Mosaics: Putting the Pieces Together
October 2nd, 2009

Fourth Quarter, 2009

By Zoe Voigt

Mosaics offer consumers style and a custom look at the same time they offer dealers opportunity for new profits.

For millennia, mosaics have been used to decorate surfaces. Today they continue to evolve into more interesting and beautiful designs. Mosaics were common in Pompeii and in Libya over 2,000 years ago. Throughout the Renaissance mosaics were used in religious settings. Today, artists and designers use mosaics as art, public art projects and in residences as a functional design element.

Both an art form and a science, the emphasis depends on the mosaic’s creator and their intent. Some fabricators use elaborate computations to achieve precise measurements and tessellations. Other mosaics have a more organic, handmade look that is artistic. Of course, many mosaicists span both interpretations, creating designs and patterns that are both creative and meticulously configured to produce the desired result.

(Photo courtesy of Ilana Shafir)


Tesserae: tiny uniform cubes of stone or other hard surface like tile or glass.

Sectile: cut and inlaid larger pieces

Cosmatesque: irregular shapes to create ornate geometric decoration

In general, mosaic is defined as an artistic creation made with an assemblage of small pieces of rock, shell, tile, or glass (tesserae) to create a pattern or image, which may be abstract or representational.

Matteo Valcavi, vice-president, Mosaico Italiano in Pompano Beach, Florida, learned all about stone, tile and mosaics in Italy, where he trained. “The technical definition of mosaics is 2″ or smaller tesserae and sectile of marble, stone, any hard solid surface cut stone, porcelain tile or engineered stone. That is the industry standard,” says Valcavi.

Sara Baldwin, a classically trained artist, is founder and creative director of New Ravenna Mosaics and Stone. “Officially, the definition of mosaic refers to cut pieces under 2″ square, but I use the term to cover any sort of pattern made up of smaller pieces that have been specially cut in some fashion. Some of our water jet patterns combine larger pieces, but we would still refer to them as mosaics. For us it is a fuzzy term, when we cut something 3″ x 3″ or smaller, we call that a mosaic,” says Baldwin.

Mosaic Artist Ilana Shafir’s works have been placed in museums and galleries. Her work is very large and is suitable for installation in residential and public buildings. Her technique is something she calls “spontaneous mosaics” which uses a combination of found objects and small ceramic pieces that she makes.

Hakatai Tile’s designers and mosaic artists can turn any drawing or design into a hand-cut, hand-aligned, fine art mosaic mural using the company’s unlimited palette of mosaic colors and tile types to choose from, including Venetian glass, Smalti, gold leaf, marble and stone. Idea for a wide range of commercial and residential applications. Photos courtesy Hakatai.

Binnie Fry, president of Specialty Tiles, won three spectrum awards for her collaboration with artists in public art projects involving mosaics. “I work with artists and I figure out what materials will be appropriate for the project they are doing, and I help supply those projects and also provide technical assistance. I’m an implementer, a broker, the person who makes these things happen, but I am not the artist and not the fabricator.” Specialty Tile has been incorporated since 2000, and Fry has been in the tile business for 34 years.

“Public art is involved with really talking to a local community about their community and their heritage. Public art projects are very often narratives, and straight tile doesn’t do that, but you can do murals with references to what is going on in a community, and the history of that community,” explains Fry. “The mosaics medium is more suited to that because you can get more detail than you can get from other tile. For a mural, mosaic is the better medium, paint just doesn’t hold up the way tile does.”

This mosaic is a custom blend by Hakati designed for this kitchen. Backsplashes are an ideal residential mosaic installation, allowing homeowners the option for a custom design in a limited space. Photo courtesy Hakatai.



Despite the fact that mosaics have been around for thousands of years, mosaics have undergone considerable changes in the past few years.

Explains Fry, “What’s happening nowadays is that there are lots of ways of fabricating mosaic projects. An individual artist can do them; also, a fabricator can do them, and the fabricator can do them several different ways. They can do them using a computer-generated image and then setting the tile in their studio in a pixilated way.

“Or if you have more money and are willing to pay for hand-cut work, you can get incredibly detailed mosaics with either hand-cut bigger pieces of glass or with smalti, which are the smaller pieces of glass. This allows you incredible detail. So I think what you can now do with mosaics is create much larger, much more dynamic, much more challenging and interesting images and designs than you could do before, because the technology is there to implement it,” says Fry.

“Also the materials have evolved as well. Over the last 15 years or so with the new glasses, with the new outdoor tiles in bright colors, there’s lots more you can do.”

One of the reasons that mosaics are more popular than ever is that, “There’s more awareness, and more mosaics are being done in general,” says Fry. “A lot of people who want mosaic work can now get it. It used to be cost prohibitive; now, it is much more accessible.”

Hirsch Glass Corporation introduced a distinct new tessera glass shape named Silhouette. Designer Michael Golden was seeking a new, organic chip form that utilized Hirsch’s casting process, as well as their incredibly rich glass color mixing process. The new Silhouette chip is intended for residential and commercial usage. Hirsch Glass uses an artisan process to blend multiple colors of glass creating a natural dimensional “swirl” inside every chip. This method is shown in their other glass collections that range from mosaics to solid decorative glass blocks and large format Architectural panels. Silhouette is available in 26 colorations. The recycled content of Silhouette ranges from 30% to 100% depending on the coloration. All colorations are stocked in their New Jersey distribution center, and sold through a network of 200+ dealers nationally.

The two biggest names in Italian mosaics are Sicis and Bisazza. These companies are known for their beautiful, artistic designs and high quality work.

Sicis began focusing on mosaics in 1987 and now has showrooms all over the world. Using avant-garde technology, along with skilled mosaic masters, the company is known for its use of mixed materials such as glass, marble, steel and others.

Bisazza was established in 1956 in northern Italy. The company has 12 flagship stores and seven thousand local retailers. The company has incorporated Swarovski crystals in a huge mosaic in Milan; they’ve decked out tables, Arne Jacobsen chairs and even MINI/BMW cars in their tile in order to showcase the brand.

With production facilities in Florida, Mosaico Italiano is an American company that has over 100 dealers in North America. Says Valcavi, “In the mosaic industry, there are the usual suspects at the forefront. We each have a core competency and are unique at certain things. The way we stand out, in addition to strong customer service, is our emphasis on mosaic patterns; we’re strong artistically as well, but we approach mosaic as a science. We’re more scientists than artists.

“We can manufacture 50 to 5000 square feet in two to three weeks, 1,700 to 1,800 square feet per day, which is the fastest in the industry. We offer turnkey solutions, complete lines. Everything matches—borders, medallions. From the designer’s point of view, this is a dream come true,” says Valcavi.

“When you have clients paying $40 to $60 a square foot, you shouldn’t compromise on quality at all. We select grade A stone. When our buyers go to Italy, the quarry owners get upset when they are told that the stone is for mosaics. It costs more, but you can see the difference. Each tessera is exactly the same size. Our grouted matrix boards are precise,” explains Valcavi.

“The mosaic market is an extreme product niche compared to the overall flooring segment,” says Valcavi. “It is important to have a great display program, and strong brand identity, because luxury mosaics have to be presented a certain way.”

