Sales & Management: How Tile Fits With Green Building Being knowledgeable about Green Building can give you a competitive edge
May 1st, 2006

By Janet Arden, Editor

May-June 2006

Recently the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced that 2006-2007 is the time frame in which green building—which encourages environmentally responsible and sensitive construction materials and techniques—will involve more builders (and presumably consumers) than not.

This is a big step for a movement that’s only about a decade old.

A bit of background

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), founded in 1993, is an industry-led and consensus-driven nonprofit coalition for advancing buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. The USGBC has developed the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system that awards points—based on a fairly complicated scale—for using environmentally responsible products and practices. This can range from managing construction waste to optimizing solar energy.

From a regulatory point of view, codes, ordinances and regulations are increasingly favoring green building qualities. A number of governmental bodies have begun to require green construction in their buildings or in buildings in which they have a vested interest. The LEED program has been adopted by various governmental bodies at all levels.

But green building is also driven by culture. The environmental movement is increasingly mainstream. As NAHB discovered in its survey, builders are increasingly green because “they believe it’s the right thing to do.”

NAHB has published its own Model Green Home Building Guidelines designed to move environmentally-friendly home building concepts further into the mainstream. The guidelines, used right now by about 30 communities across the country, help facilitate the adoption of green home building practices and the formation of additional local programs in the parts of the country not currently served by these programs.

The guidelines contain sections covering such topics as site preparation, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water conservation, and indoor air quality. This last category is particularly important to the tile industry, since the NAHB guidelines call for the installation of moisture resistant backerboard, not paper-faced sheathing, under tiled surfaces in wet areas. The intent of the recommendation is “to reduce the risk of problems if water penetrates tile surfaces in kitchens and baths.” The recommendations go on to say, “A cement-based backerboard does not contain organic paper that can deteriorate, swell (potentially causing cracking in the grout), and be a substrate for mold growth when wet. Cement backerboard is resistant to the deleterious effects of moisture.”

Earlier this year, the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) (see March/April TileDealer) was established within the tile industry to ensure the communication of more accurate information about mold avoidance and control.

Obviously, moisture control is only one of the issues related to green building. Others include—but are not limited to—recycled products and products manufactured close to the building site to cut the costs of transportation in both dollars and energy,

What does this mean for consumers & tile dealers?

Green building has become increasingly important in construction and remodeling, first, of course, because residential and commercial consumers are asking for it. They want to save energy and water and enjoy improved air quality. Typically these factors add up to long-term operational savings as well. This is always advantageous, but even more important in these days of volatile energy costs.

According to the USGBC, LEED certified buildings have lower operating costs, higher lease rates and happier and healthier occupants than conventionally built structures.

If you’re selling and/or installing floors, backsplashes or bathrooms for these builders, it’s time to do the research and get more knowledgeable about green building issues. Consumers are increasingly well-versed in green building as well—or at least they want to be—making your knowledge about green building issues an important factor in distinguishing yourself from the competition.

Knowledge will not only help you answer questions, it may help you outflank competitors who are not well-versed in green building.


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the nation’s leading nonprofit coalition for advancing buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Major programs supporting its mission include the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating Systems™ for New Construction, Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors and Homes; LEED Workshops; LEED Professional Accreditation; the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo; and a robust local chapter program.

Today, USGBC includes nearly 6,000 member companies and organizations—representing more than 1000% growth in the past four years alone. During that same period, more than 458 million square feet of building space has been registered or certified under LEED, and the annual US market in green building products and services has grown to $7 billion.

The Council is as diverse as the marketplace, including building owners and end-users, real estate developers, facility managers, architects, designers, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, product and building system manufacturers, government agencies, and nonprofits. Leaders from within each of these sectors participate in the development of the LEED Rating Systems and the direction of the Council through volunteer service on USGBC’s open committees.

COVERINGS 2006: Significant Trends from the Expo Floor
May 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

Form followed fashion at Coverings 2006, where the hottest looks on the expo floor came straight from the popular consciousness and current styles. Some tiles were textured to look like animal skins while others incorporated their own bit of bling. Products included precious metals and rare stones, sleek minimalism and ornamentation to the max, fresh candy colors and graphic black and white, photorealistic prints and traditional damask designs, earthy natural influences, and tons of texture, pattern, and dimension—in scales from small to large. Vertical surfaces were everywhere, too, as tile manufacturers introduced all sorts of fabulously inventive and decorative options to pave the wall.

Donato Grosser, a longtime consultant to the ceramic tile industry who presented one of the 70 free seminar sessions during the four-day international trade show, predicts that the future of the ceramic tile market in the U.S. is increasingly at the high end and strongly becoming a fashion business. Customization and the luxury looks that end-users demand are becoming a greater reality thanks to technological innovations, such as the water-laser jet cut.

Ceramic tiles are putting on a stone face, these days, mimicking everything from granite, marble, and basalt to flagstone, schist, and shale. Many of them are textured, such as an elegantly routed version from Tau. Porcelanosa, in its L’Antic Colonial Collection, has stone mosaics, large, shale-like pavers with textured surfaces, and even mini bricks, called Brick Butan, which can be used to construct a vertical surface that resembles traditional Pennsylvania fieldstone.

A reverence for wood was everywhere, with ceramic styles so realistically resembling wood grains and species, from bamboo to mahogany, cherry, maple, and teak that showgoers were doing double-takes. But, with the advantages of ceramic vs. wood so compelling—resistance to moisture, bug infestations and wear, and requiring minimal upkeep—the ceramic editions were winning fans easily. Among the most impressive exhibitors of this genre were Caesar, whose Feel collection was shown in a variety of shapes from square tiles to planks and trims, in colors that range from the palest neutrals through such saturated shades as jade, ocean, and moonlight, with the option of insets glass strips that add both design interest and a little luminosity to the surface underfoot. Exelle was offering Yacu, a wood-like tile with a Japanese feel, which it is showing with Decoro Flower, a decorative tile with a floral pattern influenced by both William Morris and Japanese textile design.

Don’t forget the bling

Metallic surfaces were popular; shiny titanium, chromed or brushed stainless steel, and gold teased the eye, as did the patinated bronzes and corten steels that have taken the market by storm. Furthermore, insets were everywhere—from colored glass “jewels” set randomly or in patterns to metal-finished mini-moments for visual interest. Deltaker’s Plasma Series and Special Pieces, for example, were sporting iridescent metallic finishes, in brilliant saturated colors such as magenta and cobalt. Geleite Building Material Co., Ltd., a relative newcomer from China, was offering a range of stainless steel finished tiles and mosaic patterns from traditional interlocking lozenges and herringbones to circles. Iris also was showcasing a metallic surface that dazzled with its semblance to steel.

A continued infatuation with mid-century modern design along with the ‘70s retro revival also had an impact, effecting color palettes, textures, and surface patterns. Viva’s Central Station collection included the Simple Emotion series of inserts, with sophisticated nostalgic patterns that range from poppies to branches to sunbursts—in the flame reds, teals, and avocados of an earlier era. Royal Mosa, from The Netherlands, reissued its Kho Liang le Collection, a ‘60s classic of gloss white tiles with a relief of circles, arcs, diagonals and triangles that combine to create unusual effects. Tau was introducing Tissue Dec Pop, a delightfully pop-art-inspired pattern for vertical surfaces in a range of cheery colors. Vitra, the Turkish firm, offered the Koz Series, designer Defne Koz’s inspired abstractions of Iznik patterns from the Ottoman Empire and cypress motifs, styled for contemporary bathrooms. They are quartz-glazed for added durability and light reflectivity.

