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

July-August 2008

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

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

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

It only takes 5 points!

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

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

Get points now!

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

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

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

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


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

July-August 2008

By Diane Choate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recycled Content

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

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

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

Regional Materials

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

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

Low-Emitting Materials: Adhesives & Sealants

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

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

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

Construction IAQ Management Plan: Before Occupancy

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

Summary

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

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


Putting Knowledge to the Test with Certification
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

How much do you and your employees know about ceramic tile? That’s the challenge CTDA posed last year when it launched its Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program. The CCTS program offers individuals and their employers throughout the industry the opportunity to quantify and demonstrate their know ledge of ceramic tile products and installation. To date, more than 130 industry professionals have been certified, with more waiting in the wings to take the test.

Because consumers wouldn’t take their car to a mechanic who had no idea how the vehicle worked, or buy a house from a builder who didn’t bother with permits or inspections, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) designed the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program to deliver knowledgeable, professional service to the customer, to quantify the considerable expertise of the salesperson/dealer, and to promote quality manufactured materials. Certification distinguishes the professional and documents his or her expertise.

Because CCTS is comprehensive in its approach to both design and technical issues, the program is appropriate for those in both sales and technical areas. Members of the industry’s manufacturing community, who are already technically adept, say the CCTS program forced them to look at tile through the eyes of their distributor customers. They were challenged by questions of pattern, layout and estimating just as those from the distribution chain were challenged by installation issues.

How does someone become a CCTS?
Becoming a CCTS is no easy task. Candidates must have been employed in the ceramic tile industry for at least two years and pass a three-hour certification exam testing their knowledge and ability to locate knowledge on many different aspects of tile, tile installation materials and methods, applications and standards.

Once a candidate has registered for the CCTS exam, he or she receives two binders that comprise the CCTS Study Guide. The Study Guide Reference Binder contains tile industry references from which the test was written (such as Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation; American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile) and CD-ROMs with pretests and a study guide. A second binder contains CTDA’s complete Tile Training in a Box with DVDs. Additional areas of knowledge covered by the CCTS program include CTDA Reference Guide and Installation of Tile and Stone for the Beginner; Basics of Ceramic Tile Test; CTDA’s How to Handle Customer Complaints Guideline; and more.

Pre-tests included in the Guide allow candidates to identify their strengths and weaknesses and measure readiness to pass the exam. Candidates work through the pre-tests, mastering both the materials and the available resources to successfully pass the final certification test. The passing score on the exam is 70%, so candidates must score higher than that on the pre-tests.

The personal commitment required to take and pass the exam alone is substantial. In many companies—including dealers, distributors and manufacturers—individuals have chosen to study for and take the certification exam as a group. These candidates typically credit the shared knowledge of group study as a real benefit in individually passing the test. However, individual testing is just as successful.

The “bottom line” for an increasing number of companies is to have their staffs earn the CCTS designation, whether they do so as a group or as individuals. Industry knowledge is a valuable commodity in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. It distinguishes the company and its staff and also, ultimately, results in better sales and more satisfied customers. To learn more about CTDA’s CCTS program, please visit the association’s website at www.ctdahome.org or contact the association at (630) 545-9415.


How customer service trumps the economy
 
September 2nd, 2007

by Janet Arden, Editor

September-October 2007

Like the classic tale of the shoemaker’s children who go barefoot, my husband and I have been living with three enormously outdated, genuinely unattractive bathrooms at our house for more years than I would like to admit. At least part of the problem has been that I see so many great tiles, choosing a few designs for my own home also meant not choosing dozens of others I also liked. It was just too hard.

Fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view), a plumbing repair forced my hand.

Choosing tiles, I found, was far simpler than dealing with the renovations themselves and therein lies the lesson. It’s much easier to write about tile, talk about tile and even answer questions about tile than it is to be the consumer on the other end of the installation.

This is what I learned: Customer service is everything.

