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:

One – on – One… With Vincent Marazita
March 1st, 2006


By Jeffrey Steele

March-April 2006

“For a reasonable price, you can have an everlasting material or surface.”

“In high-end areas, it’s amazing how many times the words granite, stone, limestone and marble are mentioned. The point is that natural stone is a recognized marketing element and value addition in real estate listings.”

Vincent Marazita is the president and owner of Los Angeles-based Marazita & Associates, an international consulting firm specializing in market research and educational seminars in the natural stone industry. He’s also a member of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and the Marble Institute of America (MIA). In addition, he serves on the board of the National Advisory Council for Continuing Education of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Marazita isn’t hesitant to discuss the skyrocketing popularity of stone in home building and remodeling. In this frank and engaging interview with TileDealer, he talks about the factors behind that growing acceptance, the ways stone producers are responding to the surging demand in the U.S. and elsewhere, and stone’s future as a much-sought-after building material.

TileDealer: What is your background and business experience?

Marazita: I graduated from college with a degree in sociology from Harvard, then went to Genoa, Italy, on a Rotary Scholarship. As part of the Rotary Scholarship year, I studied in the architecture department at the University of Genoa, and then spent five years as an English lecturer in the architecture department of University of Genoa. I then took a job with the Italian Trade Commission in Los Angeles for 13 years, during which time the main goal was to promote Italian products in the States, and act as a liaison between U.S. and Italian companies. Because of my architectural interests in the building trades and materials industry, I was hired to promote Italian business in the U.S., helping small- to medium-sized companies establish a presence here. I also accompanied architects and design professionals to Italy to learn about and buy stone.

At a certain point, salary issues told me it was time to move on. So I started Marazita & Associates in 1998, and now about two-thirds of my business is related to stone, and that’s growing every year just because the stone industry is doing so well, and—I like to think—because I provide good business services. As part of those services, I’ve been hired as a speaker, and have spoken at many design industry conferences and conventions, as well as to stone trade shows and mining conferences in Italy and other countries.

And at least once or twice a year I bring a group of design professionals—architects, designers and sculptors—to Italy to learn about the stone industry—from the quarries to installation. These continuing education courses I’ve offered have been audited and approved by the AIA, ASID, NKBA, RIBA and RAIC.

TileDealer: What is the value of stone in remodeling?

Marazita: In terms of primary value, with regard to all things done in remodeling, the kitchen is number one. I‘ve heard it’s no longer location, location, location in real estate but location, kitchen, kitchen. In most real estate listings, you have 25 words to list a home. Especially in high-end areas, it’s amazing how many times the words granite, stone, limestone and marble are mentioned. The point is that natural stone is a recognized marketing element and value addition in real estate listings.

Since 1996, we’ve had double digit growth every year in stone imports and use in the U.S. That has varied from 15 percent on the low side to 28 percent in 2005. If you go to remodel your kitchen, it’s the cabinets that are the most expensive elements in a remodel. But countertops and flooring are really the number one value added, and they’re already the number one marketing tool, in terms of real estate listings. Stone should be used in the design, if you want to add value to your house.

TileDealer: Where besides a kitchen and bath do remodelers or builders use stone?

Marazita: After kitchens and after baths, they use stone in horizontal surfaces everywhere, including living rooms, family rooms and media centers. In high end homes, it’s definitely found in entryways and grand staircases, and here I’m speaking of homes $500,000 and up. But even in $200,000 homes, it’s being found in entryways. You might not see a stone staircase in a $200,000 home, but that also depends on the area of the country where the home is located.

Most prevalent are fireplace facings and flooring in every conceivable room. Particularly in living rooms, and sometimes in family rooms—though those often tend to offer wood and carpeting. Smart designers should try to incorporate stone in every room.

It could be in countertops, it could be in fireplace facings, window sills, even in things as simple as thresholds between two dissimilar materials, such as tile and carpeting, or tile and wood. Or even two different stone materials.

TileDealer: What are the design trends for stone at various price points?

Marazita: I see stone entering at lower and lower price points. Now stone competes in many cases with ceramic tile, with carpet and even with vinyl tile. Natural stone is certainly competing well with other hard surfaces. In fact, for more than eight years the overall value of stone imports has surpassed the value of ceramic tile imports.

TileDealer: A $200,000 house?

Marazita: At the $200,000 price point, stone wouldn’t be seen on floors throughout the house, but you might see it in certain areas, such as the kitchen and bath, the vanity, the counters and fireplace facings. And natural stone is a popular choice for hearths because it satisfies fire codes, and it’s beautiful as well. And in the outside, even where there is vinyl or wood siding, you might see exterior elements of rubble stone masonry, slate, fieldstone and other types of stone. You might see stone paths.

TileDealer: A $500,000 house?

Marazita: Stone will be used throughout, from kitchens to wine cellars, from bathroom vanities to sculptural columns, from stair treads to balustrades. I’ve even seen alabaster used as doors, and in backlit divider walls. With the introduction of waterjet technology, all sorts of decorative elements and medallions in stone are also used.