Wallpaper and Textile Lookalikes…

Another clear-cut Coverings trend were tiles imitating wallpaper and textiles, from flocking to damask to grasscloth and linen. Venis offered Venezia, a traditional Venetian damask that contrasts matte and gloss finishes. Exelle’s Decoro wave is another vertical design with a mid-century modern feel. Tiles also showed some skin, from leather and reptile-inspired surfaces to ostrich and leopard. One of the finest was Cerim’s Croco, a bold, gutsy pattern finished in rich, elegant glazes. Florim Cermiche’s Ma Touche Collection also wowed attendees with four faux textures suggestive of leather, elephant and crocodile.

Candy Colors from Viva’s Bloom, a circular mosaic for vertical application to Vitra’s Penny Round Mosaic made a comeback, yet black and white, was as strong as ever. Etruria Design presented Optical Haring, a collection of beveled black and white tiles (some black with white incisions, some white with black outlines) based on the pop art and graffiti movements launched by the late Keith Haring. Natucer offered Techno, a dimensional tile with an abstracted rose pattern that scales the wall in matte black, gloss white, and a handful of other colors.

The arts and crafts movement also was palpable, especially in glass mosaics and tiles. Oceanside Glass Tile presented Facets, a mini-mosaic field tile in three sizes and a cornucopia of colors, and Elevations, a larger-format field tile and geometrically patterned liners. Motawi Tileworks continued to execute its superb reinterpretations of traditional arts and crafts motifs.

May 1st, 2006


May-June 2006

Winners come and go from Charlotte Arena. But a permanent champ is the building’s tile mural, and it earned the Grand Prize in the prestigious Spectrum Awards honoring outstanding use of ceramic tile. Mosaic artist Mike Mandel, of Watertown, MA, created the modern mosaic masterpiece and received the $10,000 cash prize and Spectrum crystal sculpture that were presented at the opening ceremony of Coverings, the world’s leading exposition and conference for ceramic tile and stone.

Mandel’s design, cited by the judges for its brilliance in “uniting modern computer technology with old world craftsmanship and art,” was on behalf of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Arts & Science Council and was installed by D&M Contract Flooring of Knoxville, TN. More than 100 colors of unglazed porcelain and glass mosaic tile were used in the floor-to-ceiling composition that spans an interior wall of a lobby area in the arena. Each one-inch square tile used in the mosaic was equivalent to an electronic pixel. The panels trick the eye, appearing to be billboards or other photographic posters until you move in for a closer look. The images are riveting, portraits of unsung athletes and sports players from throughout the decades.

Commercial Category…

For a joyous display about women and style within the unusual setting of a pseudo-public restroom, Cravillion Tile & Stone, based in Sheboygan, WI, received First Prize honors in the commercial category. It was installed at the nearby John Michael Kohler Arts Center and featured more than 120 tiles hand painted by artist Cynthia Consentino. Her fanciful representations of hats, handbags, bras, jewelry, combs and other girly items that have contributed to shaping the identity of women also decorated toilet bowls and sink basins. The tile installation was a challenge, requiring a precise fit within the space and defying the conventional way a contractor typically lays tile, horizontally bottom to top, left to right. This job was installed in completely opposite fashion, vertically top to bottom, right to left! It left the judges impressed, saying, “This is original and well-executed.”

An additional First Prize was awarded in the commercial category, going to Twin Dolphin Mosaics for a mos aic pavement in the atrium of the Southern Oregon University Library, Ashland, OR. Solid body porcelain tile was fractured into unexpected chip shapes and sizes then composed into a visual treat of color and pattern that reads attractively at all levels and in all lighting conditions. Ribbons of color weave in and out and follow a spiral movement, as well. There’s a vitality to the artwork, but, a functionality to the ceramics which is easy to maintain, doesn’t fade and wears well with the amount of high traffic the library experiences. Twin Dolphin’s Robert Stout traveled from his studio in Ravenna, Italy, to accept the award.

Conducted annually as part of Coverings, the Spectrum Awards celebrates creativity and achievement in the use of ceramic tile in residential and commercial projects. Serving this year as judges were design journalist Wendy Goodman, whose masthead credits include interior design editor of New York Magazine, style editor of Departures and contributing editor of Elle Décor; and, Jennifer Adams, editor for the past nine years of both Stone World and Contemporary Tile and Stone magazines. They were joined by representatives of Coverings sponsors: Christine Abbate, Assopiastrelle (Tile of Italy); Bob Daniels and Shannon Woodmansee, Tile Council of North America; and Mary Anne Piccirillo, ASCER (Tile of Spain). The Spectrum Awards competition also is sponsored by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association and the National Tile Contractors Association.

Six Trailers of Exhibitor Donations for Tile Partners for Humanity

A convoy of six trailer trucks pulled out of the Orange County Convention Center at the close of the 19th edition of Coverings carrying tons of ceramic tile and stone from the four-day expo to housing projects in the Orlando area earmarked for families and individuals in need of shelter. Filling 155 pallets, the collection of tile, stone, marble, adhesives, tools, cleaners and sealants represented contributions from the trade show’s 1,200 exhibitors who rallied again this year in a commitment to Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH). Additionally, Freeman, the service contractor for Coverings, donated the labor for gathering these goods from the show floor and transporting them to Habitat for Humanity, which subsequently helped to distribute the donations throughout the area.

“This is a component of Coverings that makes every one of us feel proud,” said Tamara Christian, Coverings show director and president of National Trade Productions. “It is helping out so many deserving families in the Orlando community who are grateful just to have the very basic needs of a finished floor, a shower, a kitchen. They really appreciate the tile and stone contribution. It is precious material to them because it’s helping them rebuild their lives.”

According to Allyson Fertitta, executive director of TPFH, this is the third year Coverings has partnered with the organization. All told in that time, she estimates exhibitors have contributed materials valued at several hundreds of thousands of dollars. She noted that in addition to being provided for installation in projects currently underway, some of the donations also will end up in the Habitat Home Store and will be sold, generating revenue to help fund new construction. And, as sizable as the product donations have been each year, she said, Coverings management also adds a substantial cash contribution to TPFH. “They are extraordinarily generous.”

“There is a great need for affordable housing in this community,” she continued, “and Habitat for Humanity is doing an amazing job addressing the issue. We are grateful to partners, like Coverings, who step up to the plate and actively work with exhibitors to acquaint them with all the benefits. It’s a win-win program for all who become involved.”

Leadership Letter: Leveraging your opportunities
March 1st, 2006

March-April 2006

This is a remarkably busy season for the tile industry. There is the flurry of industry shows—Surfaces, Cevisama and Coverings—and the need for those of us in attendance to maximize our time, meeting with established vendors to maintain those relationships, searching out new products, leveraging educational opportunities, and often running our businesses from afar while we do so.

At CTDA we have also been very busy

First, the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) examination will be pilot-tested at Coverings. CTDA developed the CCTS program with the help of Southern Illinois University’s Department of Workforce Education and Development. The CCTS program is the first and only program specifically designed by and for ceramic tile salespeople. Certification offers you a way to differentiate your business from others.

We all need to be on top of our business—to know what’s happening. One way, of course, is to read TileDealer. Another is to attend industry events like Coverings.