Let me say up front that I love the tile and the installation is even better than I expected. The dealer and the installer get my recommendation. In fact, they saved the day and my sanity when two crews were using jack hammers to dig tile out of cement upstairs and down, when the only working sink was in the kitchen, when I had dueling tradesmen in the same tiny powder room, and when a newly installed plumbing fixture leaked over an entire weekend while we were out of town. And our remodel went well!

Great customer service made the chaos livable. The dealer delivered everything we needed and readily adjusted the quantities when the estimate was “off.” The installers cleaned up a hideous mess daily, called me with status reports, and took the time to suggest and implement solutions to more than one installation quirk.

On the whole I think my remodeling experience was no worse than most and probably better than many, and I credit the professionals on the job for delivering great customer service.

Here’s the challenge: Can your customers say the same about you?

Customer service is hard to quantify, but it can differentiate your company from the competition in a tough marketplace. Lately it would be impossible not to get the message about the housing marketplace. It’s terrible. Housing starts have taken a prolonged dive, the stock of homes for sale continues to build, and then there are the mortgage issues.

One bright spot is the home improvement industry. According to the Leading Indicator for Remodeling Activity (LIRA), which was developed by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, home improvement spending is expected to remain constant through the first quarter and overall growth in this category for 2007 is projected to be 3.0%. Some homeowners who cannot move up now will remodel instead, and many homeowners have substantial equity to finance improvements. How can you position yourself to leverage this and other opportunities?

On page 24 of this issue, our Sales & Marketing column takes a look at how one company’s ability to adapt to a changing marketplace and deliver great customer service is helping them to maintain some impressive growth numbers.

Of course, many of you have already taken steps to adapt to the current economy. TileDealer would love to hear what you are doing to maintain your edge in this marketplace. You can share your thoughts on this topic by emailing info@tiledealer.org. We’ll work them into a future Sales & Marketing column.


Showroom Seminar – About Grout Help your customers choose the right color and maintain it for optimal fashion and function.
 
March 1st, 2007

March-April 2007

By Kathleen Furore

Helping clients choose the best tile for specific applications is an important step designers take when embarking on a new home or redesign project. Guiding them to an appropriate grout, then explaining proper sealing and cleaning techniques are also integral yet often-overlooked parts of the process.

“The grout color you choose can dramatically affect the look and feel of your tile, making the selection of grout just as important as picking the right tile,” says Tim Campbell, owner of Totally Restored, Inc. in Palm Desert, California. TileDealer recently spoke with tile industry experts, who offered tips on steering clients toward grout colors plus sealing and cleaning techniques that will deliver optimal fashion and function anywhere in their homes.

The Color Equation

There are two basic questions designers should ask when helping clients choose grout: “Do you want a dark or light shade?” and “Do you want grout that closely matches the tile for a tone-on-tone look, or one that contrasts with the tile?” The area in which the grout will be used is an important consideration, Campbell notes. “In a heavy-use area, a dark shade tends to show less dirt,” he says.

John Bridge, owner of John Bridge Ceramic Tile in Katy, Texas, and author of Tile Your World agrees. “I steer clients toward neutral shades, often darker than they usually want. It’s a maintenance concern,” Bridge says. “White and light-colored grouts get dirty, and they yellow like paint does.”

The decision to go with tone-on-tone or contrasting shades depends on the overall look you’re trying to achieve, the experts stress. Grout that harmonizes with tile color “will make the area look larger and will avoid the checkerboard design that can result when using contrasting colors,” says Ralph Williamson, owner of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consulting of Arizona and the Arizona director of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America.

Campbell says grout acts as a background and creates a more uniform look in tone-on-tone installations, noting that using a shade or tint slightly different from the tile color adds depth and interest. “If you prefer to emphasize each tile, you would choose a contrasting grout which will frame the tile giving each one an individual look and the installation a grid effect,” he explains.

Using grout color chips will help ensure clients are happy with their final selection, Williamson says. “You can set one of the color chips between two tiles and get a feel for the color you need,” he says. “To make sure, after the tile is installed but before the grout is installed, place dry grout into a grout joint. The dry powder will look the same as the grout after it is cured.”