And of course you’ll see it in kitchen counters and backsplashes in kitchens; stone is used as vanity tops and tubs and shower surrounds in the bathroom. You know, we shouldn’t refer to them as bathrooms at this price point. I really think that they should be referred to as “home spas.” Because of the value inherent in a spa, you really need to have high-end materials, and that’s where stone comes in. It offers great value, and isn’t necessarily the most expensive choice.

TileDealer: Stone requires upselling, so how should a dealer approach that?

Marazita: [Dealers should emphasize] number one, stone is unique, and number two, it has an incredibly interesting production cycle. All stones are different, brought out of the ground in different parts of the world, and brought out of the ground differently.

Not only is the color variety incredible, but nature’s way of painting these incredible, unique surfaces also makes stone a great addition to a home. And even if it’s a bit more expensive in the short run, it will pay off in low maintenance and durability in the long run.

It will remain beautiful forever. If you see a scratched stone countertop, architects and designers still love that, because it’s rusticated. If something looks used, it gives a history to the house, and stone is one of those things that can look like it’s been used, and in that way give history to a house. But if you see a scratched butcherblock or Corian® or stainless steel countertop, you’re probably going to replace it. In general, stone will last forever, and remain beautiful forever.

TileDealer: Are there grades of stone that the buyer should be aware of?

Marazita: For residential use, not really. Most stones will hold up to most residential uses. The time to be more diligent is when you use stone for structural applications, such as cladding and weight-bearing pavements.

At any rate, it is a fair question to ask your stone supplier. Sometimes, lower quality stone costs less and is adequate for the particular use. I would also warn design professionals and consumers to ask for “range samples” when they can, to get an idea of the color and texture variation they will receive, especially on projects with large square footage requirements of the same material. Shopping malls, plazas and exterior cladding would be examples of such projects.

TileDealer: How are stone producers responding to the growing popularity of stone?

Marazita: Around the world, quarries realize that the U.S. is one of the hottest consumer markets for dimension stone. And they are investing in new equipment and labor to increase their quarrying capacity, while at the same time looking for new quarries and new stones. If you’re in the stone industry, you have to learn about new materials all the time.

TileDealer: Is there a downside to using stone?

Marazita: If you don’t have a qualified stone installer, it can be terrible. As easily as we can get it to market, getting a competent stone installer is not as easy. Because the industry is growing so fast, you have people who have never installed stone installing it. Up until yesterday, they might have been cabinet manufacturers, and now they’re installing stone.

Because of the great demand for stone, we don’t have a large enough competent labor force to keep up with the growth. You want to get someone who’s done good work and has good references, and if you have to wait a couple weeks or even months longer, it’s worth it in order to have the correct installation. Because stone is the one thing that will attract everyone’s attention, and you don’t want your most attention-getting material to be poorly installed.

That’s especially true when you get around kitchen countertops. Because when you get into standard-sized cabinets, not so standard-sized sinks, and the irregularities of plumbing and electrical fixtures, and the structural requirements to support the stone correctly, you can begin to understand the importance of finding someone who knows what they’re doing.

The main problem with stone installations is the tradesman who was there previous to the stone installer. That’s why it’s very important the stone installer approve whatever came before, whether it’s the substrate for the floor, or the level and support of the countertop.

TileDealer: Overall, what do TileDealer readers need to know about stone?

Marazita: Stone is unique. The countertop you have, no one else will have. The floor you have, no one else will have. And the higher up the high end of the market you go, the more customers will want that uniqueness. If you have a Jewish client, what better way to design his home than with important elements in Jerusalem stone? If you have an Italian client whose grandparents came from the Carrara area, what better way to personalize his home than to include a carved fireplace facing in white marble from Carrara? If you have a Chinese client, what better way to serve him than by designing a carved portal out of limestone from China?

Here’s a building material that actually has a story. There’s definitely a story with stone. The bottom line is for a reasonable price, you can have an everlasting material or surface.

TileDealer: How do you view the future of stone in building and remodeling?

Marazita: I know it sounds like a straight promo, but I really believe there is a new renaissance in the use of stone. As more and more stone gets used, more and more people see it for what it’s worth: A beautiful, unique building material that can upgrade the quality of the built environment.

I also predict that as new construction slows, remodeling with stone will continue to grow, or at worst, remain constant, in that we all want to protect our main investment—real estate. By upgrading the materials and by making a more beautiful home, consumers will see first hand that they have a great return on the remodeling investment when they’ve included stone in the design. Remember to look at the real estate ads. You’ll see what I mean.

Sales & Management: B2B Commerce: Standards Streamline the Process
March 1st, 2006


By Kate Simpson

March-April 2006

Like any new technology, the acceptance of the Internet as a business tool has taken time. Yet over the past few years, it has become apparent that distributors who don’t include e-commerce, also known as B2B commerce, in their business plan will be left behind.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the flooring industry, where manufacturer, dealer, supplier, and distributor organizations have worked together to develop a list of standard transactions between their respective groups. In addition to identifying the shared business processes, this group has established a specific format in which to conduct these transactions.