Cinca USA is a Portugal-based ceramic tile manufacturer that is owned by the Italian group Ceramiche Ricchetti. They manufacture over 100 million sq. ft. of tile per year. Their 1 x 1 inch ceramics are used by many mosaic artists because they come in 24 colors, have no bevel, and are thinner material, and therefore easier to work with and to cut. They are dense and frost resistant, and therefore appropriate for wet environments and high traffic areas, making them suitable for exterior use anywhere in the US. They also manufacture unglazed tiles in larger sizes that are popular with mosaic artists who cut them into smaller pieces. The metallic line comes in copper and rust.


Sara Baldwin is a fine artist who moved from painting into mosaics. Her business, New Ravenna, employs over 100 workers in the poorest area of Virginia.

“We make bespoke mosaics. We can make any pattern in stone or glass, in any color, and in any finish. Sometimes it’s a problem with so many choices; it’s easy for people to be overwhelmed. Even designers can become paralyzed by the possibilities. So we’ve narrowed the choices down for them first.” New Ravenna has many lines and color options, but the programs are a starting point. “We have amazing sales reps who can explain all of this to the client and help them narrow down the choices. It satisfies the clients’ creative sides.

“I revel in the collaboration and synergy,” says Baldwin. She subconsciously created a theme in her work, which illustrates this concept. Several of her lines include links, stitching, rings, sewing and rivets. She explains the connection, “I realized that I was drawn to that imagery that was a physical manifestation of how we’re all connected. This linking theme satisfied a personal expression. I can’t just look at the surface of something and think that’s all there is. There’s a meaning to symbols.

“Most of our larger patterns are made up of water jet pieces. This water jet technology is just incredible, it has afforded me so much design flexibility and we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what’s available,” says Baldwin.

Mosaic Artist Shafir explains her designing technique, “I never plan my mosaics ahead or make preliminary sketches. Instead, I let the materials dictate the work and give it direction. I begin a new mosaic with a long search for a unique combination and play with endless possibilities until I finally arrive at what seems to be the best solution.”

At Hakatai, in addition to many standard lines and customizable patterns, you can design your own image and have them produce it as a custom mosaic mural. These will be either mesh-back mounted or paper-face mounted. The artists have an unlimited palette of mosaic colors and tile types to choose from, including Venetian glass, Smalti, gold leaf and stone. This allows for various textures, colors and detailed shadings to reproduce the original artwork.

Murals can be installed directly onto a wall substrate or can first be installed on a horizontally positioned backer board (or other approved substrate), which is then lifted and attached to the vertical wall surface.


According to Fry, “It used to be in the early days of submitting projects, somebody would submit a wall in their garden, or around a pool. Now people are submitting enormous projects. It can be the entire wall of multi-story buildings, they can be outdoor sculptures, and they can be 100-plus feet tall. Much, much more complicated than before. We have a whole new level of complexity; we have a new area of technical capacity, and as a result of that, a whole new level of design. It is amazing, it is just amazing.

“The future of mosaic, I don’t know. Technology just keeps barreling along. Every year, the kinds and number of materials that are available to mosaic artists are more prevalent. The things you see are absolutely beautiful, the glass with the iridescence, the tiles have texture and there are wonderful things you can use. So the materials range gets better and better every year. Can it continue? Maybe, it’s hard to say. You’re always surprised every year when you see that it has continued and it probably will keep improving.”


Mosaic projects involve not just the choice of materials, but also, “a complex set of decisions that have to be made which may involve many more people and entities than an individual artist with a brilliant idea or a superb design,” says Fry. The artist may not be the installer, and might not even be able to fabricate the mosaic. With very large designs, it takes a team effort.

“How can dealers be involved in a sale? Basically, by understanding and appreciating mosaics. They are in a position to help find materials that are suitable. Many of the companies supply small unit materials. They’ve gotten into fabrication with the companies that are supplying them,” explains Fry.

“If a client comes into a showroom and wants to have a mosaic mural, a lot of that can be supplied through a regular commercial dealer. It is possible to be creative and work within the standard dealer network. Because some people will see Sicis for example, they’ll go to a dealer and they’ll say, ‘Can you do this for me?’ and the answer is that a regular commercial tile dealer can.”

“The projects that Sicis does are very dramatic and large, but even a small dealer can be set-up to have contact with largescale commercial manufacturers and to be able to do large-scale commercial projects,” says Fry.

For a material that has been around for thousands of years, mosaics have certainly held their popularity.


Bisazza Mosaico

Cinca USA




Mosaico Italiano

Matteo Valcavi

Pompano Beach, FL

New Ravenna

Sara Baldwin



(760) 929-4000



Ilana Shafir


Specialty Tiles, LLC

Binnie Fry


Tile Trends: Stone Brightens Sluggish Sales
October 2nd, 2009
Fourth Quarter, 2009
By Kathleen Furore

Looking for a light at the end of the dark economic tunnel? If so, try turning to stone to help sales shine in the improving but stillsluggish economy.

“The stone market was experiencing hot year-over-year growth for many years prior to the economic downturn. And while it has cooled like all building materials, it is still one of the bright spots in today’s flooring marketplace,” Dan Marvin, director of quality assurance for Florida Tile in Lakeland, Fla., reports. “The perception of stone as a high-end look, and the increased availability and high quality of today’s stone products have led to continued demand.”

Stone’s market share is growing compared to that of ceramic, and prices are dropping as supply grows and the economy stalls, Donato Pompo, founder and CEO of Ceramic Tile And Stone Consultants, Inc. in Jamul, Calif., explains.

“Now is a good time for distributors and dealers to focus on stone tile because it is becoming more affordable, it has a great image considering it is millions of years old and lasts for thousands of years, and there is more profit in selling stone,” Pompo says.

“Selling 100 square feet of stone at $7 per sq. ft. with a 30-percent margin (for $2.10 per square foot profit) is a whole lot better than selling ceramic tile or some other floor covering at $3 per sq. ft with a 30 percent margin (for 90 cents per square foot profit),” Pompo adds.


There are several products you can offer customers who want to enhance their living spaces with stone. Options include marble, granite, limestone, travertine, and quartz-based stone. Travertine is the biggest seller at Florida Tile, according to Marvin, who notes the company offers travertines from Turkey and Mexico. “While a few years ago people wanted just the filled and honed light travertine, it seems designers are becoming more adventurous and working with chiseled-edge products, unfilled travertines, and stones with more color and veining like our Picasso and Argento products,” he reports. “Consumers are also becoming more sophisticated about stone and are willing to mix more colorful marbles, limestones and granites in with traditional travertine. Slate also continues to be a popular choice.”

Pompo, too, has seen increased demand for the distressed look. “For floors, the 18″ x 18″ size seems to be in greatest demand. Beige and white seem to be the most desirable colors, but limestone and travertine tiles in particular are being processed in a way that gives them an old, distressed look,” he says. “In some cases it is a chisel finish and the stone surface is treated with an acid to further enhance the distressed look.”

While these kinds of textured finishes deliver a more slip-resistant surface, distressed, chisel-finished products require more maintenance because they must be sealed regularly and the textured surface tends to pick up dirt more readily, Pompo notes.