Coverings is the premier international trade show and conference dedicated to showcasing tile and natural stone. This is our chance to see, touch and handle new materials. To talk with vendors about what they can offer our business and our customers. We all need to know what’s new now and what will be new later. Nothing replaces walking the show floor.

But there is much more to Coverings than the exhibits. Dozens of seminars and speakers are scheduled to help you do business better. These events are planned for industry professionals like you to learn more about products, installations, trends, and running your business. Not taking advantage of these opportunities is like walking the show with your eyes closed. You’re missing half the substance.

CTDA has developed the distributor and retailer seminar track. Here’s just a sampling of the schedule:

• Improving Your Warehouse Safety: Have you made safety part of your corporate culture? Is it everyone’s job or do you assign a few employees to be safety specialists?

• Ceramic Tile Showroom Design and Sales: Seminar leader Patti Fasan will lead you through some simple concepts to transform any showroom into a flooring fashion center.

• Taking Control of Your Business: Al Bates talks about the issues that really drive performance and how to take your business from typical to high-profit.

• The Growing Concern About Mold: Learn about the latest technology to prevent mold, installation techniques to stop it before mold becomes a problem, and the status of insurance issues and the potential for expensive mold claims.

Coverings is also a remarkable networking opportunity. Everyone there is in the same business you are—they have the same questions and some of them already have the answers. Experience is invaluable—whether you’re tapping your own or someone else’s.

I think CTDA members have a real advantage at industry events like Coverings. First, our association relationships encourage us to meet and network with distributors and manufacturers throughout the industry. It’s easy to leverage this networking into better business relationships. CTDA events at Coverings also offer the opportunity to “level the playing field” among competitors large and small. We are, after all, in the same business and sharing many of the same challenges.

But, before you pack your bags and head for Orlando, there’s no time like the present to start leveraging your educational opportunities and this issue of TileDealer has important information you can use now.

For example, the cover story and Installer’s Update tackle mosaics. They may be tiny tiles, but as you know they are increasingly popular on their own or installed in combination with other materials. Take a look at what’s available today and then consider some of the installation requirements for mosaics.

As I said, there’s a lot going on in the industry. CTDA, TileDealer and Coverings are great tools to help you manage it!

Mark Carlson
CTDA President

From the Editor’s Desk: Stay on top of your business.
March 1st, 2006

by Janet Arden, Editor

March-April 2006

“A big part of our job is helping you learn more about what’s happening in the business.”

I have a confession to make. I read grammar books. There is no self-help group for this—no Grammarians Anonymous that I know of, although I do know other editors who enjoy the same indulgence. I do this because language is a significant part of my business and I want—and need—to know what’s happening with it.

So what does this have to do with tile?

We all need to be on top of our business. And, the tile business is increasingly complex. Think of the new products you have added in the last few years—glass, metal, and stone—and the sizes that range from mosaics through increasingly large formats. Then there are the innovations in installation that go with these products. And what about new add-ons like under-floor heating?

At TileDealer we think a big part of our job is helping you learn more about what’s happening in the industry, so you can “stay on top of business.”

This issue, in particular, has some important features on future industry issues.

First, the current One-on-One interview features a lengthy talk with Vince Marazita, president and owner of Vince Marazita & Associates, an international consulting firm specializing in the stone industry.

Why are we talking about stone?

Because stone is an increasingly important product in this business. Many of you are stocking and selling it now—and if you aren’t, chances are good you will be soon. Learning more about stone, especially from experts like Vince, is all part of staying on top of the business.

One of the points Vince makes so convincingly is that stone is no longer reserved for commercial installations and high-end homes. It’s an increasingly important feature in moderately priced homes. Technology has made quarrying and cutting stone more accessible, and that makes it more affordable to the consumer. He points out the number of real estate ads that note “granite countertops” or “marble bath.” Stone is often part of a larger design scheme with other materials. Designers will tell you that stone and ceramic materials are often both installed in the same room.

Stone is just one of the trends we’re looking at now. Another one is exterior tile. Although exterior tile has always been popular in some settings, technological and design advances have made it even more desirable for these installations. Manufacturing processes have improved the hardness and wearability ratings of many porcelains, while design advances have increasingly captured the look of more expensive stone installations. Technology is also a factor driving this trend.

The growth of outdoor kitchens and living spaces has encouraged more use of exterior tile. In commercial settings, porcelain’s greater mechanical strength but lower weight make it an “added value” in exterior cladding. Check out the feature on page 42 on “Exterior Tile Trends” to see where these products are going.

Not all the news TileDealer covers is about a product. One of the most important issues we’ll be covering in the near future is mold. Recently, industry leaders lead by USG Corporation joined to form the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC). Their purpose is to act as a clearinghouse for accurate information on mold and moisture control. As the RSMC points out, mold is “ubiquitous in nature.” It is always in the air.

We first talked about mold in the July/August 2005 issue. At the time we said mold had become an increasing problem because today’s tighter building practices do not allow moisture to escape. Controlling mold depends on controlling moisture and a food source such as dirt, wood or other organic material. Left untreated, mold can destroy building materials, and remediation is very expensive. More information about RSMC is on page 47. Look for a followup to this important topic in an upcoming issue.

As always, there’s a lot going on in the industry and between the pages of TileDealer.

Read on!

Janet Arden

March 1st, 2006

March-April 2006

New Decorative Tile Brand

Olivia Daniels is a new line of decorative tile manufactured through an innovative process using composites rather than ceramics. According to company president Michael Goldman, Olivia Daniels provides an intricacy of design that is hard to find in ceramic tile lines, although it is offered at a competitive price point. “The composite material we developed allows a depth and precision of relief that gives each tile a new dimension of artistry. The hand-applied finishes we’ve created further enhance the appearance of the sculpted areas. The retailers and designers who have seen and touched the tiles are quite impressed with the fineness of detail,” he said. Olivia Daniels will introduce four collections at Coverings—French inspired St. Etienne, classic Palatino, sophisticated Biarritz and Asian influenced Pagoda. Each collection includes a selection of different designs, sizes and finishes.


Laufen continues its tradition of quality craftsmanship by introducing two new series— Bergamo and Murano. Bergamo is a 13×13 and 17½x17½ glazed porcelain tile with a coordinating 10×13 wall tile. It comes in three colors—Haze, Cashmere and Fawn. Trim includes a 3¼x13 floor bullnose, a 3×10 wall bullnose and a 3×3 bullnose corner. A 2×10 listel and 2½x13 border coordinates with all three colors and completes the package. Murano is a 18×18 double-loaded, soluble salt polished porcelain. It comes in three colors—Nocce, Beige and Light Grey. Also included in this series is a 12×12 mosaic in each of the three colors. Both Bergamo and Murano are included in the Laufen Home Program. (


For those seeking a Mediterranean flavor, Ravera from Villeroy & Boch is a great new choice. This Vilbostone range, far easier to maintain than natural stone, is made of glazed porcelain stoneware that is not only exceptionally resistant to daily wear, but also is frost and acid-proof, making it an ideal surface for outdoor terraces, patios and balconies. Available in light beige, red-beige and gray, the three basic sizes are 12 and 17-½ inch squares and 12 by 23 oblongs. The series includes cut borders with mosaic inlays made of real slate and an asymmetrical option reminiscent of brickwork. (

