Coverings – The Ultimate Tile & Stone Experience
January 1st, 2006

April 4-7, 2006
Orlando, Florida USA

From April 4-7, 2006, more than 32,000 attendees will gather at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL and view a wide array of tile and stone products representing 1,200 exhibitors from around the globe.

Winners of the SPECTRUM and PRISM Stone in Architecture Awards, celebrating the most creative and amazing uses in tile and stone design, will be presented with prize money totaling $37,000.

Retail anthropologist and noted author Paco Underhill’s keynote is “Why We Shop,” examining consumer behavior in today’s marketplace.

Over 70 accredited educational sessions will be available on a myriad of topics including consumer buying trends, innovative installation techniques, the latest tile and stone materials, adding to existing product lines, inspiration for upcoming projects, managing your showroom, strategies for running a successful business and much more.

Retail Anthropologist Paco Underhill

How does consumer purchasing behavior influence the tile and stone industry? How has online retailing affected your business? These are just a few questions which Coverings 2006 attendees will have answered by keynote speaker Paco Underhill, retail anthropologist and author of the best-selling book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” His presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, 8:30 a.m., at the Opening Session of Coverings 2006, the premier international trade show dedicated to tile and natural stone which will take place at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida, USA.

“Paco’s insight into the psyche of consumers and their buying habits promises to provide a compelling and provocative start to Coverings 2006,” said Tamara Christian, president, National Trade Productions and Coverings show director. “He will empower attendees with new tools and wisdom on how to improve business, no matter if they’re fabricators, distributors, retailers, showroom dealers, installers or designers.”

For the past 20 years, Underhill has obsessively studied the science of shopping. A renowned speaker, he is the founding and managing director of Envirosell, a New York-based market research and consulting company, working with such clients as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Hewlett-Packard, Toro and Armstrong.

His keynote is part of Coverings’ commitment to offer a comprehensive educational program for the 32,000 tile and stone professionals who attend annually. In fact, over the course of the four-day show, more than 70 free accredited continuing education and live demonstration sessions are conducted for all of the various tile and stone industry constituencies.

Organizations sponsoring Coverings 2006 include ASCER ( Spain’s Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association), Assopiastrelle (Association of Italian Ceramic Tile and Refractories Manufacturers), CTDA (Ceramic Tile Distributors Association), NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association) and TCNA (Tile Council of North America).

Coverings is also co-sponsored by the Marble Institute of America, American Institute of Architects (Orlando Chapter), The American Society of Interior Designers (Florida North, Florida South and Florida West Coast), International Interior Design Association (Florida Chapter), the Terrazzo Tile and Marble Association of Canada, the Tile Contractors’ Association of America and the Tile Heritage Foundation.

Coverings, the premier international trade fair and expo dedicated exclusively to showcasing the newest in tile and natural stone, has grown to be the largest and most important show of its kind. Coverings features 1,200 exhibitors from more than 50 countries and attracts more than 32,000 distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors and specifiers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers, plus the press and journalists who cover this vital and growing industry. Coverings is the stage for introducing some of the most innovative products in the world related to tile and stone. The exposition also serves as a valuable resource for continuing education for all categories of attendees, with informative, accredited seminars and live demonstration sessions conducted throughout the four days.


Two dozen seminar programs tailored exclusively to tile and stone contractors and installers will be presented at Coverings 2006. Sessions are designed to help these professionals gain the insight and leadership necessary to grow their businesses and will include topics such as techniques for installing a mud floor; how to prevent mold, cracking, buckling and other controversial construction issues; and, how to conquer common challenges with everyday installation materials.

“Coverings’ educational sessions are valued by installers for the quality of content and caliber of expert presenters,” said Tamara Christian, president, National Trade Productions and show director for Coverings, the premier international trade show dedicated to tile and natural stone.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) is a sponsor of Coverings and was instrumental in the development of the seminar program. “We have tried to expose the attendees to a wide variety of topics, incorporating updated standards and methods and new technology,” stated Bart Bettiga, executive director, NTCA.

In addition to the free educational sessions, many of which offer ASID, AIA, or State of Florida Continuing Education Credits, other value-added instructional programming will be conducted directly on the show floor. On the schedule are a live contractors’ workshop, plus demonstrations such as the layout and installation of a ceramic tile floor, installation of a heated floor, and waterproofing steam room walls.

Installer Update: The Ins and Outs of Grout
January 1st, 2006


By Dave Gobis
Our favorite installation guru comes clean about grout. This what you need to know.

January-February 2006

Next to ceramic tile shade variation—which is inherent to all fired clay products—the largest, single customer complaint related to ceramic tile installation issues is grout.

Is it inherent also? To a degree, yes. Is it a valid problem relative to complaints received? NO!

Grout complaints in one form or the other are and have been the number one complaint from consumers and end users relative to installation as long as I have been in the business. This does not have to be an issue any more than the shade variation of ceramic tile when properly addressed. During the course of my years as a retailer and contractor I can say that in the sale of 10’s of millions of dollars in installed products, our complaints relative to grout shading can be counted on two hands. In dollar value, the loss was quite minimal. In 28 years we only once had to actually take corrective action. Bragging? Not at all. Our secret was that both our sales and installation staffs were properly trained and could read instructions.

The first step to happy customers and end users is the proper presentation of the product. This should include the same warranty as every ceramic tile sale: the color will vary; it is a promise and the only guarantee possible. Grout, with rare exception, will not perfectly match the sample. There are numerous reasons for grout color variation in both the installation and environmental areas. Those from a manufacturing side are few and far between.

From a sales perspective as a tile dealer, you are presenting a product for user approval under a specific set of conditions. If you are selling off of chip sets, you are showing a product that will in all likelihood be darker than the installed product. The short explanation is these samples are made in aluminum or plastic channels. These channels prevent the moisture from rapidly drying out. This slow drying time results in more intense color.

Several manufacturers also offer liquid latex additives in lieu of or addition to dry polymer formulations, another variation. The chip sets typically use latex additive if available. Most manufacturers realizing the futility of the perfect chip set for grout have gone to printed color samples. When it comes to printing, the limitations of ink and paper relative to variations in pigment, sand, and cement should be apparent to the professional. Installation environment as a whole is a big variable. To the consumer this is not the case; they expect it to look exactly like the sample. If you do not educate the consumer about these limitations during the sales process, you can be assured of receiving numerous complaints.

After the selection and sale there are numerous other items which can affect shading before the installer ever opens the bag. This list includes:

• Overglazed edges on the tile. This is a common practice done intentionally by some European manufacturers where the exposed edge is used as trim.

• Glaze on self-spacing lugs in wall tile.

• Porosity of the tile body. Impervious tile (porcelain) prevents the rapid absorption of water versus a wall tile which will readily absorb moisture.

• Dye lots. Grout manufacturers use multiple locations and blend numerous different colors during the normal course of production. Always check the dye lot. On larger jobs you should blend bags dry to achieve the greatest color consistency.

• Clean buckets and good potable water. The need for clean buckets should be self explanatory. Clean water can be hard to come by on construction sites with new wells. High amounts of chemicals, good or bad, can cause problems.

• Low speed mixing drill. Too much air results in weak grout. If you’re using a 3/8 drill, you are mixing too fast. Depending on the manufacturer, the range can be 100 to 300 RPM. (Yes, manufacturer recommendations vary.)

• Proper mixing and slake time are a much bigger issue than most can imagine.

Those are some considerations before we even mix the grout. Now that we are seemingly ready, but before we pour water or latex in the pail and add grout powder, a whole new set of installer controlled variables evolves.

• If a light-colored grout is to be used, hopefully the tile was installed with white thinset.

• The joints should be clean and free of debris including the construction dust typical of most job sites.

• The thinset in the joints should be of uniform thickness. Troweling parallel to the tile and positioning the next piece directly next to the previously installed tile makes this much simpler to achieve.

• The tile should be wiped down with a damp mop or sponge. Moistening the surface prior to installation goes a long way towards easier cleanup. Otherwise the tile surface’s first exposure to moisture will be the moisture in the pigmented grout. This is not a good idea.