Small stone mosaics in various patterns also are very fashionable and in demand, Pompo adds.

And just where are homeowners installing the stone products they select?

Backsplashes remain a mainstay for stone and are often enlivened with glass and metal accents that transform them into what Marvin calls “mini art galleries in the home.”

Recently, more stone is popping up in bathrooms and outdoors, with the popularity of outdoor kitchens “opening up new avenues for using stone that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” Marvin says.

While slab stone is used for kitchen counter and vanity tops, Pompo says stone tiles aren’t used as much in those applications. “Stone tile is more regularly used on the interiors of floors in bathrooms and throughout the home,” he says. “We see stone a lot in showers, which works well if it is installed correctly. We do see installation errors in showers regularly because many installers don’t understand how to properly waterproof showers, and they often take short cuts that can result in failures.”

Exterior balconies and pool decks are common applications for stone in high-end homes, Pompo says.

And as Florida Tile’s Marvin notes, consumers are increasingly turning to stone because it outlasts many other flooring materials like carpet and vinyl—a big plus with today’s increased emphasis on “green” installations. Florida Tile’s GREENGUARD certified stones, which don’t emit harmful chemicals into indoor areas where they’ve been installed, are just one example of the products favored by environmentally-conscious consumers.

Crossville® is addressing the growing marketplace for natural stone with its new Bella Via collection. Crafted of the finest stone from around the world, the Bella Via collection epitomizes elegance and luxury—yet it is in stock and readily available. Recommended for interior walls and floors and exterior walls, it features a honed finish and a choice of nine hues: from the delicate Champagne, Ivory and Golden Beach, to the neutral Seashell, Gascone Beige and Napolina, to the lovely Seagrass, and finally, the robust Walnut and bold Nova Blue. The Bella Via collection comprises sheet-mounted 1" x 1" mosaics and 2" x 2" hexagons, plus 12" x 12" and 18" x 18" stone field tile. In addition, the collection’s designer, Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, DC, CAUS, created a Versailles Pattern (available in Ivory and Walnut) which consists of multiples of the following stone field tiles: 8" x 8", 8" x 16", 16" x 16" and 16" x 24". Trim pieces include a 5/8" x 12" pencil liner and a 2" x 12" chair rail.


Communicating all the benefits stone brings is the first and possibly most important step in polishing up your business’ stone tile sales.

Stressing that stone is affordable; can be easy to care for and maintain; and comes in a variety of colors, finishes and sizes is one approach, according to Arizona Tile. Because natural stone might seem pricey at first glance, tell customers to consider its durability, lifespan and unique, timeless quality when assessing how affordable it can be, the company advises.

But be sure to let customers know colors can vary. “Stone naturally varies in color and other facial characteristics, so make sure you display the full range of the stone to your clients to avoid false expectation problems,” Pompo says.

Also remember that “not all stones are created equal,” as Pompo notes. “Stones with the same geological classification can have significantly different physical properties. The lower performing stones may not perform well depending on the application.”

Customers also should know they shouldn’t place hot items such as pots and pans on surfaces other than granite, and that acid-based foods such as citrus fruits or tomatoes can etch into the polish of more delicate stones like marble and onyx.

Whatever you tell your customers, working with quality and progressive stone importers is key to offering them the best, most reliable stone products possible, Pompo stresses.

“To make sure the products you sell will meet the respective ASTM stone standards and the Marble Institute of America’s recommendations, good importers will provide their customers with laboratory testing, clear data sheets, and applications and installation recommendations,” he says.

Pompo also suggests being selective about the installation product manufacturers and cleaner/sealer companies you work with to guarantee smooth sailing from tile selection to installation and beyond.

“You want to be able to recommend the best installation systems, to profit from selling installation products, and to minimize the risk of a tile failure,” Pompo says. “And be sure to align yourselves with cleaner and sealer companies so you can keep your clients coming back to your showroom to buy more maintenance products, not only to profit from those sales, but hopefully to have [those clients] or their friends buy more tile from you.”

Tiles of Spain: Technical & Design Innovation
October 2nd, 2009

Fourth Quarter, 2009

The Spanish ceramic tile industry’s commitment to emerging technology continues to push the realm of the impossible. New sizes, shapes and even functions (tile as air cleaner?) have taken the products quantum leaps beyond predictable sizes and pronounced grout lines. The same technology explosion has pushed design into dramatic new directions of color, shape and texture, embracing art, innovation and ingenuity.


First, from tiny 1″ square pieces of art reflected in mosaic glass to mammoth slabs of 10′ x 3′ rectified tile, size is no longer a limitation. Introduced earlier this year, Inalco’s SlimmKer is only a quarter inch thick, and easy to cut or perforate and in a substantial 18″ x 35″ format. It is also easy to handle and install but meets all technical and sustainability requirements.

Natucer’s Duna Collection creates the effect of a desert dune with two kinds of tile, one concave and one convex, both glazed with a pearlescent finish. It’s available in white, beige, silver, violet and gold-olive. Gres Catalan tricks the eye with Puzzle, a synthesis of optical illusions, lighting and changing brightness, all based on shimmering geometric shapes. Puzzle is available in silver, black and white, and in formats 23″x23″, 16.5″x23″ and 4″x23″, all rectified tile.

Can a building function like a tree? BionicTile by Ceracasa improves the environment by continuously decontaminating the air, filtering harmful nitrous oxide. Nitrates left inert on the tile surface are washed away by rain, fog and humidity leaving the surface ready to destroy more nitrous oxide molecules.

The Puzzle series is a synthesis of optical illusion, lighting and changing brightness based on geometric shapes in relief. Puzzle is available in silver, black and white, and in formats 23" x 23", 16.5" x 23" and 4" x 23", all rectified.

Developed in collaboration with FMC FORET and the Institute of Chemical Technology from the Valencia Polytechnic University (Spain), one square meter of BionicTile is able to decompose 31.2 mg of nitrous oxide each hour. An urban core of 200 buildings covered with BionicTile would remove 82 tons of nitrous oxide each year.

The Segorbe series achieves the palette of a forest floor—a mesh of moss, leaf and stone. Available in marengo, negro, beige, marron, ocre and marfil in both 18" x 36" and 18" x 18" formats.

Natucer’s Filter Floor is a floating extruded ceramic floor with a thickness of ¾”. Installation requires no setting materials. This results in rapid water drainage and guards against stagnant water and slippery surfaces. Ideal for use on terraces, around swimming pools, balconies and most external floor applications. Available in a 14″ X 14″ format.


In addition to technical properties, Tile of Spain branded manufacturers are also showing off a handful of important style trends.

Earthos reflects the continuing popularity of earthy looks as well as recycled, earth-friendly materials. The Segorbe series by Grespania captures the color of the forest floor. Roca Ceramica’s Top Green collection includes Green Earth with 80% pre-consumer recycled material. Terracotta Glass by Ceramica Decorativa uses hand-made terracotta as a backing for fluxed glazes and surface brushing.