Recognizing the challenges a trading partner has to consider prior to implementing these standards, the group has defined common mapping specifications of data, taking into consideration the cost of getting started. Ultimately, they agreed upon low-cost data exchange methods that allow participation by trading partners of any size and flooring commodity.

Why Now?

As a tile distributor, you may wonder why you need to adopt the e-commerce flooring standards within your business. But, given how quickly manufactures, dealers, suppliers, and even some distributors are adopting these standards within their organizations, the need might be more immediate than you think.

Distributors are continually looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and offering B2B transactions provides a value-added service for customers while increasing your margins by streamlining processes.

What Can B2B Standards Do For You?

The e-commerce standards will enable you to more efficiently conduct business processes, such as buying or selling through the distribution channel. These streamlined operations will result in lower operating costs, shorter time to delivery, and reduce communication, shipping, and keying errors. Using the B2B standards will also help you realize lower transaction costs and eliminate VAN charges.

The benefits of using a solution that supports the B2B standards goes beyond the supply chain to improve your business processes.

Specifically, adopting B2B standards will reduce the amount of time employees spend re-keying data. For example, a purchase order you send to your trading partner can be acknowledged, invoiced, and reconciled electronically.

Similarly, when you receive an order, B2B standards allow you to confirm the item, quantity, and price electronically, vastly reducing material returns or credits resulting from incorrect shipping and invoicing.

In addition to improving your processes, the B2B standards can help you improve service and retain customers, all the while freeing your staff to grow your business and give you the visibility and flexibility to keep ahead of changing market trends.

It Takes Commitment

Of course, just the desire to use the industry standards won’t help you achieve the anticipated reduced costs, increased efficiencies, and improved service. You must have the technology in place to support the current accepted standards while having the capacity to grow with your business over time. While this may require some initial costs, the benefits you receive from complying with the industry standards will quickly maximize your return on the investment.

When choosing a B2B solution, make sure it will meet your business needs as well as support the B2B basics. The solution must be reliable, secure, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Above all else, it must support the common flooring industry documents in use today, including EDI 810 and 832.

As a business executive, you should always be on the lookout for how technology can bring value to your company. E-commerce, and the flooring industry standards, can take you to the next level of success.

In addition to serving as a Product Manager with Activant Solutions Inc.®, Kate Simpson serves on the marketing and education committee of the CTDA. For more information, visit or call 1-800-776-7438, press 1.

Looking for a Commercial Mortgage? Know These Facts
March 1st, 2006


By Jim Lynch

March-April 2006

Home ownership has always appealed to the individualistic spirit of Americans. That same desire for freedom from capricious landlords and ever-escalating rental rates is also prompting a growing number of people to seek commercial mortgages so they can own the real estate that houses their business. Here are some facts you should be aware of if you are seeking a commercial mortgage for a privately held business enterprise.

Some buildings are better mortgage risks than others. The best are existing buildings with office and warehouse or office and manufacturing space, as well as new construction if it’s amenable to a number of commercial uses. Special-purpose buildings such as churches or tennis clubs are not considered good risks.

You will need to come up with at least 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment. If you can come up with 25 percent, you may be able to get a better loan rate.

Commercial mortgage loans are generally structured with a rate that is fixed for a certain period of years; the loan itself is amortized for anywhere from 20 to 25 years. An often-used formula is one tied to the five-year U.S. Treasury rate plus a certain number of basis points. At end of the fixed-rate period, the rate would be adjusted according to the prevailing five-year U. S. Treasury rate plus a certain number of basis points. The fixed rate period is generally five to seven years.

The application process can take up to 30 days. It can take two to three weeks to obtain a copy of the final appraisal of the property. Once a bank receives it, along with the company’s most recent financial statement, a prospective borrower should have an answer in about a week.

Lenders review commercial mortgages just as they do any other credit extension to a privately held business. They look at the value of the buildings and the cash flow of the business. And they always look at how management has reacted in the face of what they see in their marketplace: how they have met the challenges that any owner/operator has to meet in business. All are a direct reflection of how well the company is being managed, and the financial statement is management’s report card.

The age of the business and the strength of the management team might be a consideration. The younger the business, the less history it has and the tougher it will be to finance—unless the future looks bright and all the fundamentals are good. In order to get a glimpse of the future of the company, the bank also evaluates the management team that is in place to support the owner/operator. The bank looks closely at the company’s infrastructure and makes sure all the financial paperwork is in order, so that any member of the management team could help answer future questions, if necessary. Management is always critical.

Certain things raise warning flags. If a prospective borrower didn’t have enough cash to put down on the building, that would be a cause for concern. Also, if it appears that the historical cash flow of the business wouldn’t be sufficient to handle the debt service payments going forward, that’s another issue. An uneven financial history makes financing like this more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, only that the lending institution will have to satisfy itself as to the company’s future cash flow.