• Tile setters do not own fans. Cement must cure at its own pace. Fans cause rapid loss of water resulting in light and weak grout.

• Caulk all movement joints and inside corners prior to grouting. In wet and exterior applications a sealant should be used.

Then there are those environmental concerns.

• Temperature should be consistent through the initial curing cycle to avoid mottling.

• There should be no exposure to direct sunlight. Heat accelerates the curing cycle and causes lighter color and weak grout.

• The installation area should be clean and free of dust and traffic. Gypsum dust is particularly miserable to remove.

• If the floor is going to be covered to protect it from traffic, it is all or nothing. Paper in the traffic areas or a box placed on the floor and left overnight somehow always results in the right color by damp curing the floor.

Now we are ready to mix!

Mixing offers a new set of variables. For some reason the low man on the totem pole seems to get the job of grouting. In Union Trades this job is called finishing. The pay scale is typically pennies below that of a setter, and the setter has a much larger tool investment. Proper grouting takes a fair amount of skill and understanding of the products. Assuming the tile has been properly installed, the person doing this job will give the consumer great pleasure in achieving their vision and providing a lifetime of easy maintenance. If the installer lacks the skills required, the customer will be presented with mottled, low, soft grout joints causing a lifetime of grief.

There is no substitute for the skill required to achieve proper joint filling, depth, and color. The lack of required skills is apparent to those of us on the technical end by the calls and emails we receive every day—and I mean every day. This is where things usually go sour.

By far the most common cause of grout complaints is excessive water. This can be either in the mixing process or clean-up. Proper drill speed and water ratio are very important to the thoroughly mixed product. Excessive speed results in too much air, causing pinholes, color loss, low compressive strength (powdery joints), and very little working time. The slower the better. Most of the water used in cement products is called “water of convenience”—that is, what is required to get it out of the bucket, on the floor, and in the joints in a reasonable manner. For the untrained installer, more water is more convenience. Why push that grout float and get a sore arm when we can almost pour it in the joints? Excessive shrinkage, poor strength (powdery), and mottled colors are the reasons why.

There is no corrective measure for poorly installed grout short of removal, though some may choose to argue. Repair will only mask the effects of a poor grout job. Grout floats are a very important tool, not only to compact the material into the joint but to clean the excess as well. There should be very little material remaining on the surface of the tile; this especially includes materials with surface variation. A good quality grout float is a little more expensive, but well worth the investment in time savings and job well performed. We prove this almost every week in our training courses. A good grout float will clean nearly all the residue off the face of the tile when used as a squeegee. Less grout on the tile, means less scrubbing and less water.

Water cleanup is the top reason for complaints on grout, period. I think we started using sponges in the early stages of the various latex and polymer formulations used in grout. I avoid using a sponge to clean a floor whenever possible. Yes, that is what I said—no sponge—and I still grout every week. There are times when a sponge in the cleaning process is necessary, such as a cold floor, a very sticky grout, unglazed tile or epoxy grout. The driest grouting clean-up method possible will result in the best performance and highest customer satisfaction for color and joint uniformity.

One method I use is called dry grouting. In this method once the grout has had a time to reach an initial set, meaning your finger can no longer compress the joint, it is time to begin cleanup. The first step is to “strike” the joint with an appropriate radius piece of wood. I have used everything from a closet pole to a Popsicle stick. This compacts the grout into a denser joint and leaves a perfectly uniform joint depth. Next, use a broom to lightly remove the excess material. Now you are ready to remove the remaining haze using either cheesecloth or my favorite, burlap. Using this method when possible results in uniform color and joint depth. It is also faster, easier, and better than sponge methods. There is no “final cleanup”.

If a sponge is used in cleanup the grout should also be firm in the joint. This may take anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour, or longer. Getting back on the floor prematurely in the cleaning process will cause the joints to become low because the material is readily removed in this very soft state. The pigment used in many grouts is a powder with a consistency of talc and can easily be removed by excessive water or premature clean-up. When using a wet method, wring the sponge out as dry as possible, taking one pass to “shape” the joints, followed by rinsing and wringing out the sponge for the cleaning pass. Any remaining haze can be easily removed with a dry towel or cheese cloth.

There are many variations on wet cleaning of floors using towels, blankets, grout pails, even power sponges. In my opinion this part of the grouting process results in the greatest amount of complaints. These problems are easily avoided by not getting back on the floor too early in the initial drying process.

Since early on in my current position at CTEF, we have been involved in an ongoing research project with one major setting material manufacturer. Our initial research consisted of going through the numerous controlled variables mentioned in this article such as water use, mixing speed, drill paddles, and air entrainment among others. All were well borne out as factual concerns. On our second round, the chief chemist said he had made some improvements but the mixing time was critical, so we agreed to mix and slake the prescribed amount of time. The results were amazing to us. The stiff grout we had been accustomed to was gone, replaced by a consistency that I can only describe as troweling ball bearings. When we inquired what changes were made, the chemist told us that this was simply the first time we had actually mixed the product for the required amount of time. It seems the manufacturer had timed us at 2 to 3 minutes of mixing time after the lump free consistency had been reached instead of the recommended 5 to 10 minutes. I learned that lesson in spite of my 30-plus years of experience!

There are many new products currently out on the market claiming to be new and improved. There have, in fact, been some proprietary advances in epoxies, polymers, pigment, and aggregates. They do result in more uniform color in the many we have tried. But we have also found that with these new products come new installation techniques and waiting times. Mixing time and clean-up methods have become even more critical than with just good old sand and cement.

Grout is a subject that could no doubt fill a small book given all the products and cleaning variations in use today. This article is not meant to be a definitive look at the rights, wrongs, and how to’s of a complicated subject. However, it does cover the largest areas of concern based on the calls received at the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and the Tile Council of America. Sales people need to better prepare their customers for the inevitable variation from the samples they use. Installers need follow instructions set by the manufacturers to minimize grout complaints. It is much easier and faster on the job over all to install grout correctly than incorrectly.

David M. Gobis, a third-generation tile setter, is the Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. He has been in the trade for over 30 years and owned a successful contracting business for 18 years prior to his current position. Mr. Gobis is a member of the NTCA Technical Committee and ANSI A108, ASTM and TCA Handbook committees. He can be reached at 864-222-2131 or

Grout and Finishing Products Adapt
January 1st, 2006

By Jeffrey Steele

January-February 2006

In today’s tile industry, change comes rapidly. Makers of tile, setting materials and protectant products must adapt swiftly if they are to keep up with evolving consumer preferences.

No group is more aware of this challenge than the makers of grout and finishing products, who are continually striving to introduce new formulations expressly designed for today’s most popular surfaces—including glass, natural stone and large-format tile.

In this product review of grout and finishing materials, TileDealer examines both the tried-and-true, best selling products and the newest entries in the marketplace, spotlighting grouts and finishing materials from a half dozen of the leading companies in the industry.

Same-day Sealing

One of the better known companies in the field of sealers is Corona, Cal.-based Aqua Mix. The company’s founder, Manuel Magallanes, was the first to develop water-based sealers for tile, stone and grout, says Aqua Mix president and CEO Rick Baldini.

Aqua Mix makes scores of products, but is best known for three. The first is Sealer’s Choice Gold, a premium water-based sealer that is natural looking, doesn’t change the look of the stone, tile or grout and is a penetrating impregnator providing maximum stain protection.

The second is Enrich ’n Seal, a 100 percent polymer sealer and enhancer that uses PolyCure technology, and darkens and enhances the stone or tile to which it’s applied. And the third is Grout Colorant, a water-borne epoxy that not only restores or changes the color of sanded, cementitious or epoxy grout, but seals the grout joint, Baldini says.

Among the company’s newer products is Eff-Ex, a non-acidic efflorescence remover that not only removes efflorescence but prevents the reoccurrence of it. Another new product is called Same Day Grout Sealer, and is an aerosol grout sealer that can be used two hours after grouting.