A new concept for interior flooring, Terracota Glass uses hand-made terracotta as a backing for fluxed glazes and surface brushing at differing speeds. The result is a shimmering collection that includes a wide range of formats in colors Polar, Antracita, Blanco and Cuero.

The Articrafts trend exalts southwestern style. Hinting at roots in Mexican and Asian culture, this style trend is awash in global ethnicity and eclecticism. Articrafts relies on the palette and texture of adobe, stone, marble and dark wood, calling to mind Early American and Arts & Crafts design. Asian-inspired color adds a contemporary interpretation. Ceramica Decorativa recently introduced Terracota Colors, a chocolate floor tile, and the Tao series which features long ribs of terra cotta arranged in different patterns.

Safarience is rich in hue, texture and native motifs. Bold splashes of color and animal prints abound anchored by natural stone, warm browns and ecru patterns. Consider, for example, Grespania’s Ghana collection in deep, natural tones and a welldefined texture reminiscent of an elephant’s hide. Vives was inspired by the Bosphorus Strait dividing turkey into its European and Asian halves.

Tile of Spain (The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association, ASCER) is a private organization whose primary objective is to support Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturers as well as the industry as a whole by stewarding and promoting the Tile of Spain brand worldwide. The ceramic tile industry of Spain comprises more than 220 manufacturers concentrated primarily in the province of Castellón. Spain’s tile production is 5.4 billion square feet, representing 40% of the European Union production and 10% of the world’s output. One out of every five imported tiles is made in Spain, accounting for 20% of the market share of global trade of ceramic wall and floor tiles.

The Top Green Collection includes the Green Earth series produced with 80% preconsumer

Leadership Letter: Two Closing Thoughts
October 2nd, 2009

Fourth Quarter, 2009


It is a cliché to say that the people in our companies are our greatest resource, but these days I’m realizing it more than ever. The saying is a cliché because we hear it so much. However, we hear it so much because it is so true. In today’s economy most of us have pared our businesses down to the bare essentials, including the essentials in personnel.

Employees are now taking on multiple jobs. Workers are adapting to the loss of their coworkers—both in their contributions to the workforce and in their camaraderie—as organizations reduce their headcount. In the midst of this I have experienced amazing accomplishments and a fantastic attitude of cooperation. Challenging times tend to bring out the best in people.

Our customers and business associates are another critical people resource. Those relationships that we have worked to cultivate pay off when times are lean. We value those friends who stand by us when we need them both inside and outside our organizations. I think I speak for many business owners when I say that we value our relationship with our banker now. None of us take that support for granted today.

No matter how many times we hear it, the fact remains that people are our greatest resource! We simply have a better opportunity to reflect and appreciate that fact when the chips are down.


As I complete my CTDA presidency, I look back on many amazing accomplishments that this organization has made happen.

With the help of the TCNA we have created the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency to test tile to the definition of porcelain in the ASTM standards, defined as, “a ceramic mosaic tile or ceramic paver tile that is generally made by the dust-pressed method of a composition resulting in a tile that is dense, impervious, fine-grained, and smooth with sharply formed face that has a water absorption of 0.5% or less, when tested in accordance with ASTM C373.” This will, no doubt, become a major criterion for the market to evaluate tile products. Nine manufacturers have already stepped forward to have a total of 87 tile series tested for certification, with more in process every day.

The 2008 Trade Mission to China was a fabulous success and a proud accomplishment for all involved in the CTDA. A large group of American tile distributors got a great view of China and of the Chinese tile industry. Of course we had lots of fun, but we also formed many lasting and potentially profitable relationships.

CTDA’s webinars affordably deliver education and training. Because webinars are priced per company location, a number of attendees can participate for one low price. Webinars are presented by experts in their field and have included industry-specific topics like ISO Standards and Tile & Stone Failures as well as business topics like Collections and Recession Issues.

More recently we have begun building a network of distributors sharing ideas in an on-line discussion group. We pose questions, compare experiences and support one another through our forum on Facebook.

These are just a few recent achievements of our association. They are ideas that became reality thanks to a dedicated team of industry leaders. I have simply had the privilege to be involved in the process. These experiences make me realize how amazing our Ceramic Tile Distributors Association truly is. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Rob Henry

CTDA President

From the Editor’s Desk: What are you doing to please the customer?
October 2nd, 2009

By Janet Arden, Editor

Fourth Quarter, 2009

The house next door finally sold this week after more than 30 months on the market. After all this time, the neighborhood views it as our own private housing recovery.

Along the way, of course, the home seller lowered his price, changed realtors, repainted inside and re-roofed outside. He did what was necessary—and then some—to please his potential customer. Eventually he succeeded.

What does my neighbor’s real estate saga have to do with the tile industry? Plenty, if you think in terms of successful buying and selling relationships.

My neighbor did a lot to attract the attention of today’s discriminating buyers. What are you doing to please your customers? This issue of TileDealer suggests a handful of ways for you to reach out to increasingly exacting consumers.

First, there is our cover story on mosaics. We’ve illustrated it with some colorful, complex examples—probably more than the average tile consumer would expect to install. But our illustrations are just that. The heart of the story is that mosaics— whether they are pre-set mixes of glass tile in related hues or custom, water-jet images, are accessible. As a tile dealer you can seek out and work with the right resources and offer them to your customers. What a great way for someone to finish off a long-awaited kitchen or bath remodel. If you have samples and availability, this is a nice up-sell.

We also have a feature on stone tile. Stone is extremely popular right now. It’s an upscale material that has become increasingly affordable. Traditionally it offers the seller a better margin. It also offers many buyers a look they may not have considered—until you show it to them. Once again, this assumes you have samples and availability.

Finally, this issue features a One-on-One interview with Bill Griese, standards development and green initiative manager for TCNA. Bill is a knowledgeable resource on green building in the tile industry, and we’re pleased to share his expertise in this issue. How prepared are you to answer the inevitable green building/sustainability questions your customers ask? Do you have a green story to tell showroom visitors? Do you sell green materials? Do you market them that way? Studies tell us again and again that customers are increasingly interested in green products. Can you answer their questions and do you have the products?

It’s tempting in today’s economy to hunker down until the marketplace improves. That’s fine if you want to be left with the “same old, same old.” But if you want to drive your own marketplace, attract the customers that are out there now, and build an even better following for the future, it’s time to leverage the trends that drive today’s buyer.

For the homeowner next door, the economic recovery has arrived.

October 2nd, 2009

Fourth Quarter, 2009

MAPEI has rounded out its line of moisture mitigation products for concrete with the addition of Planiseal™ Easy fresh concrete treatment and Planiseal EMB premium epoxy moisture barrier. Planiseal Easy has been developed to help fast-track installations for new construction slabs during the curing process. Planiseal Easy is specifically designed to treat concrete slabs (at least 14 days old) that exhibit moisture vapor emission rates (MVERs) up to 8 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. (3,63 kg per 92,9 m2) per 24 hours. An installer can apply Planiseal Easy on fresh concrete and continue his flooring installation within 2 to 3 hours. Planiseal EMB is a heavy-duty moisture-barrier system for commercial applications where there are existing moisture problems that must be addressed before work can proceed. Planiseal EMB reduces moisture vapor emission rates (MVER) of up to 20 lbs. (9,07 kg) down to 3 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. (1,36 kg per 92,9 m2) per 24 hours. Planiseal EMB can be dry and ready for flooring installations after only 8 to 12 hours. The two-component system can be applied in one coat, saving additional time and labor for the installer. Both these products complement MAPEI’s Planiseal MRB, a two-component moisture-reduction barrier that can reduce concrete’s MVER from 15 lbs. to 3 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. (6,80 kg to 1,36 kg per 92,9 m2) per 24 hours. Together, this full line of moisture-mitigation products gives contractors more “Technology You Can Build On.”