Lenders look for a cash flow that is at least one-and-a-quarter times the amount of debt service. The stronger the cash flow, the better the financial condition of the company, the lower the risk of the transaction and the lower the rate.

If the value of the property declines, it may have an effect on the loan, depending on whether the customer can continue to make the prescribed payments. But if the value drops precipitously and the bank feels its collateral position has been negatively impacted, it may seek additional collateral.

To the extent that the lender knows you, the process is generally easier. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get deals like this done with another financial institution. Owner/operators tend to look at a building as a long-term solid asset, so lenders feel that these are stable loans to have in place.

Jim Lynch is President and CEO of Leaders Bank in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition Launched

The Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) was launched at the recent International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla. RSMC is an industry association formed through a grant by USG Corporation to ensure that more accurate information is communicated about mold avoidance and control.

The issue of mold continues to be an important topic to builders, homeowners, and government agencies. Its importance has been further emphasized by post-hurricane conditions and rebuilding plans in the Gulf Coast.

“Everyone connected with the building industry has a stake in making sure effective solutions are embraced in solving this important problem,” said Robert Daniels, Director Emeritus of the Tile Council of North America. “First and foremost, consumers and business owners will be more satisfied with their homes and buildings, builders can avoid expensive callbacks, warranty claims and even litigation, and the financial community can be assured of the long-term security of the investment it underwrites.”

Due to the building boom over the past several years, thousands of new builders and subcontractors have entered the marketplace. They want to become informed on important subjects such as mold control, but the amount of information on mold is overwhelming. It was clear that some scientifically-based organization needed to review the best thinking on the subject and present this information in an understandable format to everyone involved in the building trades as well as to homeowners.

The RSMC will maintain a website that will serve as a clearinghouse for information, publish a brochure with accurate information on the systems approach to mold control, host industry forums and participate in demonstration projects, and publish articles and participate in industry events.

The coalition will not endorse products. It will, however, work to meet the needs of both the trade and consumer audience.

The RSMC was formed through a grant from the USG Corporation. In addition to USG and the Tile Council of North America, current members include the Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries International; the Building Research Council, School of Architecture, University of Illinois; International Institute for Lath and Plaster; Lath and Plaster Institute of Northern California; National Institute of Building Sciences; North American Insulation Manufacturers; the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, Department of Agriculture; and the Western Wall and Ceiling Contractors Association.

What Consumers Say About Mold

In a recent Ducker Research poll of homeowners involved in a remodeling project,

• 86 percent said that mold control is very important to them.

• 44 percent said that they have had mold in their home at some point.

• 86 percent also believe that moisture is the most significant cause of mold.

Walk softly with sound underlayments
March 1st, 2006


By Beth Rogers

March-April 2006

More and more companies are producing sound reducing products to be used under ceramic tile to mitigate noise transfer. According to Richard Maurer, director of marketing for the Noble Company, the sound attenuation market has been growing dramatically and is now cranking out an estimated 50 million square feet of covering annually.

To gauge the impact of their tile underlayments on sound, manufacturers determine the measurement of the IIC or “impact insulation class” using testing methods established by ASTM. Unlike decibel ratings, where a higher number reflects a louder noise, higher IIC numbers reflect more sound reduction or “resistance.” In short, the IIC quantifies the amount of sound energy transmitted between floors and ceilings.

Consequently, sound reducing underlayments make most sense when used in multi-level structures, whether they are commercial or residential, to deaden the sound transfer from one unit to the next. These underlayments won’t do anything about minimizing airborne noise—or sounds from within a space.

The difference in a building with and without an underlayment, says Tom Duvé, president of National Applied Construction (NAC) Products, is like the difference between hearing someone tap dance on a hard surface versus carpeting. “If you put underlayment down in the kitchen it wouldn’t make your kitchen quieter,” admits Reeve Haldeman, senior product manager for Custom Building Products, “but it would help reduce the sound in anything below it….All the sound underlayments are essentially doing is separating the point of impact from the sub floor or the ceiling construction. We’re providing a buffer and that buffer is reducing the transmission of those impact waves.”

Custom Building Products has been making sound reduction underlayments since 2003 and just introduced SoundGard Lite, a polypropylene mat which comes in a peel-and-stick option or can be adhered to the floor with thinset or mastic. Tile is then direct-bonded to the mat. There is some flex in the mat, admits Haldeman, which makes it suitable only for up to light commercial applications. “You couldn’t use it in a car dealership or something like that,” he says. The mat comes in 3, 5, and 12 mm thicknesses.

Most acoustical underlayments had their roots as anti-fracture treatments. Pam Zepp, NAC’s marketing director, notes the company started out manufacturing several anti-fracture and waterproofing underlayments but quickly realized they had inherent sound deadening qualities so, in the early 1990s, after working with some chemists to enhance those properties, the company introduced SAM 3 (sound abatement membrane), followed by Super Sam, both of them made from modified elastomers, sound deadening resins, and reinforced woven fibers.