Introducing Wet Tent

Introducing the world’s best water protection system. Never worry about the watery mess created by wet saws again. For years installers have been propping up pieces of cardboard, wrapping with pieces of plastic and laying tarps under their wet saws. They’ve set up their wet saw outside or in an area removed from the installation. This product has been designed, tested and guaranteed to be a water containment system that can be set up on any interior surface. Wet Tent allows the installer to be closer to the work area, increasing productivity. The Wet Tent looks professional and shows the installer cares about his customers and their property. The convenient, collapsible aluminum frame sets up in minutes and comes with its own carrying bag. (1-888-350-TENT)


Gruppo Ceramiche Saicis S.P.A., one of Italy’s top producers of high-end porcelain tile, introduces the Perfido series: a sophisticated floor tile collection. Designed with waterjet cut pieces mesh mounted, this full body porcelain tile series is a recreation of cobblestone presented in natural hues. Perfido is available in Chiaro (light blend) and Scuro (dark blend) and is offered in an 18” x 18” size. Although this series is designed for outdoor areas, it is also appropriate for interior use. Perfido is also perfect for both commercial and residential applications. “Since the Roman Empire people used ‘Porfido’ stones to pave the streets: the stone that was the inspiration for this series,” said Tilia Galerio of Saicis North America. “We do not want to replace this famous stone, but rather, create a mirror image of it to highlight its beauty for our modern society.” Saicis’ Perfido does not need high maintenance. It is a hard and durable tile series that only needs to be washed with water. Multi-loaded with a thickness of 18mm, Perfido has a 0 porosity, as well as frost and stain resistance.

Crossville’s Journey

With an aged appearance reminiscent of Africa’s rugged topography, Journey lends a sense of adventure to any room. Available in three earthen tones, Journey combines the best of nature with the most advanced manufacturing technologies to create a level of realism never before offered in stone looks. Homeowners and designers may need to touch the tile’s surface to be convinced that the cracks and crevices in the “stone” aren’t real. Journey’s tonalities are subtle yet rich, mixing well with today’s interior finishes because the variations within each colorway provide an incredible range of design options, from the soft beige of Savanna Breeze to the warm gold of African Sunset to the rich noce of Tribal Path. Designed for residential and light commercial applications, the Journey Series is 3/8″ thick and available in three modular tile sizes: 12″ x 12″, 12″ x 18″ and 18″ x 18″, with a precision edge. These sizes may be mixed together for floors alone, or in floor and wall combinations. A 3″ x 12″ Single Bullnose trim piece is offered, plus Crossville’s own Accent Innovations™ offers a full complement of glass, metal and natural stone tile, trim and borders as accents. The Journey Series is more durable than natural stone, refuses to scratch, stain or fade, never needs sealing or waxing, cleans with just hot water, and is slip-resistant. “The Journey Series has taken the roto-color or roll print technique to the limit of what is technologically possible. The result is an amazing trompe l’oeil effect,” explains Jim Dougherty, vice president of marketing and business development for Crossville, Inc. Barbara Schirmeister, Crossville’s color and design consultant adds: “Homeowners and designers will love working with the Journey Series; its appearance is soft yet sophisticated and its tonalities reflect the color trends we’re seeing today in cabinetry, kitchen and bath fixtures, and paint colors.” (

Character Series

Architects and designers looking to make a BIG design statement have some BIG new puzzle pieces to play with. Crossville® introduces the Character Series of Porcelain Stone® tile—an urban minimalist look with a slight hint of stone, offered in a giant 24″ x 24″ square tile, plus an 18″ x 18″ square and a 12″ x 24″ rectangle. All have through-body color and rectified edges that may be set with tight grout joints. “Commercial designers of corporate, hospitality, restaurant and retail environments have been asking for a new look in large-scale minimalist tile. Character maintains the sleek appearance demanded by monolithic design schemes, yet its surface texture is softened by the merest hint of veining found in natural stone,” says Jim Dougherty, vice president of marketing and business development for Crossville, Inc. Character’s colorways also set it apart. Most minimalist looks have not offered lighter colors; Character is available in Vanity Almond (a light almond tone) and Joy Beige, as well as Arrogance Black, Liking Green (an olive tone) and Loyalty Moka (a warm brown). An additional option is a Single Bullnose, which is available in all colors. The Character Series is slip resistant, more durable than natural stone, refuses to scratch, stain or fade, never needs sealing or waxing and cleans with just hot water. (

AccuColor Easy™

Grout installation is now easier and more reliable than ever with the new, premixed AccuColor EasyTM Ready to Use Grout, the latest innovation from the maker of TEC® brands. AccuColor Easy continues a 10-year legacy of unsurpassed color accuracy and consistency that has made TEC AccuColor® grouts and caulks a top choice among tile installation professionals. A patented, breakthrough formulation, combined with proven technology, makes AccuColor Easy extremely easy to use while delivering predictable results and high durability. Added benefits of stain resistance and mold and mildew resistance make AccuColor Easy a great choice for shower installations, kitchens, and other areas subject to intermittent moisture, high use and foot traffic. AccuColor Easy delivers superior performance regarding durability, stain resistance, mold and mildew resistance, color accuracy and more. A unique, patent-pending formulation eliminates shrinkage, joint cracking and the inability to be used in water-exposed applications—issues traditionally associated with premixed grouts. Because stain-blocking technology is built right into the grout, there is no need to add a sealer. AccuColor Easy contains inhibitors that protect the grout from mold and mildew growth. AccuColor Easy continues the AccuColor grout legacy of providing superior color accuracy. Strict color tolerances for manufacturing and a premixed format that eliminates common mixing errors provide assurance that the installed grout color will be the same as the color sample used to select the grout in the flooring store. AccuColor Easy adheres to existing premixed or portland cement grout, making it an ideal choice to refresh or repair existing grout installations and for problem-solving. Additionally, AccuColor Easy is backed by a limited, lifetime warranty against staining, cracks and fading. (


Sardinia, Italy, an enchanting Mediterranean island, lost between the Italian mainland and the northern tip of Africa, represents a unique blend of color and vibrant landscape. From this floating diamond in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranea, an Italian-based, multi-national tile production and design firm, has quarried a magical blend of flavorful stones to create a bold new tile collection titled “Indian Trace.” Indian Trace uses a rich blend of natural colors and unique shading to create a series full of earthen charm and inspiring movement. Using the very latest in Rotocolor technology, this glazed porcelain tile presents a new and unique honed finish stone look that invokes a sense of the islands’ natural surroundings. This level of technology lends a dramatic sense of movement and variation to this collection, making each tile as different and autonomous as the natural stone that gave birth to the Indian Trace collection. Developed in Italy, the series is produced in a plant in Argentina rich in history and experience. This facility recently completed a large-scale investment in glazing and graphic equipment, including a brand new, double battery, eight-head, jumbo Rotocolor machine capable of providing twice the amount of graphics normally utilized in glazed porcelain production. This collection is offered in three sizes: (6 x 6”), (13 x 13”) and (18 x 18”), and available in five natural colors: Sioux (Ivory), Cherokee (Cream), Comanche (Taupe), Apache (Terracotta) and Navajo (Noche). Indian Trace passes C.O.F. testing requirements for ADA, making it ideal for both residential and commercial spaces. (305-444-3676)

Our November/December feature on Showroom Trends pictured these space-saving racks, but inadvertently omitted the manufacturer— McColl Display. To learn more, go to or call 888-462-2655.

