFone software at StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas 2008. The innovative and versatile StoneFone software provides modern day solutions for the stone industry by facilitating communication between designers, fabricators, sales representatives and stone retailers at the touch of a button. Whether creating PDF contracts, calculating sales commissions, tracking sales performance, or accessing slab and remnant inventory, StoneFone promises to improve all aspects of stone fabrication from start to finish. Matt Pharr, Managing Partner, states, “Whether at the office using a PC or on the road with an iPhone, sales representatives will be able to fax and email stone bids instantaneously. Fabricators will be able to update job details and schedules in real time, 24 hours per day. Administrators will be able to track employee hours, monitor job progress, and perform basic accounting. Everything will be easier from this point on and this is only the beginning.”
www.stonefone.com

STONE CARE FOR DUMMIES™ INTRODUCED
Stone Care International, Inc., manufacturer and distributor of commercial and residential natural stone and tile surface care products, has introduced the Stone Care For Dummies™ retail product line. It provides a simple and straightforward do-it-yourself (DIY) application process to help consumers care for granite and marble countertops; stone floors such as marble, limestone, granite, and slate; and all ceramic and porcelain tile surfaces. The new line features a full range of products, including stone countertop and floor cleaners, a stone countertop polish, a tile and grout cleaner, and a stone and grout sealer. “Wiley’s For Dummies® products are universally known for their ability to meet the needs of consumers in easy to understand language,” states Andrew Levine, founder of Stone Care International. In addition to the unmistakable For Dummies logo, every bottle of Stone Care For Dummies features easy-to-follow instructions for product use, tips and techniques for preventive maintenance, and advice on the proper equipment, as well as how to tackle specific cleaning challenges. “The DIY market continues to grow and we’re proud we could add Stone Care For Dummies to our extensive list of offerings,” states Ali DellaPenna, licensing manager at Wiley.
www.stonecarefordummies.com

ERGON MIKADO SERIES NOW HAS 40% RECYCLED CONTENT
Ergon Engineered Stone, a brand of EmilCeramica Spa, is now producing its Mikado Series with 40% recycled content. The Mikado Series joins Green Tech as one of the first Italian products independently certified as being produced with a significant quantity of recycled content. “Our goal was to take one of our most successful products, Mikado, and apply our newly developed recycled manufacturing process. The result is that we can produce an aesthetically beautiful product that also minimizes our environmental impacts,” said David Lang, GM of EmilAmerica, US subsidiary of EmilCeramica. Bureau Veritas, an international testing and certification organization, has officially certified the Mikado Series as having the presence of at least 40% pre-consumer recycled ceramic content by weight. Based on its recycled content, Mikado will directly support the requirements of the USGBC’s LEED Rating System for New Construction & Major Renovations version 2.2. The Mikado Series is available in three popular colors (Bambu, Mogano and Ebano) with multiple sizing options including 12×24”, 6×24”, 24×24”, 6×36”, 12×36” and 18×36”.
www.emilamerica.com

ROKU METALLIC TILE COLLECTION MIXES EASTERN AESTHETICS WITH MATTE GLASS AND METAL
Repeating squares and rectangles impart peace and balance. Precious metal, filtered through matte-finish glass, fascinates and soothes. These are the emotions inspired by the new Roku Metallic Collection from Walker Zanger. Taking its cue from Walker Zanger’s Asian-themed Roku Collection, the Roku Metallic Collection uses the rich, warm colors of precious metal—gold, platinum and bronze—to form the “underfinish” of these matte glass tiles, providing a synergy of shimmer and muted satin. Roku Metallic glass tiles are available in sizes from one-inch squares to 6-by-12-inch rectangles, and can be employed as monochrome fields or combined for an endless array of mosaics. Their Eastern aesthetics, combined with their distinctly American design, make them at home in bathrooms, spas, kitchens, and even pools.
www.walkerzanger.com

USG OFFERS NEW LEVELROCK 4500 NXG FLOOR UNDERLAYMENT
USG has introduced a new cementitious underlayment with outstanding strength and an innovative self-sealing technology. LEVELROCK® brand 4500 NXG™ floor underlayment is designed for interior use in a wide variety of commercial, institutional and rehab construction projects. Its smooth, hard surface provides long life over concrete slabs, pre-stressed concrete and concrete planks at thicknesses from featheredge (with proper sand) to 2 inches. Suitable for use with a variety of floor coverings, the underlayment offers compressive strengths of up to 5,500 psi, which exceeds commercial resilient floor-covering requirements as a high-performance underlayment. Quick application and setting times, combined with high production rates, permit the resumption of trade traffic within hours of the underlayment pour. The underlayment’s exceptional surface hardness also resists indentation from trade traffic. LEVELROCK 4500 NXG underlayment is mixed with sand and water at the job site, yielding a lightweight, leveling slurry. It is applied by a network of USG-authorized applicators who are located nationwide.
www.levelrock.com

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