“That’s a big deal,” Baldini says. “Most contractors don’t want to come back the next day. This is the first product that allows them to seal the same day they grout. And it’s convenient because they can stand up and seal their grout joints” using the aerosol spray.

One other new addition to the Aqua Mix line is Cleaning Wipes with Sealer’s Choice, which in addition to cleaning counters leave a little Sealer’s Choice behind. “Not only are you cleaning your counter, but rejuvenating and extending the life of the sealer,” Baldini reports.

When new really is better

Another well-known name in the industry is Custom Building Products, a Seal Beach, Cal., company that offers products of all kinds for tile installation, including surface preparation, setting materials, tile adhesives, grout, thin sets, sealers, cleaners and tools.

Custom has launched more new products in the last 12 months than in any previous year in its history, reports vice-president of marketing Norm Tracy. Newcomers include a lightweight thin set called MegaLite, a self-leveling product called LevelLite, and a tool line called Platinum Tools. One of the company’s most popular and effective products is Prism SureColor, a grout whose consistent color is ideal for today’s increasingly sophisticated and complex tile settings.

Imagine the installation of a countertop featuring a rustic stone like slate, with a wide grout joint, Tracy says. Once the countertop segues into a backsplash, it becomes marble, and features a quarter-inch grout joint. Along that marble is a stripe of mosaic glass tile used as an accent, and featuring a tighter grout joint. The tile setter grouting such an installation would have to use one grout for the tight joints, and another for the marble and slate sections. And the grouts used would cure at different rates, resulting in the problem of “shading.”

With Prism SureColor, there’s no shading. “It’s not reliant on what’s underneath,” Tracy explains. “It’s not reliant on whether the stone or tile is porous or non-porous, and it’s not reliant on whether it’s a narrow or wide grout joint. If you can just mix up one type of grout and go with that, it saves time and effort, and you don’t get callbacks due to shading. It’s good for the tile distributor, because if they carry this grout, they don’t have to carry sanded and non-sanded. They can carry one grout, and it’s good for both applications.”

Custom Building Products offers an exceptionally broad array of grout colors: 30 in Prism SureColor, and 48 in PolyBlend.

A leading manufacturer of specialty sealers, cleaners and polishers for tile, concrete and masonry surfaces is 43-year-old Irvine, Cal.-based Glaze ’N Seal. The company distributes its approximately 40 products through independent tile dealers, masonry yards and building material dealers or retailers. They in turn sell the products primarily to independent tile or masonry contractors and serious do-it-yourselfers, says Glaze ’N Seal president Bert Adams.

“We have a complete line of premium quality sealers, ranging from economical water repellent to very popular wet look film-forming sealers and state-of-the-art impregnators,” Adams says, adding his products are easy to use and resist oil and grease “better than most.”

On the issue of size, he doesn’t see much difference between large or small-format tile.

“In stone, the impregnator type sealers, both water based and solvent, are very versatile in that they can be used on almost any type of stone product surface,” he says.

Meeting the needs of Large format Installation

Another household name in grouts and finishers is Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based MAPEI Americas. According to Mike Micalizzi, manager of the MAPEI Technical Services Department, the biggest installation challenge these days is placement of large-format tiles.

One of the hurdles installers face is installing such tiles over new or green concrete slabs, which have higher moisture content and expected shrinkage. Another challenge is installing the tiles over slabs that are cracked. Exacerbating the issue is the substantial surge in fast-track building over the past five years, which increases moisture and shrinkage concerns, Micalizzi says.

“MAPEI has worked to meet these challenges on two fronts,” he adds. “First, we have developed medium-bed mortars that allow better contact with the tiles, and offer more leveling capabilities that prevent lippage and provide support. On the moisture issue, MAPEI has developed Planiseal MRB, a moisture reduction barrier that can be rolled on to allow for proper moisture content prior to installing vinyl or wood products.”

To help alleviate problems of moisture and shrinkage, Micalizzi urges tile setters to avoid taking shortcuts in pre-installation substrate preparation. He points out installers frequently find themselves pressured by contractors, because theirs is one of the final jobs on the site before completion. “If they don’t give in to these pressures, and provide proper substrate preparation, they will minimize their tile setting time, and reduce risk of callbacks,” he notes.

Clean, Protect and Maintain

Founded in 1939, Lawrence, Kan.-based PROSOCO focuses all its energies on manufacturing products that clean, protect or maintain concrete, brick and stone. A number of its more than one hundred standard products are designed to address today’s key industry trends.

“The growth in the industry has been in the stone end of the business, and use of stone has become very prolific in areas like kitchen countertops and paving installations,” says director of marketing Scott Buscher. “That makes them far more subject to difficult staining elements, such as highly acidic wine and juice stains, as well as oil and greases. Because the growth has been so great in natural stone products, the protection and maintenance needs are much more in focus.”

PROSOCO’S Stand Off SLX 100 is an ideal way to protect an investment in today’s most popular natural stone surface, granite. A fluorinated product with characteristics similar to those of Teflon, Stand Off SLX 100 is capable of penetrating surfaces as dense as polished granite, will not change the appearance of the surface after treatment, and protects the surface not only from water-based staining materials but oil and food-based staining materials.

Right behind granite in popularity are marble and limestone, in a variety of finishes from polished to honed. The PROSOCO product most appropriate and effective on those surfaces is Stand Off Limestone & Marble Protector, Buscher says. “Chemically and geologically, marble and limestone are different from granite and require a different approach from a chemical formulation standpoint to offer the same degree of water, oil and food stain resistance,” he says. “Limestone & Marble Protector is formulated to provide that kind of protection.”

Successful Color Matches

The TEC brand of AccuColor grouts is known in the industry for providing highly color-accurate results, reports brand manager Rachel Gibbons of Arlington, Heights, Ill.’s TEC Brands.

That means the color of the installed grout matches the sample used to select the color. The amount of water used during mixing and clean-up of Portland cement grout, as well as variations in tile type, joint size and curing conditions, typically have an impact on the installed color. All AccuColor grouts chemically control the curing process, helping to neutralize the factors that create inconsistent grout color. AccuColor grouts are available in 32 colors.

AccuColor premium sanded grout is a polymer-enhanced grout that provides highly wear-resistant, color-consistent tile joints from 1/8-inch to ½-inch wide. It is used primarily in floor tile applications, or for walls and countertops with wider joints.

AccuColor premium unsanded grout is polymer-enhanced and designed for grouting small joints up to 1/8-inch wide. It is recommended for grouting marble and other materials where sanded grouts could scratch delicate tile surfaces.

100 Percent Solids Epoxy Mortar and Grout is a dual-purpose, three-part epoxy system for interior floors and countertops. Used as a grout, this system is recommended wherever complete stain or chemical resistance is required. Used as a mortar, it is designed for installing green marble and other moisture sensitive stone over a wide variety of surfaces.

“As premium products, grouts from TEC brands are engineered to deliver consistent color and overall strength,” Gibbons notes. “Our flagship grout brand, AccuColor, is designed for use across a variety of applications, delivering strong, smooth joints with minimal shrinkage and ease of installation.”



Bert Adams – President
Glaze ’N Seal
Irvine , CA

Rick Baldini – President and CEO
Aqua Mix
Corona , CA

Scott Buscher – Director of Marketing
Lawrence , KS

Diane Choate – Communications Supervisor
Deerfield Beach , FL 33442

Rachel Gibbons – Brand Manager
TEC Brands
Arlington Hts., IL

Norm Tracy – Vice-President of Marketing
Custom Building Products
Seal Beach , CA

One – on – One… With Robert Briggs
January 1st, 2006


By Jeffrey Steele

January-February 2006

“ China will replace almost everyone else in both tile and stone.”

How hot is the market for Chinese tile? The only conceivable answer is “sizzling.” According to the latest import figures, dollars spent on Chinese tile imports skyrocketed 114.6 percent in the 12 months ending in September 2005. In actual units shipped, the percentage increase stood at a staggering 122.6 percent. The next nearest competitor? Mexico , with 27.4 percent.