Be aware—and make sure your customers are also aware—that the installed, finished color of the grout is subject to some shade and color variation (like tile). Dye lots, setting materials, water, mixing, temperature, drying time, and the tile itself—its porosity and even over-glazed edges—can all affect the final color. Though grout manufacturers have continued to develop new and better products, it’s crucial that you know the installation characteristics of the products you sell.

A professional installer, one who understands the ins and outs of various products including ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone, and metal, and the myriad grout options available, is an important ally.

Seal the Deal

Once tile and grout are in place, sealing is a must. All three experts recommend using what Bridge calls “impregnators”—sealers that penetrate into the grout and establish a barrier just beneath the surface.

“I recommend sealing. Even though it won’t keep grout from getting dirty, it helps,” Bridge says.

“Sealing grout on floor tile helps in the maintenance of the color of the grout joint,” Williamson explains. But it isn’t a cure-all for stains, stresses Williamson, who says that fact should be clarified by whomever seals the grout or sells the sealer to do-it-yourselfers. “If you do not maintain your floor properly, contamination will build up on the surface of the sealer.”

One sealer does not fit all surfaces. The best sealer for ceramic tile is not going to be the best for stone tile, and what works on marble will not necessarily work on granite. Manufacturer recommendations are key, as is an experienced installer. Because different surfaces have a wide range of porosities, their reactions to sealers and cleaners are not consistent.

Keep it Clean

Maintenance is key to grout’s overall appearance. Because no matter the process, cleaning is a challenging task, Bridge admits. “The best approach is to keep grout clean to begin with,” he says. “In showers, for example, I recommend hand-drying the entire shower after each use. Don’t let dirt, soap and waterborne minerals build up.”

Of course, cleaning eventually will be required. How often? “Always ask the person who installed your tile and grout for a maintenance schedule that they recommend,” Williamson says.

When cleaning floor tiles and grout, vacuum first to lift dirt from the grout joints. “A dust mop will push dirt into the grout joint,” Williamson explains.

Since original grout color is tough to maintain with common tile cleaners, Campbell recommends using a heavy-duty alkaline cleaner and degreaser to remove greasy soil from stone and tile floors, kitchen counters, bathroom shower stalls, and other natural stone and ceramic tile surfaces. “For extremely stained grout, you can add an Energizer to the solution to bleach the grout while cleaning it,” he notes.

Neutral cleaners are a must. “Do not use vinegar, bleach, or anything with acid in it—it will damage your grout,” Williamson stresses.

“Acid-based products will etch most polished marble and limestone surfaces,” Campbell agrees. Porcelain and glass cleaners are the exceptions. “Use an acid-based grout cleaner to restore grout haze and remove grout residue from porcelain and glass only,” he says.

Another piece of advice: “Instead of a sponge mop use a string mop—sponge colors sometimes discolor grout,” Williamson notes.

If clients want a step-by-step cleaning process, Campbell offers these tips:

  • Make sure all surfaces are swept or vacuumed to remove loose debris.
  • Apply mixed solution with a clean mop, towel or sponge.
  • Allow plenty of dwell time for the degreaser to work on the soil.
  • Agitate with a scrub brush or a floor machine equipped with a nylon grit as needed. (Nylon grit brushes are only for tiles that won’t scratch!)
  • Remove solution with a sponge, wet/dry vacuum, or extractor equipped with a hard surface tool, or damp mop.
  • Rinse area well with clean water.
  • Apply sealer after rinsing and drying to protect the areas from future soiling and staining.

SOURCES:

Ralph Williamson

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consulting of Arizona

623-773-9170

Fax 623-773-9180

e-mail rw@ctcaz.com

John Bridge

John Bridge Ceramic Tile

Katy, Texas

Author of Tile Your World

281-550-1124

john@johnbridge.com

Tim Campbell

Totally Restored in Palm Desert, CA

760-413-3817

Also, see “All About Grout” and “Installer Update: The Ins & Outs of Grout” in the January/February 2006 issue of TileDealer at www.tiledealer.org

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