Mosaic manufacturer Mosaico Italiano and Italian glass manufacturer Trend USA announced the international debut of the much anticipated TREND QM mosaic collection. Manufactured exclusively by Mosaico Italiano using TREND’s Q vast color palette of engineered surfaces, the TREND QM mosaic line is available in over 20 mesmerizing colors and 10 mosaic patterns, including rhomboids, circles, squares, 3"x6" and 2"x4". Custom sizes and color blends are also available with a fast turnaround time of less than 3 weeks. Both TREND Q and TREND QM products offer a revolutionary leap in engineered surfaces with limitless sizes and color combinations, along with a solid commitment to the environment with up to 72% post-consumer content on selected colors. Furthermore, this collection is stain resistant, chemical resistant, heat resistant and even scratch resistant, making it the ideal mosaic for both residential and commercial applications. “This product line is so innovative and new that we truly believe that both the product and the manufacturing process behind will revolutionize the mosaic industry and will set the pace for others to follow,” said Matteo Valcavi, Vice-President of Mosaico Italiano. or

RAK Ceramics Corporation (USA) announced the launch of the RAK SLIM, a durable, yet ultra-thin collection of largeformat, fully-rectified porcelain tiles. Measuring less than one-fifth of one-inch thick (4.5 mm), RAK SLIM represents the perfect blend of technical finesse and design aesthetic. Offered in a 24" x 12" (60 mm x 30 mm) format, RAK SLIM tiles are lightweight and ideal to be used as indoor wall tile or for exterior cladding projects, and may also be specified for residential or light commercial flooring. With RAK SLIM, the cost of removing or demolishing existing floor coverings can be eliminated, since this unique collection can be directly installed over the previous floor or wall product. Whereas traditional tiles measure roughly one-half inch (11 mm) in thickness, the thin nature of the RAK SLIM collection produces tiles which are half the weight of conventional products, resulting in a significant load-bearing reduction on the building structure. Available in eight high-design colors with a matte finish, RAK SLIM porcelain tiles are lightweight and easy to handle for fast and accurate installations. This attractive range substantially decreases the cost of transportation with pallets weighing approximately half the amount of traditional shipments. “Our RAK SLIM collection is just another component of RAK Ceramics’ total commitment to providing high-quality products that offer outstanding value,” said Leslie Raffel, President of RAK Ceramics Corporation (USA). “This collection was designed to meet market demand for high-strength, yet lightweight surfacing products. RAK SLIM also makes economic sense, as it can save precious time and labor expense relative to removing the existing wall or floor surface prior to the actual installation.”

Orchid Ceramics announces the re-launch of the Donostia Series, available in both floor and wall tiles, trims, and decorative. The product line has recently been enhanced to include an all new decorative glass wall listello, brand-new photography, and updated merchandising. Brian McKeown, Product Manager for Orchid Ceramics exclaims, “We are very excited about reintroducing Donostia to the marketplace. Especially when our customers are looking for stylish floor and wall combinations at an attractive price. The Donostia colors and design are perfect for today’s homes, and with a new coordinating listello and new merchandising, it is sure to be a big hit.” Donostia Floor is available in Walnut, Beige, and Bone in 18"x18" and 13-1/4" x 13-1/4". Floor trims include a 3"x13" bullnose. Donostia Wall is available in Walnut, Beige, and Bone in an 8"x12" size. A fine decorative 2-1/2"x10" glass mosaic listello is available to complement and add value to the Donostia series. Decorative wall listellos are available in all three colors to add accent and style to wall installations.

Understated elegance with a sense of strength underlies Elias’s Tigris series. Named after the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, Tigris’s glazed porcelain surface features intricate niches and indentations that appear randomly formed by the earth’s internal forces yet remain simple to clean. Five soft, warm, gentle colors (Beige, Bronzo, Gold, Noce, Terra Cotto), can carry an installation on their own or coexist with multiple mesh-mounted mosaic options that add richness and depth to floors, walls, backsplashes and pools. The class 4 durability rating expands Tigris’s application possibilities from personal to professional spaces. All the 6.5"x6.5", 13"x13" and the 18"x18" sizes feature a thick body structure that imparts boldness and massiveness. Elegantly balancing the series with the 2"x6.5" Border, 2"x6.5" Chair Rail and 2"x2" corner. Mesh-mounted mosaics in two incremental sizes (2"x2" Square, 2"x4" Brick Joint) and SBN cut from field tile along with 6.5"x6.5" bullnose expand the functionality and design capabilities of the series. This series is recommended for interior and exterior walls and floors; in wet and dry locations.

Çanakkale Seramik & Kalebodur added “Bond” in-cooperation with one of today’s leading designers; Harri Koskinen. By using concave and convex tiles together, Bond reflects the movements that are present in nature. Color options reflect the natural tones of elements like water, sun, sand, earth and stone. Developed using three-dimensional production technology, The Bond Collection reveals its entire beauty with the use of concave and convex tiles together. A version without relief enables installation over tiles, giving this special collection the opportunity to create a wide range of compositions. The Bond Collection’s distinctiveness is revealed in the way it replicates the effects of light on surfaces. The collection is enriched with tone-on-tone color transitions that create the glittering effects of light and shadow.

Installer Update
October 2nd, 2009

Formula for Success: Installing “Large Format” Natural Stone Tiles and “Crack Isolation Membrane”

Fourth Quarter, 2009

By Thomas Duve’

Large format natural stone tiles are increasingly the product of choice in high end commercial and residential installations.

Large format natural stone tiles range in size from 16″ x 16″ to 24″ x 24″ and can weigh up to 50 pounds per tile. A high percentage, (more than 50-percent) of these tiles installed on floors is of the “sedimentary” variety (travertine and limestone) where the absorption rate is anywhere from 8- to 18-percent. Many of these installations use crack isolation membranes with varying degrees of success.

Crack Isolation Membranes help in preventing reflective cracking of natural stone tiles by isolating structural movement from the tiles. Millions of square feet of crack isolation membrane have been installed under natural stone, yet there are failures due to the lack of product quality and improper installation methods.

The goal of this update is to share some key do’s and don’ts that will help assure the successful installation of large format natural stone when using crack isolation membranes. However, respecting the following four basic guidelines will aid your next installation.


DO use crack isolation membranes over mortar beds, leveling and patching compounds. Pre-leveling the floor before installing the membrane is extremely important. A number of rapid set mortar beds, patching and leveling compounds are available to enable the membrane to be installed within 24 hours of the application of the leveling course.