For insight into this white-hot commodity, TileDealer invited an experienced importer in that marketplace, Robert Briggs, to sit down for a candid One-on-One. Briggs, the vice-president and general manager of Granite & Marble Resources in Chicago , has imported Chinese tile for more than a dozen years. In this illuminating interview, he explains the reasons for the rise of the Chinese market and describes how he goes about locating high-quality, reliable suppliers.

TileDealer: How long have you been selling Chinese tile? Briggs: We have been importers for about 28 or 29 years. And China started coming into the equation around 1992 to 1994. That was precipitated by the Chinese inviting the Italians to swap product for equipment. As the Italians were invited to sell stone machinery to the Chinese because they had lots of stone quarries, and the Italian machine makers knew that the Chinese had stone to quarry, it took a millisecond for the equipment makers to realize this was a good deal for them. The ceramic evolved out of it, because many of the ceramic companies also make stone equipment. What really put the Chinese in the marketplace was the Italian equipment, and with that they were making a bona fide product immediately.

When the Italians sell you equipment they also make Italian engineers available to you over a period of years, and that basically guarantees product worthiness. Of course, there was already a world demand for ceramic and natural stone. Over the years that has increased. The Chinese now can make huge, 2-by-4 and 3-by-3-foot ceramic tiles that they now clad buildings with. What’s happened is the Chinese are using their own higher-end product, originally made for the Italian and European markets, and are using it in their own applications in their own country.

Our specialty within the Chinese market is mosaics. We have the largest collection of high-end stone and glass mosaic products imported from China in America . In our case, we have taken the traditional process and reversed it, in that we send products from Italy , Spain , Indonesia , Egypt , Turkey and Israel to China to fabricate. We kind of do what the Italians used to do.

But instead of using Italy as a fulcrum for products from around the world, we use China to fabricate those products. We are currently doing the Ritz-Carlton condominium-hotel project here in Chicago , cladding bathrooms with marble originated in Italy , but cut to size in China . TileDealer: Is quality consistent? Does it measure up to the U.S.?

Briggs: The answer is that with China , you can go on a scale from one to ten. There are some ones and some tens. It depends on where their marketplace is. If their market is an emerging country in the Third World , most of the time China is selling lesser-quality goods than they would to NATO countries. Every once in a while, a buyer may feel they have a deal from China that’s too good to be true, and most of the time it is. China has some of the highest quality, and some that at best is mediocre quality. And it’s buyer beware.

A low price most of the time does not mean good quality. In my dealings with China , I go to the most expensive people. You not only must have a quality product, but you have to have continuity of product—product that you can get again and again.

That’s why it’s difficult to just decide to go to China and suddenly do business. It’s not easy. There are so many stories of people going there and getting hoodwinked. You really need to know who you’re dealing with, how long they’ve been in business, whether they have Italian, Chinese or Japanese machinery. There are probably 20 questions you need to answer.

TileDealer: How do you differentiate between Chinese tile in style, quality and price?

Briggs: You’ve got to start it by realizing installation and labor in the United States is very expensive. So whatever technical aspects of the tile, i.e. in square (if one side is 11-7/8 inches, all three other sides must be exactly the same), or in calibration of thickness (you can’t have 8 millimeters on one end of the tile and 10 millimeters on the other end, because it won’t be flat), make it easy to install are the aspects you want to pay attention to.

Beauty, color and texture are in the eyes of the beholder. These other aspects are black and white. And the more aesthetically astute buyers in the United States are more conscious or more aware of the aesthetic desires of their particular marketplace. So that buyer is buying black-and-white issues first, and secondly his awareness of the aesthetic expectations of his consumer, either a builder, a designer or the ultimate consumer. The black-and-white is inviolable; if you don’t have that, it’s garbage. You could spend all that time and money getting something—with the consumer waiting—then have to throw it out when you open it up because it’s garbage.

TileDealer: Is Chinese tile subject to any kind of absorption standard testing consistent with porcelain tile from the U.S. and Italy?

Briggs: Yes, for the higher quality companies. That’s because if you don’t meet these standards, the product should not be sold in America . I’m sure they’re selling products in Paraguay or Colombia that haven’t been tested. We in America have very strict standards regarding absorption. I don’t know of any respected importer who would not be aware of that, because there’d be a failure and they’d be asking for a lawsuit at some point.

TileDealer: How much do various regions of the U.S. import?

Briggs: Chinese tile is more popular on the West Coast, simply because it’s closer to China . And you have Chinese-Americans and Chinese expatriates who have opened up businesses from Seattle to San Diego , and are marketing Chinese products because they have easier access to it than I would. They speak Mandarin and Cantonese, and they have relatives in China who can inspect for them.

In the ceramic business years ago, many of the importers in the U.S. were Italians, because they spoke Italian and they had relatives or friends back home who could inspect for them. The Chinese are simply following that example.

That’s a product of the melting pot that is America . First they bring themselves and their money here, and secondly, they realize there’s a market in America for the indigenous products of their homeland. And that’s been played out for centuries in this country.

TileDealer: How will rising fuel costs impact delivery costs?

Briggs: The U.S. is the number one consumer of energy, but I think China is now number two or three, and someday will be the largest. They’re still in what I call the Gold Rush capitalist stage. The cost of fuel has increased in China over the last year, and that has precipitated a very small increase in the cost of Chinese products. But the cost of energy is a world barometer. And as the cost of fuel increases in China , it won’t affect their products any more than it will other countries’. The real story regarding cost of tile is not energy, but labor. China is coming out of an agrarian society in the 21st Century, whereas others did it in the 19th or 20th Centuries.

I know from talking to my friends in China that labor is asking for higher wages. Workers are asking for more. So the real impact in China is what will happen to their labor market. Currently they’re paying labor like Indonesia or Vietnam is paying, when in fact their economy is 20 times the size. How long can you pay the wages of nations that are pipsqueaks in comparison? I don’t think they can do it very long. The cost of ceramic, though, is heavily machine driven, so it will probably rise less than those products that are heavily labor driven.

TileDealer: Do you ever get tile from China that is broken or damaged in shipping? Do the shippers make good on it?

Briggs: In my case, almost never. That’s because I have been there as an importer of Chinese tile for a long time. In the case of a tile importer who’s more of a newcomer to China , it’s going to happen more frequently. Then it’s a test of that relationship, like the first blowup you have with your wife. The importer must know he’s receiving a saleable product, and if he doesn’t receive a saleable product, he’s heading for a very quick divorce. No importer can sustain his business without being able to deliver reasonable customer expectations. As for making good on broken tile, I’ve heard it both ways. That’s why it’s always buyer beware. Check out the supplier, find out who he has sold to and go visit his factory. That’s what I do.

TileDealer: How about the timing of Chinese tile getting through customs?

Briggs: There are problems getting almost anything we purchase through customs. I have problems with Turkey, Israel , Indonesia , Pakistan and China . We live in a time now where unfortunately the professional importer in America has to deal with the political reality in our country. It impacts my business and my customers, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

TileDealer: What’s the future of Chinese tile in this country?

Briggs: If you’re in the tile business, you have to realize that eventually, just as the car replaced the horse, China will replace almost everyone else in both tile and stone. If you’re going to be competitive in the year of 2006 and beyond, it’s imperative that you develop relationships with people like myself who are already there, or make a very intensive investment in time and money over years to develop that relationship yourself.

Sales & Management: Leverage Your Participation In A Show House
January 1st, 2006


by Jeffrey Steele

January-February 2006

Show your stuff! By participating in a show house, you get your name and your products in front of the public.

Every tile dealer, whether in a big city or smaller market, profits from increased publicity. Among the best ways to gain additional publicity is by participating in show houses.

Two types of show homes offer dealers opportunity for favorable public exposure, says Ola Lessard, spokeswoman for Keene, NH-based Trikeenan Tileworks. Trikeenan, a 15-year-old artisan tile maker that aggressively pursues opportunities for regional and national publicity, has benefitted from having its tile displayed in a variety of show home settings.