Coverings Seminars Target Distributors and Retailers

Distributor and retailer attendees at Coverings 2006 can choose from more than a dozen FREE educational seminars being offered during this year’s show. The four-day expo and conference April 4 – 7, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, includes sessions to address subjects such as how to retain and train employees, the dos and don’ts of selecting computer software to monitor inventory, how a customer-friendly showroom can increase sales and other valuable guidelines that are vital to building a more successful business. Other topics include Green Building, The Future Of Ceramic Tile Distribution, Up-selling Strategies and Approaches, and The Porcelain Jungle.

What can attendees expect to see?

Here is just a sampling of some highlights of the unique and uncommon products that are due to debut.

• Artflor, Inc. (Booth A6) will showcase a hybrid-concrete tile line with textures, inlays and color effects never before seen in the industry.

• Azuvi (Booth 1914) will showcase its newest series Shape, part of the Performance collection. It is ideal for exterior facade applications.

• Cerdomus (Booth 5025) will be launching Sculpture, an imaginative design from renowned Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas. The collection’s corrugated surface can be laid vertically or horizontally on interior or exterior walls.

• Clay Décor, LLC (Booth A9), an artisan company that creates distinctive works of art for elegant home décor, will introduce a new line of elliptical-shaped tiles at the show. www.clay-dé

• Coem/Fioranese (Booth 5430) will showcase the Chiaroscuro collection. From damask patterns to Asian-inspired floral motifs, the patterns in this line play with the contrast between light and dark.

• Cotto D’Este (Booth 5420) will be exhibiting Kerlite, enriched with Zirconium particles which allow the piece to radiate in the light.

• Eco Ceramica (Booth 5438) will introduce New Liberty, a marriage of color, pattern and Celtic-inspired designs.

• El Barco (Booth 2336) is debuting several designs from Spain. The Earth Collection features Vulcano and Provenza in six different colorways and three sizes, both with companion hand-cut mosaic trims for kitchen or bath.

• Etruria Design (Booth 4716) will debut the Optical collection of beveled wall tiles and the Haring collection, reminiscent of the designs of 80′s pop art icon Keith Haring.

• Florida Tile Industries, Inc. (Booth 3100) is adding to its portfolio with Horizon, a fine glazed porcelain floor tile with stunning visual appeal reminiscent of the Nepalese landscape. Pinecrest is a glazed porcelain with the look and feel of natural sandstone. Stonehenge is a rustic glazed porcelain with slightly chiseled edges and distressed surface area.

• Graniti Fiandre (Booth 418) will be introducing GeoDiamond Textured, a tile embedded with tiny, sparkling metal embellishments. NewGround, a superior alternative to stained concrete, can be used on interior and exterior floors and walls without the need for stains, waxes, sealants, or coatings. NewStone employs a new technology that allows slabs to be formed into right angle curves without seams or grout lines.

• Inalco (Booth 2616) will debut the Oppalo series, available in such fresh colors as Naranja (orange), Verde (green), Frambuesa (raspberry) and Azul (blue). Each color features a lighter and darker version, which mix nicely with its complementary lines of crystal borders.

• Iris Group (Booth 3205) will be launching MA.DE (Materials and Design), a contemporary series that includes three distinct textures: a three-dimensional waffle-grid structure; a rattan pattern; and, a smooth sleek metallic.

• Lea Ceramiche (Booth 4640) is adding the Studies line to its extensive portfolio. Developed by Diego Grandi, Elle Decor Italia’s Young Designer of the Year, Studies is sandblased tile. Included in the series are such fresh patterns as Scratch, Seed, Route, Knit, Plan, Grid and Outline.

• Oceanside Glass Tile (Booth 3222), a world leader in the design and production of handcrafted luxury glass tile, will debut Facets®, a new line of intricately detailed borders and field tile patterns features gem-like mini glass tiles as small as ½ inch square.

• Florim Cermiche S.P.A. (Booth 5006) will showcase the Ma Touche Collection of fine porcelain stoneware offered in four faux textures imitating leather, elephant and crocodile skin, and three colorways: Ivoire, Tabac and Charbon.

• Roca (Booth 1035) will feature the Norway series. This porcelain tile, available in six colorways, can be combined to create unique effects. A wide range of decorative inserts also is part of the collection.

• Venus (Booth 2400) will introduce Medusa to its existing Scandal Touch Collection. The leopard-inspired tile, available in Red Amour, Brown Hypnotic and Blue Feeling, complements other lines in the existing Venus collection, including Decor, Idol and Oh La La.

Making Coverings navigable

Coverings can overwhelm. It occupies every inch of the 505,000 net square feet of exhibit space at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, filling it to the rafters with individual displays and pavilions of ceramic tile, natural stone and relevant ancillary products and services—machinery and tools, grouts and adhesives, installation and cleaning supplies, to name a few. The number of vendors totals close to 1,200 representing some 56 countries on six continents. Factor in the 75 free and accredited educational workshops, conferences and seminars that are scheduled throughout each of the days, April 4-7, and it adds up to a tremendous number of business opportunities to be explored for any one of the 32,000 professionals who attends.

This year, however, the show has been made more manageable by connecting buyers to sellers with the Coverings Matchmaking Service, a user-friendly online program that lets an attendee search for exhibitors of interest by product or service. Accessible year-round,, can generate a personalized “must see” list of exhibits to have in hand upon arrival at the show. Visit to get started!

CTDA’s Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson!
March 1st, 2006


March-April 2006

The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) reaches another milestone in its 27 year history of maintaining a strong industry with the launch of the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program! Through the CCTS program, companies can gain prestige, professional recognition, expanded knowledge and increased customer satisfaction through documented sales competence. It’s the first and only certification program specifically designed by and for ceramic tile salespeople!

Developed by professional ceramic tile sales experts with the assistance of Southern Illinois University (SIU), the CCTS program covers the necessary skill sets to meet customers growing demands.

The benefits are significant:

• Increase professionalism

• Promote focus on product features and benefits

• Increase employee pride

• Provide a competitive edge

• Increase profits

• Establish the CTDA as an important standard-setting body for professional competence in the ceramic tile industry.

SIU’s Department of Workforce Education and Development (WED) is one of the largest workforce-related professional development preparation agencies in the United States , and offers undergraduate and graduate preparation through the master’s and doctoral degrees.

Pilot testing will be held April 3, 2006 at 3 p.m. EST and April 4, 5, 6, 2006 at 7:30 am EST at the Orange County Convention Center . Those people who take the pilot test will be given complimentary registrations to the formal certification testing that will begin in November of 2006 at the CTDA Management Conference in Ft. Lauderdale , Florida .

For more information or to register for the pilot testing, contact the association at 630-545-9415.