The membrane must be as close to the tile as possible to protect it from reflective cracking, shrinkage and structural movement of the substrate, level coats and patching compounds. An additional benefit of using the membranes over these substrates is the protection of moisture-sensitive marble like travertine and limestone from discoloration and deterioration.

DON’T use crack isolation under mortar beds, leveling or patching compounds. Placing a poured topping or level coat over a flexible non-dimensional membrane imparts a tension when curing, resulting in shrinkage and cracking in the leveling materials. This is a recipe for failure of the assembly. Warping of the marble and delaminating of the membrane will occur in 10- to 25-percent of the installations. The wicking of moisture carrying calcium chloride up through the substrate can damage soft marble with warping, pitting and discoloration in natural stone. Much of the damage occurs when new construction is closed off and the HVAC (air conditioning & heating) is turned on for the first time, changing the dynamics of the concrete slab and forcing moisture up through the curing tile system.


DO use a quality crack isolation membrane meeting not one, but all five ANSI A118.12 tests for performance and durability. It doesn’t make any sense to save a few pennies a square foot for a low level, non-complying membrane, when the tile assembly costs 50 times more than the money saved using the cheaper products. Keep in mind that it costs about three times the original cost of the installation to repair the floor.

DON’T use products that haven’t passed the A118.12 specifications.

DON’T use membranes that are susceptible to mold, mildew and MVT, as these products can stain and damage the marble. Insure the bond of the membrane at the interface of the substrate can’t be compromised with high water vapor transmission causing a break down or re-emulsification of the primer, resulting in loss of bond and delimitation of the membrane. Choose a membrane that can resist a minimum of 6# + MVT.


DO use an appropriate latex modified, medium bed mortar for marble and granite over crack isolation membranes. These products are designed specifically for “large format” marble and granite and are installed in the traditional (thin-set) method using trowels of ½” or greater. Some of these specialized mortars can be “built up to ¾” without shrinkage or setup time problems” and can accommodate variations in the substrate to obtain a level floor.

These products are effective because of their use of coarser aggregate and water retention properties, which in turn provide excellent anti-slump characteristics that support heavy tile and help prevent damaging vapor emissions.

DON’T use non-modified or regular thin set mortar used in everyday tile installations. These products use a smaller aggregate than the medium bed mortars and do not have the antislump properties when a ½” or greater trowel is used. Logically, they won’t support a 24″ x 24″ stone weighing up to 50 pounds.

DON’T install green marble, resin-backed marble or other moisture sensitive stone without first contacting the mortar manufacturer for recommendations on these tiles.


DO use movement joints. Assure movement joints are placed in accordance with ANSI and TCA recommendations including around the perimeter of the installation. Movement joints partition large tile sections into smaller sections to accommodate structural and thermal movement of the tile assembly.

Investigations into recent marble installation failures revealed that 2,500 sq. ft. of 18″ x 18″ travertine became hollow, (tenting) because the entire assembly—marble, mortar bed and membrane—de-laminated from the substrate. There were no grout joints, no soft joints and no perimeter joints.


Membrane and natural stone floor failures are a direct result of putting other factors before quality. This is a problem that is easily solved by observing the measures of quality that the industry has established. Crack isolation membranes do work when installed correctly under natural stone and tile floors. The key to success is to carefully evaluate the system components and make sure the installer follows the proper installation procedures.

Industry Insights
October 1st, 2009

Fourth Quarter, 2009

Quick Drain™ USA has become the first and only linear slot drain manufacturer in the world to receive Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas (PMG) listing from the International Code Council – Evaluation Service (ICC-ES). The Bureau of Construction Codes (BCC) developed the newly enhanced acceptance method which involves a combination of processes guided by the ICC-ES, including new listing and testing criteria for linear shower drain systems. Effective July 1, 2009, Quick Drain USA is the first official listed slot-drain manufacturer under Division 15 – Mechanical, Section 15120 (Plumbing Specialties), for being in compliance with all 2009 codes including the International Residential Code (IRC), International Plumbing Code (IPC), and IAPMO Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC). Each box containing the Quick Drain USA channel drain system will now be clearly marked with approval in the form of the ICC-ES PMG listing mark. Quick Drain USA products are manufactured in Denver, Colorado, under a quality control program with inspections by Columbia Research and Testing Corporation. “We are extremely pleased to be the first linear drain system manufacturer in the world to receive this PMG distinction,” said Josef Erlebach, president of Quick Drain USA. All Quick Drain USA linear slot drains can be installed over concrete and plywood substrates in compliance with ANSI A118.10.

LATICRETE has made specifying tile and stone installation materials for projects seeking LEED certification faster and easier than ever before with the launch of the LATICRETE LEED Project Certification Assistant, an innovative online tool that automatically generates all of the information required for LATICRETE products on a specific LEED project. This easy-to-use online tool quickly produces an Adobe Acrobat file for each LATICRETE product selected stating its VOC content, recycled content, manufacturing location, raw material sources, GREENGUARD for Children & Schools certification, technical data sheets, and a map showing the location of your project with a 500-mile radius circle depicting its relation to LATICRETE manufacturing facilities. The LATICRETE LEED Project Certification Assistant eliminates the time-consuming challenge of obtaining and quantifying the necessary data for LEED-compliant installation materials, producing detailed, accurate information in just a few moments. “We recognized a need in the industry to provide this type of comprehensive information,” said Art Mintie, LATICRETE Director, Technical Services. “The data that’s provided is necessary for any project seeking LEED certification and we found it extremely time-consuming to manually gather the required information. This was driven by a need in the industry as the green building movement continues to grow. Architects, specifiers, installers, distributors, anyone, can have this information in their hand in seconds instead of the weeks it might take otherwise. Having this type of information upfront aids all parties involved in projects seeking LEED certification.”

In 1969, after stints as a tile rep for Florida Tile and with another Midwest wholesaler who went bankrupt, Mike Miles founded Miles Distributors in South Bend, Indiana. Forty years later the company is celebrating a milestone anniversary with three generations of the Miles family in the business. Mike has retired. His son, Doug Miles, who joined the company in 1982, now serves as president; another son, Tom Miles is promotions director. They have been joined in the business by Doug’s sons, Doug Jr. (purchasing) in 2005 and Austin (IT Director) in 2008. In October of 2007 Miles purchased another distributor, Tile Stone Imports in Traverse City, Michigan. The company now has six locations: Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Indiana; Traverse City and Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Louisville, Kentucky. Doug Miles is especially proud of the accomplishments of a group of Miles Distributors employees, setting tile at 16 Habitat for Humanity houses in three counties in the South Bend area. Initiated by V.P. of Operations Scott Wykoff, the group holds a work party on their own time for each house they tile. Although Miles Distributors supplies the tile, Doug Miles is quick to give complete credit to the employees, saying, “They do this completely on their own.”