The first option is to team with a builder or developer of high-end single-family or condominium residences to have your tile incorporated into a model home. The other is to take part in a show house created as a means of raising funds for charitable organizations in your area.

To pursue the model home approach, contact builders in your area directly. Inquire whether they build this type of show home to promote their developments, and ask to meet with them to show them tile that might fit their home decor design palette, Lessard says.

“Builders also often contract out the design services to an interior designer,” she adds. “That’s another great entree. What’s great about interior designers is that many of them may already be coming into your showroom. So one thing we recommend is that you, as a tile dealer, talk to designers—particularly repeat customers—about the things they’re doing in the community. And just ask them: What are you up to? Are you involved in show houses?”

Trikeenan has discovered some interior designers aren’t fully aware of all the applications for tile. So if you meet designers working on show houses, encourage them to think beyond the obvious applications, like a backsplash or shower surround, Lessard urges. In short, suggest they consider tile as a possible component across their design palettes. Open a conversation about upcoming projects, and plant a seed for uses of tile of which they may not be aware.

How about a tile fireplace? Tile for an entryway floor? Tile in outside landscaping? “Excite them about all the possibilities and directions in which tile can go,” Lessard says.

Sweeten the Deal

As a dealer, you may be able to further encourage an interior designer’s use of your tile by offering an incentive. Designers working on show houses often approach Trikeenan directly or through one of the company’s dealers about the possibility of using its tile in the house.

It greatly benefits Trikeenan to have its tile chosen for that show house. And because it does, the company often donates product or offers a significant discount off its regular prices.

“The dealer can say, ‘Let me talk with my manufacturer and see if I can offer you a discount or even a donation of product, to assure it’s displayed in this very public forum,’” Lessard says. “It behooves us as a manufacturer to be the one supplying the tile for the backsplash, the foyer, the fireplace or bathroom. We want show house visitors to see our tile.”

This is where tile dealers can gain a tremendous advantage, she adds. Not only are they helping facilitate the show home’s creation, but they are also working to cement a relationship with the designer. The next time the designer has a similar project, he or she is likely to come back to the same dealer and ask, ‘Can you help us with this one too?’”

Trikeenan likes several things to happen when it donates tile to a show house, Lessard says. First, if there are ads generated by the show house, Trikeenan wants to be in them. Second, if the dealer is running in-store promotions about the show house, Trikeenan appreciates its name in those promos. Third, if the room featuring the tile is professionally photographed, Trikeenan seeks rights to use the photos for its own advertising or editorial outreach efforts.

These photos are prized, Lessard says. “It’s really hard to get into people’s homes and get great photos of the tile on display in their living room or kitchen,” she observes. “But when there is a show home, we know the tile is being used in a very beautiful manner. And if someone is going to come in and shoot that tile, that for a manufacturer is like gold. You know it will be done in an exquisite manner. I can’t think of any manufacturer who wouldn’t want that.”

The dealer can also gain from those photos. Lessard urges dealers participating in show houses that have been professionally photographed to also seek rights to the photos. Those photos can be used for their own in-store display efforts during the period the show house is open, and after it closes.

Show Homes That Raise Funds

As mentioned at the outset, show homes created as fundraisers serve up another rich opportunity for tile dealers. In these instances, the homes are generally privately or publicly-owned historic or vintage houses, or simply homes people of the community want to tour. In many cases, interior designers are enlisted to participate by designing the rooms. A small admission price is charged, and funds raised benefit a charitable cause.

One such show house from which Trikeenan gained enormous publicity was a fundraiser in an historic property in the Boston Naval Yard, to benefit the Boston Junior League. Among the designers to work on the house was Kathy Marshall, a Boston-area interior designer, and owner of her own design firm,

She and another designer were invited to design the kitchen. They gutted the existing kitchen, installed new appliances, and chose Trikeenan tile for the backsplash. “The project came out beautifully, and it got a lot of press on its own,” Lessard recalls.

“And when Kathy Marshall entered the kitchen in the Luxury Living Award competition, it was selected as a finalist. She has also submitted it to several magazines.

“So whenever this kitchen appears, people are seeing Trikeenan tile.”

Dealers should actively seek such fundraising show house opportunities, Lessard believes. They might approach a fundraising organization in their community and suggest a show house, or link up with a charitable group that already stages an annual show house fundraiser. Offer not only discounted or donated tile, but expertise in using the tile in new and interesting ways.

“It goes back to talking with your designers, asking them about projects they have coming up, and planting the seed you would like to be involved,” Lessard reports. “And sometimes one project will lead to lots of opportunities for exposure.”

Leverage Your Investment

Once you are participating in show houses, make sure you capitalize on the exposure to the maximum extent possible. First, make sure you gain rights to any professional photography shot within the house. Next, send out press releases announcing your association with the project. The releases should go to the local media, especially the design section of your local newspaper, and any state design publication that may exist. Follow up your news releases with phone calls to editors to suggest angles on stories about how the tile is being used in the home.

And don’t neglect promotional opportunities within your own showroom, Lessard urges. Let every customer who enters your store know you’re part of this beautiful show house. If the show house is for a fundraising organization, promote that organization’s cause. If it’s a builder show house, install an in-showroom display demonstrating how the tile is used in the house.

Not only give designers and other customers ideas, but make clear that you are a source of tile expertise, both willing and able to work with them to show how to create the same look.

“The message is, get involved in these projects, but don’t stop there,” Lessard says. “Leverage that exposure into profits for your dealership.”

The Ceramic Marketplace Now
January 1st, 2006


January-February 2006

In case there was ever any doubt, ceramic tile has established its place in the American marketplace. No matter what statistics you look at, tile usage continues to grow.

Average growth in tile consumption over the last four quarters has been 12.85-percent greater than the preceding four quarters. Eric Astrachan, executive director of the Tile Council of North America, points out that “assuming this trend continues, total consumption [domestic and imported] for 2005 would be 3,553,347,000 square feet.”

The most recent figures (from September 2005) from the U.S. International Trade Commission indicate that ceramic tile imports climbed 10.9 percent to 1,802.73 million square feet compared to the same period in 2004. In dollars, this represents a 14.6-percent increase to $1,263 million. During the first half of 2005, sales of domestic production were 2.6-percent lower than 2004. Assuming that this trend continues, Astrachan estimates that total sales of domestically produced tile in 2005 would be 677,500 square feet, a slight drop from 2004. However, looking at domestic shipments only, the first two quarters of 2005 totaled 347,553 square feet. Annualizing that number would bring the total domestic shipments to 695,106 square feet. This is comparable to 2004.

What’s driving the imports? The decrease in the Euro compared to last year and the increase in low cost foreign imports both contribute to these numbers. Astrachan is quick to point out that the tile market remains strong.

Jim Dougherty, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Crossville, Inc., also believes that the marketplace is assuming more diverse representation geographically. He points out that the influence of imports is shifting away from Italy and Spain and to Brazil , Mexico and Turkey . Recent trade figures illustrate this trend. Although Italian imports are up 6.1-percent in terms of actual dollars, the number of units in the same time period is down slightly, -4.6-percent. The handsome increases posted by Brazil , up 33.3-percent in dollars, Mexico , up 30.2-percent, and Turkey , up 20.0-percent point to their growing influence in the marketplace.

Perhaps one of the most startling statistics, however, is that the value of Chinese imports has bounced up a whopping 114.6-percent and the number of square feet has climbed comparably, up 122.6-percent. Although many distributors will point out that those huge increases represent a comparison to far fewer units than other imports, the increases reflect a trend that’s impossible to ignore.

Where the installations are

Residential installation—including both new construction at 42-percent and remodeling at 28-percent—represent the largest segment of ceramic tile use. The National Association of Homebuilders estimated that new home construction in 2005 was valued at $250 billion and remodeling added another $235 billion. At this rate, remodeling growth is expected to outpace construction in the next ten years.

Although many experts expect residential real estate—which has been very hot virtually everywhere in the country—to cool in 2006, even a cooling market could be robust. Crossville’s Dougherty points out that although some analysts now look at housing as flat, it is flat “at an historically high rate.”