Industry Insights
March 1st, 2006


March-April 2006

CTaSC Announces Winners of U.S. Stone Survey Contest

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, LLC (CTaSC), a national company providing marketing research and business planning services, announced that Bob Traxler, president of Arizona Tile, Phoenix , AZ and Larry Mattero, general manager of Marble Crafters Inc., Trainer, PA, are the winners of Apple iPod nanos for their participation in the recent U.S. Stone Survey. The winners were randomly chosen from a record number of industry members that completed the U.S. Stone Survey that was conducted last fall by CTaSC. Over 2,000 manufacturers, quarries, exporters, importers, distributors, fabricators and retailers were invited to take the stone survey developed by CTaSC using progressive online technology that ensured the confidentiality. Each person who completed the survey will receive a free summary of the survey results. Importers, distributors and retailers were quizzed on the types of stone they carry, slab and tile sizes, sales by type of customers and sales by types of applications. Fabricators were asked to answer questions about their fabrication business, including shop size, equipment brands and value, purchase and selling price of stone, annual sales, and types of products and stone that are fabricated. Each group was asked to indicate their business performance during 2005 and their forecast for next year. Donato Pompo, owner of CTaSC, underscored the importance of the information gathered from the survey by stating, “In-depth information about the stone industry is very hard to come by.” Pompo cited the difficulty in pinpointing the amount of slab versus tile sold in the U.S. since much of imported stone is not clearly differentiated by size when it enters the country, so the survey allows CTaSC to extrapolate that information. CTaSC’s partner, Catalina Research, a prominent research firm for the tile and stone industries, will incorporate the stone survey findings into the 2006 Stone Study that will be released in early February. For information, contact CTaSC at

Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council appoints new Consultant

The Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Kurt von Koss as Consultant. Kurt has 26 years of tile industry experience. The Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council was formed in 1958 to promote ceramic tile, related products and proper installation methods to the professional design community for the Detroit Ceramic Tile Contractors Association. Kurt replaces Mr. Robert Hund who guided the council since 1963.


LATICRETE’s North American division is proud to announce that its salesperson, Ron Nash, was unanimously selected by officials at Inland Northwest Distributing as Outstanding Vendor Sales Representative for 2005. Based in Utah , Nash’s territory includes Utah , Wyoming , Idaho , Montana and eastern parts of Washington State . In 2005, his territory returned a remarkable increase in sales above last year’s totals.

Nash credits tremendous support from LATICRETE, and his regional sales manager Matt Sparkman, as well as Northwest’s dedicated team of sales representatives for enabling him to meet and exceed his goals for 2005. “I partner with my customer’s sales representatives,” Nash said, “I go as far as I can to meet their needs.” Nash combines a great understanding of Inland Northwest and LATICRETE’s business objectives with the will to rise above the “call of duty” to help achieve sales goals. His work ethic, product knowledge and enthusiasm set him apart in an ultra-competitive industry. “The effort that (Nash) puts forward and his absolute focus and dedication to the end result are amazing,” said Gary Verhey, President of Inland Northwest Distributing.

Joe Renzetti Joins Specialty Construction Brands

Joe Renzetti has been named president and general manager at Specialty Construction Brands (SCB), the manufacturer of TEC® brands. Renzetti was previously general manager of Adalis, a global consulting firm that serves the consumer packaging, wood panel and corrugated manufacturing industries. Under his strategic guidance, Adalis extended its reach by redefining its brand and service offering. SCB and Adalis are both in the H.B. Fuller Company’s Full-Valu and Specialty Group. Renzetti has held multiple positions with H.B. Fuller since joining the company in 1994 after serving as an officer in the U.S. Army. A native of Virginia , he holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and history from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in management from Purdue University .



The Tile Council of North America, Inc. (TCNA) Product Performance Testing Laboratory is meeting increased demand for product testing by expanding its facility, purchasing equipment, and adding staff. “Over the past six years, we have seen a steady increase in the demand for our testing services,” said Eric Astrachan, the TCNA Executive Director. “In part, this is due to the growth of new materials coming on the market, and in part, due to our expanding client base.”

“We expect the demand for product performance data will continue to grow. To meet this demand, we expanded the testing area, purchased a new Instron machine, and hired Dr. Virgil (Sonny) Irick as Senior Laboratory Manager,” remarked Noah Chitty, Director of Product Standards and Laboratory Services. “We are now evaluating additional equipment to provide further services for the tile industry,” said Mr. Astrachan. “New ISO standards and future changes in the A137.1 standard will require additional test equipment.”

MIA installation video demos thin-set method

A major new training video that provides a comprehensive overview of how to measure, prepare the surface and install natural stone with the thin-set method has been produced by the Marble Institute of America (MIA) as part of its continuing educational video series. This video was sponsored by Walker Zanger, one of the industry’s most prestigious companies. Called “Basics of Natural Stone Flooring Installation: Thin-Set Method,” a major focus of the program is proper substrate preparation, without which there is a high probability of failure. It also covers measuring, preparing a grid, installing the stone tile and applying grout. “We are pleased to be working with the Marble Institute of America on its expanding program to provide quality video training programming for the natural stone industry,” said Jonathan Zanger, president of Walker Zanger. “We believe that when there is consistency of quality throughout the marketplace, it eventually benefits the entire industry. The only way to achieve it is through continuing education.” Two industry veterans collaborated with MIA’s video production team to create the program. They included Ralph Williamson, Ceramic Tile Consulting of Arizona, Inc. of Phoenix , Arizona , a leading consultant on stone floor installations, and Kevin Padden, KM Padden, of Pinal County , Arizona . “We expect the new training program will have wide usage throughout the industry and hope it will help raise the level of professionalism and quality in the industry. We are extremely pleased to have Walker Zanger’s sponsorship for this important element in MIA’s continuing series of training programs,” said Ken Krebs, the 2006 president of MIA.

Installer Update: Mosaics – Beautiful, Practical and Sometimes Challenging
March 1st, 2006

By Rachel Gibbons

March-April 2006

Mosaic tile patterns are a beautiful, practical art form that can be installed in commercial and residential applications ranging from kitchens to swimming pools.

Although mosaics can pose installation challenges, installers shouldn’t be intimidated. The path to successful mosaic projects takes education, practice and knowing where to find help.

A bit of background

An art form that dates back thousands of years, mosaics are intricate designs or patterns made up of small tiles or pieces of material that are thinner than conventional tiles. Commonly used materials include ceramic, porcelain, glass and stone.

While the traditional piece-by-piece fabrication of mosaic designs still occurs, most designs are mounted on paper or mesh fabric sheets (often 12-by-12-inches or 24-by-12-inches) for faster installation. The mosaic material may be face-mounted (often paper), clear film-faced (plastic adhesive film) or back- and edge-mounted (mesh fabric, perforated paper, resin, polyurethane or other mounting material).

Installation challenges largely stem from the nature of mosaics. Because the individual tiles are so small, it doesn’t take much to interfere with the adhesive bond between the mosaic sheet and the substrate. For example, mesh fabric back-mounted material can prevent the mortar from properly adhering to the substrate. The small tiles can also be pulled loose from the wet mortar as the face-mounted material is removed.

Understanding installation materials

Each type of material used in mosaics has different properties. Therefore, it’s important to remember how each mosaic material reacts with installation materials. Here are some examples:

Porcelain: Because it’s an impervious material, porcelain ceramic tile requires a high degree of bond strength. A latex-modified thinset mortar (that meets or exceeds ANSI A118.4) or a new mortar type, called performance mortar, provides the necessary bond strength to successfully install porcelain mosaics. Unglazed ceramic tile is more porous and can be installed with several types of mortars, including performance mortar or latex-modified mortar.

Glass: Also an impervious material, glass requires a high degree of bond strength. A latex-modified thinset mortar that meets or exceeds ANSI A118.4 is recommended to bond glass mosaics. However, it’s up to the project specifier and the installer to confirm with the mortar manufacturer and the glass mosaic manufacturer that the installation product being considered is right for the job.

Another point to keep in mind: White mortar provides a consistent appearance and is generally recommended for glass tile mosaics. Gray mortar can darken the look of glass and might not be suitable for some glass tiles.

Natural stone: Higher density stone varieties, such as granite or marble, are often used in mosaic designs because it’s important for the small tiles not to flake or chip after installation.