Both products are a peel-and-stick application. Zepp notes that the substrate needs to be clean and dry. Concrete requires a primer to ensure proper adhesion. The company also manufactures 101 floor prep, a hardener which fills in porous substrates.

“One of the big selling points of the product is that it’s made for fast track installation,” says Zepp. “When you lay that membrane down you can install tile the same day. It’s an extremely easy product to use. It’s a much easier system to use than installing multi-layer floors, and contractors can save themselves a lot of money.” SAM can be made to be waterproof as well if it’s installed with seam and corner tape. Super Sam at 90 mils is thick enough so that it doesn’t require a sound-rated ceiling assembly underneath it to be effective.

Noble Company rolled out Noble Seal SIS (sound isolation sheet) about 11 years ago. SIS, which is 3/64 of an inch thick, is made out of chlorinated polyethylene (CPE) from pellets that the company buys from Dow Chemicals, extrudes, then laminates on both sides with a fiber to help bond the membrane to the substrate and tile.

Maurer says that more and more areas have codes governing sound reduction. The city of Los Angeles is one of the most stringent in the nation when it comes to noise attenuation, requiring hard surface flooring in stacked housing to meet minimum International Building Code standards of an IIC of 50 before issuing a building permit—and more cities are following suit.

Consequently, more underlayment manufacturers are adding sound reducing materials to their product lines. However, says Maurer, most contractors are still turning to cork for sound reduction “which is real cheap and has been used for years and years.” Maurer estimates that cork easily constitutes one quarter to one third of the reported 50 million square feet of sound attenuating underlayment sold annually.

What about cork?

Larry Lyons, sales and marketing director with Trevor-WI-Amorim Industrial Solutions, a division of the Portuguese company Amorim, the largest producer of cork products in the world, has nothing but accolades for cork. “It’s very effective. It can be low in cost. It’s very friendly to most types of finished floor materials…it doesn’t require a lot of special techniques and tricks. It’s easy and forgiving to work with.” Lyons says that cork is also highly water resistant.

Amorim distributes Acousticork in 6 mm and 13 mm thicknesses with the latter almost always used in conjunction with ceramic tile, making it substantially thicker than many of its competitors. Acousticork comes in a roll or sheet form that needs to be glued down to the substrate. Tile can be directly bonded to Acousticork with a latex modified thinset mortar.

Amorim recently developed a process to waffle the bottom of the Acousticork to make it more sound absorbent. It also recently released Acousticork 55 Plus which consists of a layer of coir sandwiched between cork. Developing the perfect acoustical medium to be used in conjunction with tile is a balancing act, notes Lyons , that strives to handle density versus compressive strength–too dense and the material’s not sound absorbent enough; too flexible and it will deflect and crack tile.

Diversified Foam Products, says Ed James, vice president of operations, distributes 1/8 inch thick Prolayment SB made out of cross-linked polyolefin by Toray Industries. While the company does far more business in crack suppressing membranes, more customers have been looking for sound attenuating products. The attractive thing about Prolayment SB, says James, is it sells at a competitive price point. In the past, contractors used underlayments like red rosin paper which he says was “basically ineffective and was just put down to have people feel better about having something under their tile.” Today’s underlayments, says James, truly do perform.

Four years ago, the Quebec-based Acousti-Tech company developed Cerami-Tech, a 3 mm thick underlayment made out of non-woven polypropylene and polyethylene composite fibers. As Acousti-Tech marketing director Danielle Watier notes, wall-to-wall carpeting in high rises is becoming a thing of the past which means that more emphasis has to be paid to sound reduction. Additionally, high-rise dwellers are less willing to put up with noise. “Condos cost a lot of money and people want to have privacy in their homes, so acoustical products are gaining new consumers.” Cerami-Tech is sold all over North America and is applied to floors with a latex based adhesive or an AD316 adhesive.

Acousti-Tech follows the same ASTM standards as its American counterparts. Cerami-Tech is distinguished from its competitors by its ability to minimize heat loss (something of great importance in Canada ) and its stringent CCMC ( Canadian Construction Materials Center ) certification which creates consumer confidence by “guaranteeing what you’re buying.”

Measurable Results

Many consumers don’t understand fully what it is they are getting when they buy sound attenuating products. As most manufacturers point out, numbers by themselves without context are meaningless. So many variables affect an IIC rating. Sound travels differently through different substrates whether it is a four inch or eight inch concrete slab or a 3/4 inch wood floor. If a structure has a ceiling attached to a plenum that further naturally attenuates noise. An overall IIC number is “smoke and mirrors,” says Haldeman, “Because that IIC number means nothing if you don’t know what the sub floor construction was. A double wood floor with a drop ceiling already has a base IIC of 67.”