Right now new commercial construction and commercial remodeling only account for 17-percent and 12-percent, respectively, of the 2005 ceramic tile installations. Many industry leaders believe this represents a remarkable growth opportunity for the ceramic marketplace to penetrate commercial construction. The Associated General Contractors of America ’s (AGC) chief economist Ken Simonson has noted that he expects private, nonresidential, health care and lodging construction to improve in 2006. Crossville’s Dougherty says he sees signs of an improvement in the commercial marketplace.

The trend goes beyond the growth in housing numbers to a less tangible but equally strong design trend. Ceramic tile has established itself not only as a staple of the new home industry, but of the remodeling industry as well. Builders and remodelers know that tile is increasingly affordable. What was once deemed appropriate for high end construction is now also very popular in mid-range housing. Some of the previous objections to tile—for example, that it is cold underfoot—have been overcome by recent developments like affordable, dependable undertile heating systems. The increasing popularity and availability of porcelain, which is harder than other types of ceramic tile and therefore offers a more durable product for certain installations, also plays into this.

So, the marketplace is there. What’s it going to cost you to stock and sell ceramic tile? What’s driving prices?

It’s no secret that the cost of doing business—of being in business—is climbing dramatically with the rise in oil and natural gas prices. It begins with the manufacturing processes and works throughout the supply chain.

Energy costs play a significant role in tile manufacturing, and, according to Crossville’s Dougherty, “they are impacting us immediately and significantly.” As Tom Graham of Florida Tile Industries, Inc., points out, a Decatherm—a measure of natural gas equal to 1,000 cubic feet—rose from $7 in June to $15 in October. And that’s just one example. They have done everything, says Graham, to lower energy consumption. The bottom line for both companies and many others has been an across-the-board price increase.

These resource costs impact manufacturing beyond tile. Many of the mastics and related products are manufactured using petrochemical components. Those costs are climbing just as much as gas.

Ralph Marra of Classic Ceramic Tiles, Inc. says increasing costs eventually find their way into his costs. “We establish a list price with each product,” he says. When costs fluctuate the company can apply an appropriate factor and its software will automatically adjust prices.

Gail Schovan of Turner Distributing says she has been advised of flat increases of as much as 10% on various building materials she stocks and sells. Turner is implementing a 3-percent increase across the board. It is, Schovan says, “a happy medium that should cover for awhile but may have to go up again later.” Turner’s dilemma is how to differentiate between materials that came in before the prices went up and those that came later. Gas prices have already dropped somewhat, but she points out, the price increases she’s getting from her suppliers are applied to materials that may or may not coincide with the fuel costs. “There is no consistency.”

If you are a dealer or distributor making deliveries, it’s costing you more to do that. If you are accepting deliveries—locally, domestically, or internationally—that leg of the distribution chain is also getting increasingly expensive.

Marra says he typically has four trucks on the street every day making deliveries. “Years ago, everyone offered free delivery,” he said. What eventually started as a flat $5 delivery charge is now up to $25 and he expects it will go to $30 or $35 per delivery on or about January first. Everyone handles the rising energy costs differently. Some of his competitors are up to a $45 delivery charge for any size order, others are imposing a fuel surcharge based on weight.

But will prices dent the marketplace? Not if you follow the sales trends noted earlier.

In fact, the manufacturers TileDealer talked to expect consumption to grow 6-10-percent in 2006. Dougherty is looking for 8-10-percent growth. He points out that the country is still building and selling record numbers of homes each month, the commercial marketplace seems poised for growth, and energy price increases are not unique to ceramic tile—they are impacting all industries.

Graham is equally enthusiastic, predicting a 6-8-percent increase in demand. “The market is pretty strong,” he said. “I’m pretty bullish on the future…I’m not too worried about that.”

Leadership Letter
November 1st, 2005

Important Links to the Rest of the Industry

November-December 2005

Although I have some time left “in office,” this is my last Leadership Letter. I have enjoyed this opportunity to “talk” with you in each issue of TileDealer, and I hope you have benefited in some way from the information I have been able to share.

CTDA offers all of us a number of important links to the rest of the industry.

First and foremost is the Management Conference this month.

There is simply no other industry event so perfectly tailored to meet our unique needs. The educational opportunities are designed to meet the needs of CTDA members and reflect the topics that are most important to us right now. The Distributor’s Forum is our own version of do-it-yourself problem solving. I always come away from it with great ideas for meeting new challenges. Guest speakers are there to educate and motivate.

The Management Conference is also an opportunity to tend to the business of CTDA. All CTDA committees and the Board of Directors will meet face to face. The Board will review the 2006 budget in detail and set the programs for the coming year. Their leadership—which is essentially your leadership—helps keep the association on track.

The Management Conference is also the best time for all of us to do our own industry networking. Most of us look forward to it as a time to see old friends, make new ones, welcome new members and to say a personal thank you to all of our sponsors. I think the Management Conference is also the time to re-energize ourselves for 2006.

Beyond our immediate membership, of course, CTDA links us to the rest of the industry in important leadership roles—and gives us a step up on the competition—with our support of Coverings and the publication of TileDealer.

Access to industry education is becoming an increasingly valuable benefit of your CTDA membership. Many of you regularly leverage the knowledge of Tile Training in a Box and the Color Shade Variation Program to help provide in-house training for your employees. This year CTDA introduced a self-guided, online component that teaches the Basics of Ceramic Tile and Sales Techniques.

I would like to think that this has been a fruitful year for CTDA—the publication of the Tile Blue Book, the additions on stone due soon to Tile Training in a Box, the educational seminar presented in August, and regular communications to members.

None of this would have been possible without the help of so many dedicated members and volunteers, professionals who have taken time from their demanding business lives to attend committee meetings, participate in conference calls and share their energy and expertise in so many ways. You truly are the heart and soul of CTDA. Together you make CTDA a remarkable team effort.

Finally, my sincere thanks to all of you—and especially to a dedicated Board of Directors and a hard working professional staff in the CTDA offices—for your support and trust in me.

From the Editor’s Desk: Between hurricanes and holidays
November 1st, 2005

by Janet Arden, Editor

November-December 2005

One of the challenges of magazine publishing is that you will not read what we are writing for several weeks. The printer and the post office each get to step in and do their part in helping us get TileDealer to your doorstep. That has posed one dilemma and some interesting opportunities for this issue.

Our dilemma is that it seems almost impossible to communicate with anyone this season without first commenting on the impact of the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast. All of us at TileDealer hope—as we prepare this issue for you—that you, your family and your business have safely weathered the storms.

Opportunity #1 is that this is also the season when we refine and finalize our editorial calendar for 2006. Part trend-watching, part brainstorming, editorial planning gives us a chance to look forward to what we think you want to read about and what we think we all need to know more about in the months ahead. TileDealer’s 2006 editorial calendar calls for close-ups of products—glass tile, porcelain, accents, and more—as well as design trends like mosaics and exterior installations. Look for a special kitchen and bath issue as well as close-ups of imports from Italy, Spain and Turkey. We’ll also continue to follow the growing role of stone in the marketplace.

Because this business is about much more than just the products, TileDealer will take a close look at some industry issues like mold, green building and imports. We’ll also offer continuing coverage of some important business topics like software, installation, upselling and showroom display.

Opportunity #2 is that the new year—which will be just weeks away as you read this—opens the door to a whole new round of industry shows, starting with Surfaces in January and then moving ahead to Cevisama in February, Revestir in March, and Coverings in April. Each of these showcases, and all of those that follow later in the year, are sure to introduce new products and new topics for coverage in TileDealer.

Opportunity #3 is really yours. Your input is always welcome and encouraged. Are there additional topics you want to see in the months ahead? I would love to hear from you. Email me at

Finally, this issue marks our second birthday. We launched TileDealer with the November/December issue in 2003. We’ve grown in more ways than one with more advertisers, more contributors and always more information to share with you.

Thank you for your support over these last two years. We can’t wait to see what’s ahead!