Looking for ways to leverage the latest flooring and tile installation technologies and techniques to save time and money? Have a specific job-site question? Need technical advice regarding a flooring or tile installation obstacle you keep running into in the field? Look no further. Bostik Inc.’s Construction & Industrial (C&I) Business Unit blog (aka weblog)—“From the Floor Up”—designed to give flooring and tile installers the technical information they demand and deserve. Flooring professionals can access the gold mine of free technical information 24×7 on the Web at http:// or simply click on the blog’s icon on the company’s home page at “Bostik C&I’s flooring blog delivers timely, professional, personalized answers to installers’ questions,” says Christine Krisko, Bostik C&I’s Marketing Communications Manager. “Our Bostik Flooring blog also shares frequently requested information on leading flooring solutions such as Bostik® hardwood adhesives, Hydroment® and DURABOND® ceramic installation systems, and resilient flooring, carpet and patch installation products.” Current blog contributors include Robert McNamara, Bostik C&I’s Director of Sales & Marketing – Flooring; Scott Banda, Market Manager— Flooring; Scott Banda, Market Manager—Flooring Installation Systems; and Steve Lima, Bostik Flooring Technical Service Manager.

LATICRETE has hired master tile setter Jeff Kimmerling to the position of Contractor Sales Representative for the Indiana Territory. Formerly a project manager for Lakeside Stoneworks near Milwaukee, Kimmerling will focus his efforts on building participation in the LATICRETE MVP (Most Valued Partner) program in his native Wisconsin, as well as the Illinois and Minnesota regions of the Indiana Territory. Kimmerling’s comprehensive, hands-on experience installing tile and stone with LATICRETE materials and methods made him the ideal candidate to help execute strategic sales initiatives for LATICRETE in the Upper Midwest. Kimmerling will report directly to Walt Stivers, LATICRETE regional sales manager for the Indiana Territory. “(Jeff) Kimmerling has extensive experience working directly with LATICRETE products for many years,” said Stivers. “As a master tile setter, and more recently a project manager, he understands the entire process from specification to installation. We felt with his knowledge of the industry and LATICRETE products he would be a great asset to our existing customers. And being a Milwaukee native he has plenty of opportunities to help us educate new customers on the benefits of joining the LATICRETE MVP program.”

Dr. Ephraim Senbetta, LEED AP, will spearhead the group of LEED Accredited Professionals MAPEI Corporation is assembling to assist architects, contractors and specifiers with questions concerning the role of MAPEI’s products in helping contribute valuable points to projects seeking LEED certification. Dr. Senbetta manages MAPEI’s Quality Management System for the Americas. He received his doctorate in Civil Engineering and has been a member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the American Society for Quality (ASQ). He is currently MAPEI’s representative to the US Green Building Council (USGBC). “The LEED process is very comprehensive, and I find it very rewarding to talk with our customers and other construction community members about questions they have,” Senbetta commented. “The most important step manufacturers can take is to develop products with the environment in mind and to more clearly define the roles that their products play in helping construct more environmentally responsible buildings.” As an AIA/CES provider, MAPEI has developed an AIAapproved presentation on the role of flooring installations in contributing to the LEED process; and Dr. Senbetta has presented on this topic at industry conventions.

The planning has begun for Coverings 2010, next April 27-30, when the international super show of ceramic tile and natural stone returns to familiar turf in Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center. Then, come 2011, the show will be making a strategic move westward, heading to the Los Angeles Convention Center. “Orlando is practically home base for Coverings,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of events for National Trade Productions, which manages and produces the show. “It will be our 11th year there, and it has a proven track record for us. We know it can accommodate the size and scope of the show, is accessible for both domestic and international travelers, and is in a core region for tile and stone business. But, for several years Coverings has had its eye on the West Coast since it, too, is a critical tile and stone market. Though there’s been an aggressive outreach to build attendance from this area, it’s time to be even more targeted. So, we’re going to take the show to the proverbial mountain.” The inaugural Coverings exposition was staged 21 years ago in Los Angeles and returned there—or, at least nearby (Anaheim)— two additional times in its early past. Chicago, which most recently was the scene for Coverings this past year and in 2007, yielded its share of advantages, including a spike in attendance among architects and designers. It also helped nudge the show a little closer to its West Coast goal. According to Hoff, “We hope to return to the Windy City in the future, but Los Angeles will enable Coverings to tap into the potential that the Pacific Coast offers.” Coverings is sponsored by ASCER (Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association of Spain), Confindustria Ceramica (Italian Association of Ceramics), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).

Walker Zanger is proud to announce its acceptance of a 2009 Silver ADEX Award for the hand-crafted designs featured in the Sonja Mosaics Collection. Sponsored by Design Journal magazine, ADEX – Awards for Design Excellence – is one of the largest and most prestigious product design award programs in the United States. The Sonja Mosaics Collection by Walker Zanger bridges two worlds of design, incorporating both antique Roman elements and modern- day influences. Individual tiles within the mosaics are made from hand-cut marble and limestone—some are even sourced from ancient Roman quarries. Each mosaic is painstakingly assembled by master craftsmen of Tunisia, where the artistry and technique are kept alive today. The updated color palette of the Sonja Mosaics Collection tends toward the graphic boldness of modern design, with a color palette of blacks, grays and creams accented by deep reds and yellows. The Sonja Mosaics Collection features 12 different pattern variations and a small brick field tile in seven different colors. Its eclectic appeal makes it ideal for virtually any room of the home, as well as for light commercial applications such as restaurants and boutiques. This is the third consecutive year that Walker Zanger has received an ADEX Award.

The new site offers better product search and viewing options plus more detailed technical data. Product images are available for “close-up” viewing to show the true depth and beauty of Orchid Ceramics and Orchid Porcelain products. Some of the site features include a complete “about us” section including history, values, responsibility, and community; a product section with images, click-able larger images, technical data, product brochure download, keyword search; updated “Where to Buy” section; media resources such as press releases and hi-res images; warranty information; and maintenance and cleaning information. Kyle Smith, Orchid Ceramics marketing manager exclaims, “We are thrilled to launch the all new This site not only provides a fantastic view of our products, but will also be a valuable resource to connect with customers, consumers, media, and trade professionals.”

Noble Company has promoted Eric Edelmayer to Director of Contractor Services and Dean Moilanen to National Sales Manager for tile industry products. Edelmayer will work with contractors in the U.S. and abroad to improve the use and understanding of Noble Company products and methods. He has over 20 years’ experience in the tile industry and is eminently qualified for this position. He serves on a variety of technical committees for tile industry associations and is Co-Chairman of the Sound Committee for the Materials, Methods and Standards Association. Eric will play a vital role in Noble Company’s future plans. Moilanen will manage the sales force, develop and implement sales plans and strategies nationwide. He has over 20 years of industry experience in sales and management positions with distributors and tile manufacturers. His work with design and construction professionals has resulted in some of the largest commercial projects in the country. Moilanen has an MBA from the University of Phoenix. His creativity and strong work ethic are keys to his success.

EasyHeat and Warm Tiles® floor warming announced the launch of a redesigned website located at The new site markedly upgrades the ability of customers to find the technical information they need about EasyHeat’s full complement of heat tracing products and the value that they bring to their organizations. The simple-to-navigate site offers quick access to the most up-to-date EasyHeat information, from PDF catalogs and datasheets to helping customers find local representatives, plus it provides EasyHeat distributors with the timesaving benefits of on-line assistance via a new Members Only service.