Consequently more and more manufacturers are referring to ASTM E 2179, a test method for assessing the before and after impact of an underlayment. The difference in IIC number is often referred to as the “Delta IIC” which reflects the contribution of the underlayment. Lyons says that consumers would be better served if all manufacturers rated their product according to E 2179. However, that test standard only became ratified in 2003 and many companies haven’t bothered with the substantial expense of testing existing products under it.

Haldeman says Custom Building Product’s underlayments have delivered a Delta IIC as high as 23. Noble only promises 13 to 15 Delta IIC points with its products. In layman’s terms, as Maurer explains, “an increase of ten of IIC will reduce the sound pressure level by about 90% and what your ear is going to hear is half as much noise.” Twenty points means that only 25% of the noise would be heard. “Twenty is a big number and that’s pretty hard to do,” says Maurer.

Furthermore, even with the rating system, there can be a tremendous amount of variability on ratings depending on what lab the product was tested in. Watier says that what truly matters in IIC numbers is the FIIC—the field rating, which is more realistic than tests conducted in the controlled environment of a laboratory. However, Lyons feels that field tests, conducted under actual conditions, “are totally unreliable….If something changes in the receiving room [where the sound transfer is measured], like they put an overstuffed couch in the middle of the room, it could change the dynamics of the whole test.”

Lyons says that “whoever is making the end decision should try to get test data that correlates as closely as possible with what they’re actually going to build.” Too many ratings pertain only to assemblies with sound rated ceilings, which is meaningless in structures where one person’s ceiling is the actual underside of a neighbor’s floor. As Lyons observes, “the degree of acoustical performance you start with dictates what you wind up.”

Amorim has data on 15 different test assemblies. Most companies only refer to one or two test assemblies, says Lyons , and don’t post the details behind the assemblies. “We feel that the process should be very transparent, that you should see exactly how the material was tested to come up with that number so that that number has some meaning to you.”

Duvé says, “I would like to see the standards improve for sound attenuation so we can compare apples and apples in the field and the customer gets a good product.”

Looking Ahead

Despite some incongruities which may never realistically be rectified, and disagreements between manufacturers on how to best test their product, more code bodies dealing with multi-family structures and more homeowners’ associations are requiring sound attenuation. Markets that don’t mandate sound reduction, such as Chicago and Boston , are the exception now according to Lyons . Lyons observes that many builders are looking to go beyond the threshold of an IIC of 50: “The prices on some of these condo properties especially in the luxury market in coastal areas can exceed $1000 per square foot, so builders want to make sure they do the best they can for sound control, so they’re looking for higher-performing solutions.”

Most underlayment manufacturers have targeted the condominium market. NAC counts buildings like Turnberry Towers in Las Vegas and Florida , and Caribe, a high rise building in Gulf Shores , Alabama , among its clients. Noble’s SIS has been used in the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados as well as the Seattle Convention Center .

Interestingly, notes Lyons , what would appear to be other big markets for the sound attenuation industry, like hospitals, hotels, and office buildings, haven’t proven to be that fruitful. Rental apartments also appear to be a marketing dead end: “The feeling is that if the tenants don’t like the noise they’ll move away.” Lyons notes that there has been some demand for Acousticork in student housing.

Growth is good. Maurer says that sales of SIS have consistently improved 10 to 15% each year. According to Lyons , Acousticork has had annual double digit increases in sales over the last five years. Duvé says NAC sells around a million square feet a year just in sound control products. “It’s a good market, and I think it’s going to expand,” he says.

As more competitors enter the field, cautions Watier, the danger is that some of the companies may be less than reputable and she anticipates that in the future there will be more litigation and claims on products that don’t deliver the promised sound reduction.

Ultimately, when selecting an sound reducing underlayment, says Haldeman, “you should look for the Delta IIC you need to achieve the IIC of the total construction that’s required. Then you have to balance out ease of installation, the time it takes to install it, and price.”

Exterior Tile Trends: Taking Tile Outside
March 1st, 2006


By Bill & Patti Feldman

March-April 2006

In residential and commercial markets alike, exterior tile is having its day in the sun. It continues to be a popular choice for decorative and durable surfacing of walkways, patios, fountain areas, and other landscape elements around homes and commercial buildings and is starting to show up on the floors and walls of the newly trendy outdoor kitchens and other open-air living areas. In exterior commercial applications, there is increased use of tile on vertical surfaces.

Over the past couple of years, tile manufacturers have broadened the selection of available tile sizes and designs in ceramic, glass and stone, and especially in glazed and through-body porcelain. Particularly popular nowadays are designs that capture the texture, relief and the typical variations of color of natural stone.

Porcelain is perfect outside

Porcelain tile for outdoor use can be an easy sell to commercial and residential customers alike. Very durable and scratch- and fade-resistant, it can mimic the appearance of natural slate, granite and other traditional exterior surfaces while requiring minimal maintenance. Selection of tile with a high MOH rating (reflecting degree of hardness, with 10 being the hardest) and PEI rating (reflecting wearability, with 5 being the highest rating), ensures that the tile would work well in areas of high foot traffic. Also, its chemical inertia makes it suitable for high pollution areas.