November 1st, 2005


November-December 2005

StonePeak Introduces New Line of Glazed Tiles

StonePeak Ceramics, Inc. introduced its latest line at an exclusive distributor event in Chicago. The texture and glaze of the company’s Café, CastleRock, and Slate glazed tile lines complement the four lines of unglazed porcelain ceramic tiles unveiled at Coverings in May. “Each StonePeak Ceramic series integrates Italian style with American sensibility,” said Barrie Dekker, Vice President of Strategic Sales for StonePeak Ceramics. The Café series is available in four colors, including Cream, Black Coffee, Green Tea and Cocoa, and two modulating sizes, 12″ x 12″ and 18″ x 18″. Stairtread and Bull Nose complementary trims and decorative accents are also included. The tiles are suitable for residential and light commercial uses. The Slate series emulates natural slate in color and feel. Slate tiles are available in Sand, Earth, Everglades, Lava and Clay, and four sizes, from 6″ x 6″ to 18″ x 18″. A range of complementary trims, accents and borders are also available, including Stairtread, Bull Nose, Cove Base, Out Corner and In Corner. Slate tiles are best suited for residential and light commercial uses. CastleRock was inspired by natural Travertine. CastleRock is impervious to staining and consistent in size with straight edges and uniform coloration. The series is available in Armor, White Cliff, and Cobblestone and in sizes, from 6″ x 6″ to 18″ x 18″, along with a complimentary trim package, including counter rail and quarter round. CastleRock tiles are ideal for all residential applications, including counters and back-splashes, as well as light commercial uses. (312-222-9126)


Tyco Thermal Controls announces the release of the Raychem QuickNet electrical floor warming system. The electric floor warming unit is installed directly under ceramic tile or natural stone, providing ideal comfort in tiled areas that would otherwise feel cold when walked on with bare feet. The QuickNet system includes a mat that has a heating cable woven into an adhesive-backed fiberglass mesh. Its low 3/16 inch (3 mm) profile makes it ideal for renovation or new construction and rolls out easily, adhering to the floor. It can be cut to accommodate any shape room with ease, without the need for anchoring devices, glue, staples or clips. The mats are pre-terminated for use at 120 and 240 volts and are available in various lengths. The thermostat helps ensure user safety by including built-in GFCI protection. (


The Expressions Collection from Imagine Tile, Inc. creates a continuing series of designs that are on the cutting edge of today’s color, style and texture trends. “Expressions marries the latest thinking of leading industry designers with our unique manufacturing process in which we use state-of-the-art digital imaging combined with the age old art of ceramics to create distinctly casual tile with a warm, natural handcrafted feel,” said Christian McAuley, Imagine Tile’s President. “Canyon,” the collection’s first pattern inspired by the canyon walls of the southwest, is from designer Roche Fitzgerald. “Canyon” is available in 16″ x 16″ and 8″ x 8″ configurations. Tiles meet or exceed all ANSI requirements, are ADA compliant and warranted for manufacturer’s defects for five years. Using ceramic glazes composed of micro-fine materals and ores combined with flux to make them behave as printing inks, the image is printed and “transferred” to the surface of a ceramic substrate which is then fired at extremely high temperatures. (800-680-TILE)


Monarch Ceramic Tile introduces three new tile series: Armonia, Beton and Le Dune. The Armonia series has a gentled limestone look inspired by the Mediterranean pavers found in piazzas, courtyards and marketplaces. The glazed porcelain tile is available in Pietra Almond, Pietra Gold, Pietra Green and Pietra Noce. These natural earthtone colors bring the appeal of irregular depressions and pickets of calcification in both large scale and modular sizes as well as mosaic options. The series blends with a wide range of decorative styles—vintage to eclectic—dependent on other design elements incorporated into a setting. The Rombo Mix Mosaic is composed of diamond-shaped pieces from all four colors in the series that are mesh-mounted to facilitate simple installation. Can be used as-is or cut into strips to create a unique listelli strip. Beton’s color body porcelain captures the strength and utilitarianism of industrial concrete that was the forerunner of this striking series that doesn’t stain, effloresce or need sealing or special maintenance. The body coloration also aids in disguising any impact chips that may occur in busy installations. Like concrete, the color is speckled on the surface, adding visual interest to floors and walls. ADA compliant, lightly distressed surface. The series comes in Beton Blanc, Beton Bleu, Beton Gris, Beton Marron and Beton Noir and in two tile sizes (20″ x 20″ and 13″ x 13″). The Le Dune series reflects the muted tonal gradations and intricate veining found in limestone. The technological advances in porcelain yield more consistency of color and texture in natural earthtone shades: Dune Beige, Dune Bianco, Dune Grigio, Dune Marfil and Dune Noce. The large format (20″ x 20″) minimizes grout joints. Allergen free, hygienic and easily maintained, it’s ideal for modern residential and commercial consumers who are design savvy and seek high quality materials and workmanship. (800-BUY-TILE)


Oceanside Glasstile’s Facets™ is a collection of detailed borders and field tile patterns featuring gem-like custom-made miniature glass tiles in a choice of 38 colors from the Tessera line. Facets hand-cut mosaics (½” x ½” and ½” x 1″) combined with Oceanside Glasstile’s mosaic field tiles (1″ x 1″, 1″ x 2″ and 2″ x 2″) create complex patterns and patterns within patterns. Facets borders provide design flexibility allowing the tile to mesh with a variety of interior design styles. The borders come in six symmetrical repeating design patterns and sizes vary, with the average running 3″ x 12″. Many can be cut into small decorative or narrow linear accents. Three Facets field patterns feature mini accent pieces that contrast with 1″ x 1″, 1″ x 2″ and 2″ x 2″ mosaic tiles, creating the illusion of texture, depth and movement within the pattern. Facets is a green building material, using silica sand and over 1,000 tons of recycled bottle glass. (


Diamond Tech Glass Tiles’ new Dimensions Series gives edgy angles and rich finishes of glass with its 14 translucent hues. The 8 mm thick series comes in four sizes allowing for the tiles to be arranged in endless patterns. Ideal for interior and exterior installations, the series is impervious to liquids, and resistant to fading, staining and discoloration. (



Mediterranea’s “Safari” line of glazed porcelain tile uses a unique blend of natural stone and animal print coloring that is perfect for both floor and wall installation. The exotic line is available in hues of Kenya (beige), Zimbabwe (noce), Madagascar (gold), Tanzania (blue), Kilimanjaro (terracotta) and Serengeti (bronze). The line combines Turkish ceramic tile tradition with innate style, offering a natural, striking look for commercial and residential installations. “Safari” comes in field tile sizes of 13″ x 13″ and 18″ x 18″. Printed bullnoses are available in a 3″ x 13″ size and 2″ x 2″ mesh-mounted mosaics are offered on 13″ x 13″ sheets. Meets ADA guidelines for slip resistance. (


Argentina’s Ilva S.A.’s Paesina Collection of glazed porcelain tile gives contemporary flooring for residential and light commercial environments a clean, modish look. Paesina hues include: Quarzo, Platinum, Sabbia, Notte and Bosco. All colors are available in field tile sizes of 18″ x 18″, 14″ x 14″ and 7″ x 7″, as well as in 1.6″ x 14″ mosaic listellos mesh-mounted on 14″ x 14″ sheets. Decorative accents are offered in Paesina shades as 3.2″ x 14″ and 2″ x 14″ listellos. The collection also includes a full line of specialty pieces. (661-942-2545)


VitrA Tiles USA introduces its VitrA Arcadia tiles. The tiles are available in black, beige and light and dark gray and in 12″ x 24″ and 18″ x 18″ tiles. Arcadia, ideal for commercial and residential use, has a porcelain body, which makes them resistant to abrasion, chemicals and frost and has a lower water absorption rate of less than .5%. The floor tiles can be used in exterior and interior applications. Arcadia is available with matte and semi-matte surfaces and rectified/non-rectified options. (770-904-6173)