One-on-One…with Bill Griese
October 1st, 2009

“Tile has always possessed many inherent ecological benefits.”

Fourth Quarter, 2009

By Jeffrey Steele

As the standards development and green initiative manager for Tile Council of North America, Bill Griese is involved in the development and revision of ASTM, ANSI, ISO and other industry-specific standards, and coordination of TCNA’s environmental efforts. He serves as chairman for the ASTM C21 Committee on Ceramic Whitewares and Related Products, and works closely with TCNA’s Product Performance Testing Laboratory. A LEED Accredited Professional, he earned a bachelor of science degree in Ceramic and Materials Engineering from Clemson University.

TileDealer: Where does tile stand in the green building movement ?

Griese: The industry continues to stand in a favorable place, since tile and related installation material products have always possessed many inherent ecological benefits. Thanks to stringent industry installation standards and accepted practices, these benefits are sustainable for years as tiled surfaces last longer than competitive surfaces involved in the “green building movement.” Further, our industry continues to become more involved in the green building community. For years, our environmental messages and attributes have been positive. The on-going growth in demand for green products has provided us with a valuable opportunity to express these advantages in a prime time setting.

Other industries may have had a quicker start in their green marketing efforts, but through the assistance of industry associations, and the commitment of participating industry experts, the mechanisms are in place for tile to be a larger contributor in the “green building movement.”

TileDealer: Is tile gaining a better foothold after falling behind carpet?

Griese: In terms of environmentally responsible products and practices, I don’t believe it is accurate to state that the tile industry has ever fallen “behind” the carpet industry.

Rather, we have had a slower start in organizing our green marketing efforts. To their credit, the carpet industry has done a remarkable job identifying their environmental advantages and setbacks, implementing mechanisms to uphold industry expectations, and participating in various green building standards development processes. Given the inherent ecological advantages of tile products and the environmentally efficient processes that manufacturers have been implementing for years, along with an increased understanding of the green marketplace, it would be accurate to state that evidence of our “foothold” is already clear.

Through united marketing at the association level and increased participation in green standards organizations, our industry is now prepared to springboard ourselves far beyond competitive industries.

TileDealer: How can dealers market tile as green?

Griese: The environmental advantages associated with tile use can be broken down into many categories, including increased natural resource conservation; reduced energy, atmosphere, and environmental burdens of buildings; improved human health; and sustainability. Green marketing, as with any marketing, is largely dependent upon the target audience. When dealers go to market tile products as green, it’s important we look at it from two different perspectives. Is our target consumer an average homeowner more concerned with the “feel good” aspects of environmentally preferable products? When we address these consumers, we want to think more in terms of the tangible environmental benefits.

Or is it our second target, the architectural community, which is going to be more concerned with how tile products can be used on LEED projects? There are a number of ways the products can be used in LEED projects.

TileDealer: What certifications should dealers and consumers look for in green tile?

Griese: This is a question that is commonly asked. Although not always necessary for standard, rating system, or legal compliance, third party certification can assist in achieving more recognizable “green” products. The majority of third-party environmental certification programs encompass one of the following attributes: recycled content, VOC emission levels, or life-cycle assessments.

Some common third-party agencies include Greenguard, Scientific Certification Systems, and FloorScore. While there has been talk of industry certifications, there are currently no domestic tile industry-specific environmental certification programs. However, such steps have been considered and are currently being addressed.

TileDealer: What is and is not legitimate when it comes to green claims for tile?

Griese: Perhaps the most common measuring stick for the environmental contribution of building products is their ability to contribute to LEED projects. Tile products can be used many ways on a LEED project, and builders are encouraged to learn about various strategies associated with maximizing LEED points.

TCNA has written numerous articles, presentations and technical documents detailing the ways that tile products can be incorporated into LEED projects.

So it is legitimate to state that tile products can help earn LEED points. However, one should be cautious when reviewing claims that products earn points. Although there are some rare occasions when this is true, there are very few times specific products can singlehandedly earn entire points.

Usually, it is the combination of products and practices, each offering a percentage-based contribution, that result in the acquisition of a point.

TileDealer: How is TCNA dealing with green-washing issues?

Griese: Pro-activeness is the best way to address green-washing. TCNA’s membership encompasses almost all of the North American tile manufacturers. Through our routine Green Initiative meetings, we are able to identify our industry’s environmental messages. Our messages are unanimous, and consistent among all manufacturers. There are also talks of implementing strategies for recognizing products that possess green attributes outside the scope of our routine environmental messages.

TileDealer: TCNA does “green testing,” according to its website. Exactly what is green testing?

Griese: Our Product Performance Testing Laboratory now offers several tests to evaluate some of the environmental performance characteristics of tile products. We offer a variety of indoor environmental quality tests, including CA 01350 that is required for flooring products contributing to LEED and other green building projects. We also have the ability to test for leachable lead and cadmium.

Additionally, we can evaluate the solar reflectance index of tile products. This is an analysis of solar reflectivity and emittance, and is necessary for exterior tile hardscape products wishing to contribute to LEED and other rating systems. Further, there are several tests for fungus and microorganism resistance of installation products that our laboratory has offered for years, but have only been available as part of a package. We are now able to offer these tests a la carte.

TileDealer: How can dealers leverage the test results?

Griese: Test results indicative of positive environmental performance, or any type of positive performance, can contribute towards achieving a competitive edge that is advantageous in any situation. Our tests for VOC emissions and Solar Reflectance Indices can validate products for contribution in LEED and other green building projects. Third-party certification is convenient and is usually readily accepted on LEED projects. However, certification can be expensive, and is not always mandatory for products wishing to contribute in LEED.

It is important to understand that an independent testing service is a valid option when testing products that wish to contribute in LEED and other green building projects. Through our testing service, we issue a compliance certificate that can be handed by the supplier to an architect or project manager on a LEED project.

TileDealer: What is TCNA’s Green Initiative?

Griese: The TCNA Green Initiative identifies and addresses environmental issues pertinent to the use and manufacture of tile products. It is comprised of TCNA members, and provides an opportunity for members to be active in the green building community. Our Green Initiative does the following:

  • Provides a leadership role in conducting research and product evaluations related to the environmental performance of ceramic tile products;
  • Proactively forms positions on critical environmental issues relevant to the tile industry;
  • Whenever and wherever possible, develops tile industry-related education to increase environmental awareness leading to global thinking and local action;
  • Emphasizes the importance of considering the social, economic and environmental impact of the industry’s manufacturing and distribution processes;
  • Takes a holistic approach by addressing the environmental aspects of the industry’s products throughout their entire life cycle, in addition to looking for ways to reduce waste and promote recycling;
  • Works with local, regional, national and international organizations and governmental agencies, as well as the ceramic tile industry, to help create and comply with laws and regulations aimed at fostering sustainable operations, growth and reducing our environmental footprint; and
  • Offers technical input to green building organizations and standards committees.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for tile in the green marketplace?

Griese: Business as usual! For the most part, we will continue to increase education within the industry and spread our environmental messages to architects, designers, and the general public.

SOURCE: Bill Griese, standards development, green initiative manager Tile Council of North America, Anderson, SC 864-646-8453

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