Having practically no water absorption compared to ceramic tile, porcelain tile is much less likely to freeze and crack in sustained cold weather or otherwise show signs of weathering in freeze/thaw cycles, making it ideal for outdoor applications. The water absorption rate of a standard porcelain tile is generally less than 0.5% while for ceramic tiles, this rate is often only just under 3% for floor tiles and just under 10% for wall tiles.

Though some glazed tile can be slippery and therefore not suitable for floor use unless treated, porcelain tiles can be manufactured with a coefficient of friction high enough to be considered non-slip.

Porcelain tile can also be marketed as sustainable. While the tiles can last the lifetime of a building, should design needs change, the tiles can be recycled as material for road and landscape base material rather than be shipped to landfills.

Using glazed ceramic or porcelain tile to achieve the natural look of stone in outdoor living areas is on the upswing in many regions of the country. Designers frequently create modular rectangular patterns incorporating a variety of sizes and shapes to replicate the appearance of classical stone flooring. Some are also mixing “free-form” pieces to achieve a pleasing aesthetic. Often, floor and wall tiling materials in an outdoor kitchen or living room are echoed around a fire pit and as pathways throughout the garden.

And, notes Rob Henry, a Principal at Robert F. Henry Tile Company, a distributor based in Montgomery Alabama, large modular patterns using stone-look tiles up to 24″ or 36″ square are also popular around pools. Among projects for customers with brick homes, “there is a lot of interest in coordinating tile color to the brick, especially for patios, decks and pool decks, as well as walkways,” he noted, “even though that sometimes raises the hot-foot issue if the tile is dark.”

In 2006, for commercial tile, “large” and “larger” and “even larger” is in, with more products available not only in large format sizes such as 24” x 24”, 24” x 36” and 30” x 30” but also in slab-like pieces, such as 24” x 48”, 30” x 60” and 60” x 90” suitable for exterior floors and walls.

How large is large format?

For example, a huge horizontal installation for the renovation of the Waterside Shops, an upscale open air lifestyle mall in Naples, Florida, that is close to completion, utilizes 90,000 square feet of 18” x 18” anti-slip slate-look porcelain tiles for all the exterior flooring. The specifications for the “extreme make-over” called for a light color that would stay relatively cool to the touch on hot sunny days.

The installation, which features multiple sizes of tile manufactured by Impronta Italgraniti USA, is one of the largest exterior flooring projects using porcelain tile in the United States. It replaces pock-marked cement tile that, while typical of older South Florida Mediterranean-style malls, did not accommodate the contemporary fashion-forward oriented environment the mall developer was aiming for.

The mall has many covered walkways with canopies only 8 ½ feet high. Because of the disparity between the bright Florida sun and the shadows created by the canopies, the architect, JPRA Architects of Farmington Hills, Michigan, specified the light color to maximize reflection of light back onto the ceilings, explained James Ryan, A.I.A, Chairman of the Board of the architectural firm.

Vertical Installations on the up and up and up

Porcelain tile and porcelain slabs have many value-adding characteristics that make them good choices for vertical cladding on commercial buildings. These include porcelain’s higher mechanical strength, superior to that of natural stone for the same thickness, its lower weight (one-third the weight of granite) and therefore lower shipping costs and installation costs, and its high wind thrust resistance, which makes it suitable for use in hurricane zones. Also, because it is 30% denser than granite, porcelain tile has greater chip resistance than granite.

Manufacturers have developed techniques that enable duplication of the look of natural stone close enough, in some cases, to match existing stone. For example, for matching existing granite in renovations, it is now possible for a porcelain tile manufacturer to take high resolution scans of the existing granite and use computerized plotting to replicate the veining patterns in the porcelain tile, mimicking the width and depth of the vein.

And because of the ability of the manufacturer to control the veining and the color, porcelain tile can enjoy an overall lower rejection rate by the architect and lower percentage of waste than natural stone and granite, especially in projects where the architect is aiming for a monolithic look.

Impronta Italgraniti, of Italy, supplied two types of porcelain tiles that replicate the look of natural stone and granite for a 400,000 square foot exterior ventilated façade installation at The Avenue, a huge new shopping mall in Kuwait City. (The manufacturer also supplied 376,000 square feet of interior common space flooring of the same tiles, half in polished finish, half in matt. The combined total of 776,000 square feet for interior floors and exterior vertical cladding puts the project among the largest tile jobs supplied by a single manufacturer.)

Because of the hot desert environment, Noor Architects of Toronto designed a ventilated façade, a form of energy efficient construction that features an air space of a few inches between the rough exterior of the building and the stainless steel grid-and-track system that supports the exterior large-sized nominal 2’ x 4’ porcelain tile.

The 12 mm thick tiles were partially drilled through from the back near the corners to allow for later insertion of threaded mounting screws which are first dipped into liquid epoxy. The tiles were set into the stainless steel ventilated framework with a quarter inch gap between the tiles that allows for the flow of air.