Steuler Fliesen’s “Freestyle” series puts design creation in the hands of the customer. It is more of a tile program than a tile collection. “Freestyle” allows the customer the choice of their favorite images or objects to incorporate in the tile’s overall look and design. Includes a white body ceramic 8″ x 8″ size wall tile with one or four holes with an integrated winding. Chrome buttons are available to insert into the holes. Tiles in a glossy and matte finish are also available with raised texture. The chrome brushed buttons act as a latch for form-retaining silicon rights that crisscross the tiles from button to button, holding the decoration in place. Decorative pieces are also available with the series. “With different décor elements from our series or from one’s personal collection, it’s easy to recreate a new wall style for any room,” said Paul Heldens, Managing Director of Steuler Fliesen. (207-828-8050)


Meredith Collection has added decoratives with a traditional appeal to its Iron Gate Victorian era design tiles. New neo-classic decoratives include a Sunburst design, Palm Dot, Necklace, Egg and Dart, Palm Border and Swag Border. The designs add classic character to the line, allowing for even more options in new, traditional and renovation installations. (

Industry Insights
November 1st, 2005

November-December 2005

Alfonso Panzani elected president of Assopiastrelle

The Assembly of Assopiastrelle has elected Alfonso Panzani, President of Assopiastrelle for a two-year term 2005-2006. Panzani is president of the Italian ceramic manufacturer, Settecento Valtresinaro. His background with Assopiastrelle began in 1986, when he was elected a Board Member. He was most recently President of the Energy Commission of the Association; President of Gas Intensive, the consortium for the acquisition of methane gas among Italian energy-intensive sectors; and a member of the Administrative Boards of Cer-Energia and Cofim. From 1995-1997, he was President of the Assopiastrelle Commission for Promotional Activity and Tradeshows and a member of the council of CFI, the Confindustria organization that brings together associations that run tradeshows. He succeeds Sergio Sassi, who has been president for two consecutive terms, and due to bylaws, was no longer eligible for the presidency.

Master Tile announces new CEO

Master Tile announced the appointment of Bobby Glennon as Chief Executive Officer. Glennon’s leadership will drive Master Tile’s national expansion in the ceramic tile and stone distribution business. The company recently completed acquisitions that expanded the company’s geographic presence in its existing regions and added new territories in New Jersey, Georgia and Arizona. These additions significantly increase the company’s reach beyond its historic roots in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and California. “Bobby is exactly the right leader for Master Tile. His extensive distribution background and vision for the floor covering industry complements our commitment to lead the ceramic and stone distribution segment,” said Hazem Farra, Chairman of Master Tile, who has served as interim CEO since November, 2004.

Delta relocates

Delta Diamond Tools, Inc., a leading tooling supply company to marble and granite fabricators in North America, has relocated to a newer, larger facility in Southfield, MI. This move has been part of the continued growth of the company, according to Delta Diamond Tools’ President Phil Mularoni. The new facility will increase Delta Diamond’s current space, allowing for the expansion of both its sales staff and inventory. Commenting on the move, Mularoni said, “We consider our new facility to be a critical part of our growth plans and therefore we are pleased to have achieved this milestone. The new facility will allow us to process and expedite sales and better service our customers.”

Staff additions at Alpha

Alpha Professional Tools® is pleased to announce the additions of Shawn Gilreath and Suzanne Wolf to the company’s sales team. Gilreath will be responsible for the Northwest Territory, which consists of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Wolf will be responsible for the New England Territory, which consists of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Eastern New York State and Quebec, Canada. Both come to Alpha will many years of experience in related fields.

First comprehensive shop and consumer safety video programs in Spanish

Aqua Mix, Inc., and the Marble Institute of America (MIA) are teaming up to offer the natural stone industry the first comprehensive shop and consumer safety video programs in Spanish. Introduced at StonExpo, the two-part training CD is a Spanish version of the Basics of Stone Shop Safety video that was introduced by MIA late in 2004. The first segment is a comprehensive overview of fabrication shop safety—from slab handling to working with hazardous materials. The second segment focuses on protecting consumers who visit stone shops and showrooms. The latter was trigged by the tragic death of a six-year old Florida boy and injuries his parents sustained when wooden A-frames loaded with stone collapsed while they were in the display area. E.Rick Baldini, president of Aqua Mix, Inc., a major supplier to the natural stone industry, said the company funded the Spanish versions for three reasons. “We clearly recognize the growing importance of the Hispanic community in the stone fabrication industry,” he said. “We recognize and support the great work that MIA is doing to help the stone industry. Aqua Mix’s mission statement includes the role of being a responsible corporate citizen and the Spanish-language safety video is a perfect fit.”

Villane joins Bostik Group

The Bostik Flooring Group has appointed Dennis M. Villane—a former customer—as the territory manager for Hydroment® and DURABOND® ceramic products in central California. Villane brings with him 10 years of flooring industry sales and customer service experience. He has served as a sales representative for Hydroment distributor Dal-Tile Corp. in Fresno, California, and as a customer service representative in Fresno for Hydroment distributor Bedrosian. Villane reports directly to Rick Tredwell, Bostik Flooring’s Western Sales Manager.

Marmo teams with MIA for seminars

Jim Callaghan, vice president of sales at Marmo Machinery USA, will speak at a series of educational seminars of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) that his company is sponsoring. Called the MIA Natural Stone Continuing Education Program, the seminars train architects, interior designers, general and residential contractors and stone industry employees. They are taught on a local or regional basis by members of MIA who cover such topics as an introduction to natural stone, natural stone selection criteria, and how natural stone goes from the quarry to the residential countertop or commercial project.

Marmo is sponsoring the institute’s regional one-day seminars for one year, which began in April 2005, and will run through March 2006. They are being held in five cities that include Phoenix, AZ, Austin, TX, Boston, MA, St. Cloud, MN, and Seattle, WA.

“I am very pleased and excited to be involved in this worthwhile program,” said Callaghan. “Education is key to becoming competitive and successful in the North American stone industry, especially with the backdrop of worldwide competition.”


Coverings, the largest and most comprehensive annual marketplace for tile and stone and the preferred forum for hard surface education, will be staged alternately between Orlando and Chicago, beginning with the April 2007 show. Announcement of the added venue at Chicago’s McCormack Place Convention Center was made by the show’s Board of Directors, which includes representatives from the five sponsoring organizations: Assopiastrelle (Association of Italian Ceramic Tile and Refactories Manufacturers), ASCER (Spain’s Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association), TCNA (Tile Council of North America), CTDA (Ceramic Tile Distributors Association) and, NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association).

In commenting on the decision, Tamara Christian, president, National Trade Productions (NTP), show management for Coverings, said, “We’re very excited about this opportunity. Being in Chicago for alternate years will expand the audience for our exhibitors’ products and enhance the entire market for Coverings. The close proximity of major markets and the specifiers in those markets will be of great value to Coverings exhibitors. At the same time, the diverse nature of the expected attendees will create a meaningful total show experience and, together with the many cultural and entertainment offerings, will make their attendance at the show a profitable and rewarding experience.”

Chicago is home to a vital community of design and construction professionals. It’s also a convenient hub for national and international transportation, as close to being the “center” of the country as any American city. “This is exciting news,” said Christina Michael, principal of CSM Design Studio, Gurnee, IL. “Our business is high-end residential and hospitality and because of the sheer variety of exhibitors, no other trade show is as important to us as Coverings. It is essential for us to attend, though not always easy making the trip down to Orlando each year, so this change to Chicago is fantastic.”

Bohdan Gernaga, of Chicago-based Tymedesign, said, “I know so many of my peers who have had to put traveling to trade shows on the back burner because of the expense. The decision to add Chicago is so smart. I think Coverings in Chicago will attract even more attendance from nearby and further west. I’m all for it!”

Coverings 2006, April 4-7, will return to Orlando, where this year’s attendance hit a record high of more than 32,000. “In 2005, Coverings had a phenomenal show,” said Christian. “ Orlando has proven to be the appropriate location for us, and, now as we head to Chicago in alternate years, we’re confident that its growth will be fueled further.” Coverings 2007 is scheduled for April 17-20.

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