While a portland cement mortar may be used to install stone mosaics, latex-modified thinset mortars provide flexibility that allows a secure bond with higher density stone varieties. All stone types require 100 percent coverage of the bonding material to achieve a successful bond.

Performance mortars are formulated to adequately cover many stone types while delivering bond strength. For mosaic wall applications, some performance mortars have non-sag characteristics that support sheets weighing up to 6 lbs. per square foot without the use of bracing. Performance mortars are not recommended for installing mosaics made with green marble or other types of moisture sensitive stone.

A word about grout

Unsanded grout is generally recommended for the narrow (1/8 inch or less) joints found in most mosaics. Unsanded grout also won’t scratch the surface of glass, stone or porcelain tiles.

An acrylic grout additive should be considered for grout used in mosaic installations that may be subject to expansion and contraction from exposure to the sun and/or freeze-thaw conditions. Grout additive is not recommended for natural stone tile.

Installation methods

A key consideration to successfully installing mosaics is to match the installation method with the type of mosaic being installed and the substrate.

Three basic installation methods—direct bond, backbuttering and conventional wet set—are described here. It’s best to consult with the mosaic manufacturer for specific installation recommendations.

Direct bond: In the direct bond method, the mosaic is bonded directly to the substrate (such as cured concrete) with a bonding material, like a latex-modified mortar or a performance mortar.

Extra care should be taken to apply a uniform amount of mortar under the tiles and then flatten the ridges with the smooth edge of the trowel. This will help prevent the mortar from filling the grout joints. After the mosaic sheet is applied, a beating block and hammer are used to bed the mosaic into the fresh mortar.

If the mosaic sheet is face-mounted, the paper facing material can then be dampened with a sponge and peeled away. Any loose tiles should be immediately pressed back into place. The mosaic can be grouted after the mortar has cured (approximately 24 hours). If the facing is plastic, it’s recommended to wait at least 24 hours before removal. The mosaic can then be grouted right away.

Backbuttering: Backbuttering involves applying a thin coating of mortar to the back of the mosaic sheet to help ensure adequate coverage. This is done in addition to spreading a layer of mortar on the substrate. Backbuttering may be necessary when installing back-mounted mosaic sheets. This is because the mesh fabric that holds the tiles together can interfere with the mosaic sheet achieving a good bond with the substrate.

Conventional wet set: In the conventional wet set method, a slurry, or bond coat, consisting of sand, cement and lime, is applied to an uncured, still-workable concrete substrate. The mosaic sheets are then installed on top of the bond coat. Any face-mounted paper can be dampened and removed. The installation can be grouted after the bond coat has cured.

In addition to the three common installation methods, some types of glass mosaics may be installed by using a “one-step” technique. This calls for mixing a premium unsanded grout with an acrylic mortar additive, which provides adhesion and flexibility. By backbuttering the mixture to the mosaic sheet, the installer pre-fills the grout joints. The paper facing on the glass mosaic sheets is removed after the mixture cures (typically 24 hours).

Because sanded grout will scratch the glass, unsanded grout must be used in the “one-step” technique. Colored grout may be used to add variety to the installed mosaic.

Avoiding problems

Common installation problems with mosaics include bond failure and unsightly mortar ridges. Here is a brief overview of these problems and solutions:

Bond failure. Most bond failure of mosaic sheets stems from one or both of these factors: 1.) The bond strength is inadequate for the type of tile; 2.) The mortar coverage is insufficient to bond the mosaic sheet to the substrate.

To ensure that a mortar has adequate bond strength (particularly for impervious materials, such as glass and porcelain), consult with the mosaic manufacturer before beginning installation. To ensure sufficient mortar coverage, consider using the backbuttering method, particularly for back-mounted mosaics with unique mounting materials, such as mesh fiber, resin, polyurethane, etc. Consult with the mosaic manufacturer regarding specific installation recommendations.

Also be aware that contaminants on the substrate, such as dust, paint or seals can cause bond failure if not removed prior to installation and that substrate movement can affect the bonding of mosaics.

Unsightly mortar ridges. This problem occurs when troweled mortar ridges are visible through the clear or translucent mosaics. It can be avoided by flattening out the ridges before setting the mosaic sheets or by using the backbuttering method.

In addition, some glass tile used in mosaics is sensitive to the high alkalinity of mortar. This may result in the glass becoming discolored and/or the installation losing its adhesive bond.To prevent this problem, consult with the mosaic manufacturer to learn which mortars are compatible with the glass.

Using resources

Mosaic tile manufacturers and installation product manufacturers are excellent starting points for mosaic installation advice. Other industry resources include the Marble Institute of America, the Tile Council of North America and the Ceramic Tile Institute of America.

Rachel Gibbons manages the TEC brand of tile and stone installation systems. For more information, see

Mosaics Choices in stone & ceramic
March 1st, 2006


By Jeffrey Steele

March-April 2006

How long have mosaics been around? The simplest answer would be just about forever. Pieces of colored stone, glass and enamel decorated furniture and architectural detailing in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Small pebbles were used as mosaics in Greece as early as the fourth century. And columns and fountains amid the ruins of Pompeii are adorned with glass mosaics.

As the saying goes, everything old is new again, and that’s particularly true of mosaics. Today mosaic tile is as big—or bigger—than ever. Ceramic, natural stone and particularly glass mosaic tiles are increasingly favored as ways to provide fresh and vibrant looks throughout residential and commercial settings. They are used as accents to other tile and hard surfaces, in kitchens, exterior walls, in landscape design and particularly throughout upscale bathrooms.

Mosaic tiles refer to a tile product 3-by-3 inches or smaller, says Donato Pompo, owner of San Diego’s Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants. Pompo’s firm provides the tile industry with consulting services that include forensic investigations of ceramic tile and stone failures, installation specifications and qualifying suitability of products for applications, and live training, marketing and business planning through its University of Ceramic Tile and Stone.

For years, the most popular mosaic tiles were glazed porcelain or vitreous mosaics, which were and still are used as water line features in swimming pools, Pompo says. These products are less often seen in residential settings today due to glass mosaics’ increasing popularity. Glass mosaics come in a variety of colors, textures and shapes ranging from square or rectangular to those with radius or curved edges. They are chiefly imported, but some are made domestically.

“The originals were the Venetian glass mosaics that have been around for centuries,” Pompo says. “About 10 years ago we started seeing glass liners, used as accents within ceramic tile installations. As the popularity of accents in installations grew, the glass offerings became broader, and glass tiles were offered for the whole installation. They started off with relatively small sizes, and today have glass tiles that go up to a square foot in size.”

By contrast, unglazed mosaics are familiar to anyone who has ever entered a gymnasium, YMCA or fitness club shower, locker room, bathroom or similar wet room, Pompo says. Frequently, custom designs incorporating logos or accents are created using these mosaics. Because it’s an unglazed product surrounded by grout joints, it’s not only durable and wears well, but offers the kind of slip resistance a commercial pool or fitness center demands, he adds.

Wall and floor patterns and full-sized murals depicting an image or logo can be created using mosaics. And unlike the dots of old dot-matrix printers, which earned the disdain of early computer users because of their poor reproduction, tiny mosaics can be blended to create a representation of an image that closely resembles the original from a distance, Pompo says. “You can do logos, geometric-type designs, and that takes it into the realm of artwork,” he notes. Glass mosaics are best suited to this use, because they provide a full spectrum of colors.

Labor-intensive installation

Because of their small size, mosaics would demand a cost-prohibitive amount of labor if they were mounted one at a time. That’s particularly true of mosaics being woven into special patterns or accents. Instead of being mounted individually, they are mounted sheets at a time.

The mounting is undertaken using one of three popular methods:

• Face mounting. In this technique, paper is glued to the front of the tile with a water soluble glue. That leaves the back exposed for full contact with the setting bed, Pompo explains.

• Back mounting. Here, webbing material is glued to the back of the tile, leaving voids within the webbing that allow the tile to attach to the setting bed. “The back mounted means can be problematic, because the backing or glue can act as a barrier, not allowing the tile to properly attach to the setting bed,” Pompo reports. “Also, some of these backings can be water sensitive, resulting in them not being recommended for wet areas.”

• Side mounting. Also known as dot mounting, this method attaches glue to the four corners of the tile intersection. These dots keep the tiles in place, allowing them to be installed in large sheets to increase the productivity of the mosaic setter.

Of the three ways of mounting mosaics, the back mounting method is the most commonly used but also the most prone to problems, Pompo says. However, its popularity continues, largely because the technique makes mosaics easier to install and provides more adjustability.

Glass mosaics that create images are installed using sheets of numbered tile corresponding to numbers on the artist’s rendering of the image. Installers set in place that numbered pattern in accordance with the artist’s determination of where those colors and shapes should be.

The Stone Age

In the last 5 or 10 years, stone has become available in mosaic form. “You can create custom patterns using different colors and types of stone,” Pompo says. “They’re actually being provided in historic patterns taken from the ancient Greeks and Romans. They replicate them, create liners, and these liners tend to be more geometric combinations of shapes and colors. They’re back mounted on sheets and installed as liners to accent ceramic tile and stone installations. That’s become very popular, and it’s a more expensive option.”

This, he notes, is another indication of just how far technological advancements in stone cutting have come. Sizes vary from square to rectangle, and can be as small as half-inch square to 3-by-3-inches in size.

Some stone mosaics are offered in polished form and used as accents, while others feature honed surfaces, allowing them to be utilized in shower floors for slip resistance. Honed stone mosaics are also used in areas requiring more durable surfaces. In such areas, some polished mosaic tiles can wear down and reveal traffic patterns, Pompo says.

As for the types of stone used in mosaics, low-priced and readily available travertine is particularly popular. “But all kinds of marble is being provided in mosaics as well,” Pompo says. “You don’t see as much granite, partly because granite is much more expensive to cut and tends to chip. So the stones that are softer than granite tend to be more suitable for mosaics.”

Mosaics Today

When Ashland, Oregon-based Hakatai Enterprises began importing glass mosaic tiles in 1997, they were sold mainly for use in kitchen backsplashes, tub surrounds and bathroom floors, says company sales and marketing manager Ann-Britt Malden. In commercial settings, glass mosaic tiles were added to shower walls as well as restaurant accent walls.

But as designers and architects embraced the glass mosaic tile trend, residential and commercial applications grew almost exponentially. “Today, glass tile is used residentially to tile entire bathrooms, including showers, spas, walls, floors and vanity tops, as well as larger portions of the kitchen,” Malden notes. “As our glass tile lines continue to expand, with colors ranging from bold citruses and striking iridescents to natural hues and minimalist whites, glass tile becomes more and more versatile to design with.”

For instance, architects and designers are utilizing Hakatai’s online design tools to create and order their own unique mosaic blends and gradients, which bring distinctive style to such commercial settings as clothing stories, supermarkets, casinos and hotels. Custom blends and gradients are particularly popular for use in restaurant walls and bathrooms, Malden adds.

Hakatai offers a wide variety of sheet-mounted glass mosaic tile ranging from 9/16-inch square to 2-inches square. The company also makes loose tile available to mosaic artists. Newer products include the iridescent Fantastix Series of 9/16-by-9/16-inch mosaic tile in 42 colors, and the Aventurine glass tile series of ¾-by-¾-inch mosaics in 25 transparent, gold-laced colors and blends introduced at the 2006 Surfaces show. In addition, Hakatai’s Ashland Series of 1-by-1-inch tile has been expanded to include an array of iridescent colors and standard blends.

“Finally, we continue to add new Custom Design Tools to the Web site so anyone from a homeowner to an architect can create, price and order their own designs online,” Malden reports.

By accessing custom blend and gradient tools, customers can select desired colors and create personalized designs. The lead time for custom work is two to four weeks from the time Hakatai receives a 50 percent deposit. Prices for in-house custom designs are slightly higher.

Asked what popular trends she’s seeing, Malden lists custom blends, glass tile gradients in showers, iridescent tile, organic hues, bold and vibrant hues, and glass tile accenting wood, steel and stone. In addition, she says, abstract murals on commercial exterior walls, glass tile in landscape design and glass tile in salons and spas are all widely-popular trends.

A favorite provider of mosaic tiles is Valencia, Spain-based Vetro Mosaico, which manufacturers glass mosaics and tile. Its Los Angeles office is an importer of stainless steel mosaics, glass tile and glass mosaics, says manager Marcel Wilhelm. The company offers mosaic tiles in three sizes: 3/8-by-3/8-inch, ¾-by-¾-inch and 1-by-1-inch.

Among the most important trends he’s witnessing is the move toward brick pattern or multi-colored sheets, Wilhelm says. “People are getting away from the one-color wall and going to multi-colored mosaics,” he says. “They’re going into miniature subway brick. Subway tunnel platform areas once had subway brick, and that’s where that term came from. Now the new style is the 1-by-2-inch, staggered pattern. They also come on sheets of 12-by-12-inch.”

Like Hakatai, Vetro Mosaico prides itself on its ability to handle custom blends. Customers can indicate desired percentages of colors—for example, 20 percent white, 10 percent black and 50 percent purple—and Vetro Mosaico can create the color in its warehouse.

“Custom blends can be turned around fairly quickly,” Wilhelm adds. “It’s done in-house here in Los Angeles. It’s not a matter of waiting six to eight weeks to import. Most of the colors are in stock right here in Los Angeles.”

Though mosaic tile comprises a comparatively small percentage of its sales, mosaics are still a key part of the product mix at Lakeland, Florida-based Florida Tile (, says vice-president of marketing Jim Cuthbertson.

“It’s a very important design element,” he reports, noting Florida Tile offers 2-by-2-inch rhomboids, 1-by-1-inch rhomboids and square mosaics in standard sizes.

Florida Tile offers glass mosaics under its VitraArt Series, as well as a wide assortment of natural stone mosaic tiles under its PietraArt Series, which includes mosaics of various sizes and shapes in travertine, limestone and slate. The latter series represents Florida Tile’s effort to capture the growing market for natural stone mosaic tile, which Cuthbertson says is expanding.

Because they are so adaptable to so many uses, Cuthbertson isn’t surprised by the growth of mosaic tiles. “They’re very versatile; you can do a lot with them,” he says. “They can be used on bathroom floors, kitchen backsplashes, in the dining room, living room and kitchen floors. Any area of the house where natural stone or tile products are used, a complementary decorative mosaic can also be part of that installation.”



Jim Cuthbertson
Vice-President of Marketing
Florida Tile, Lakeland , FL
863-284-4049, ext.5049

Ann-Britt Malden
Director of Marketing and Sales
Hakatai Enterprises, Ashland , OR

Donato Pompo
Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants,
San Diego

Marcel Wilhelm
Vetro Mosaico, Los Angeles

Information on history of mosaics:

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