A ventilated façade keeps the building cool during the day and warm during the night. “In the desert, the cool air at night cools off the tiles, allowing for natural dissipation of the heat. In the daytime, the tile and the space act as a thermal barrier and can lower energy costs by up to 20–30 percent,’’ explains Jerry Joyce, Vice President of Impronta Italgraniti USA. “It is, in fact, a form of energy efficient construction.”

A ventilated facade can also provide an effective acoustic barrier, reducing exterior noise pollution by up to 20 percent, he adds.

“While most projects in the U.S. using porcelain tile for cladding still utilize conventional full spread installation techniques and are usually low reaching, with the cladding area typically only up to 30 feet high, in Europe and Asia, where there has been active development of many new standards and systems that enable installations above 30 feet, tiling projects frequently go much higher,” observes Joyce.

Innovative cladding systems of the type that allow vertical installations without any functional height limitations—i.e. ventilated facades—are slowly being introduced in this country.

Manufacturers are keeping pace with the evolution of this new technology. For example, VitrA, a Turkish tile manufacturer, and Tile of Spain branded manufacturers Alcalagres and Apavisa Porcelanico offer innovative ventilated façade systems that can be installed over original construction as well as used for new construction.

“The introduction of ventilated systems in the US opens up the possibility that tile distributors can sell the systems, including the steel framework,” points out Joyce, “just like, years ago, tile distributors jumped into selling cement backer board even though its introduction came through the building products sector.”


Linda Hennelly
Crossville Tile

Nissy Atassi
Paramount PR

(for) Imagine Tile
Bloomfield, NJ

Jerry Joyce
Impronta Italgraniti

James Ryan, A.I.A.
Chairman of the Board
JPRA Architects

Carolyn Holck Brown
Oceanside Glasstile

Robert F Henry
Tile Company

Mary Anne Piccirillo
White Good & Company
(for) Tile of Spain

Alexandra Ainsworth
Communicators International, Inc.

(for) Vitra USA

Kirsty Froelich
The Tile Shop

Concrete Tile Is Another Exterior Option

Mention concrete to many people and they think of a cold, gray sidewalk or wall. Those in the business, like John Paganos, founder of Olde World Stone & Tile, describe it another way: “The unique, aged look of our concrete stone and tile is reminiscent of those tiles found in the villas of Tuscany, the chateaus of Burgundy, and the haciendas of old Mexico.”

Concrete stone and tile, also called cementitious stone and tile, has been around since the days of the Romans. Back then, pouring a mortar-like mixture on site firmed the tiles, as with the building of the Coliseum. Today companies produce tiles in factories using various methods to achieve the different textures and styles available. A number of companies, including Olde World, use the wet-cast method to give the tile a handmade appearance. Styles, shapes, textures and sizes are virtually unlimited. The use of iron oxide colorants in the mix guarantees that the integral color will never wear out. Concrete tiles are produced by one of three manufacturing processes. They are either poured, extruded or ram pressed. Some concrete tiles duplicate the look and replace the other softer and less durable tiles like brick and Mexican Saltillo for use in high-traffic, commercial applications.

How big is the cementitious tile market? Wausau Tile, the country’s largest manufacturer of concrete tile has been producing what it calls pre-cast terrazzo tile for over a decade. Olde World Stone & Tile has been designing and making molds and helping entrepreneurs start their own tile and stone manufacturing businesses since 1992. Ro-Tile, a division of Coronado Stone Products, Inc., is one of six plants that Coronado has throughout the U.S. and Canada. They’ve been manufacturing concrete tile for over 40 years. Cal-Ga-Crete has been producing concrete tile since 1963. Their tiles have been used in Disney Parks around the world. The Los Angeles City Hall, built in 1928, was restored and retrofitted 73 years later, with 16,000 concrete tiles from Arto Brick to replace clay tile walks.

In the residential market, cementitious tiles are used for driveways, kitchens, family rooms, etc. They can also be used around swimming pools due to their natural slip resistant properties. Architects like concrete tiles because they can be used for both interior and exterior applications, creating a flow and feeling of one big space.

Concrete tile is installed by setting them in mortar, like ceramic tile. Olde World recommends back-buttering the tiles and the use of a mortar bag to fill the grout joints. Installers used to working with ceramic tile and cleaning off the grout the next day, have to work differently with cement tile. If the grout haze is not removed right away, it may stick. Most producers pre-seal their tiles at their plants to facilitate ease of grout removal. Acid should never be used on concrete.

There is no debate that concrete or cementitious tile is here to stay and that the category will continue to grow. Companies like Olde World Stone & Tile and others are offering molds and finishing techniques to help dealers and distributors profitably provide customers with custom, hand-made tile and stone at very competitive prices.

Leadership Letter: The Incredible Value CTDA Membership Offers
January 1st, 2006

January-February 2006

As I look ahead to 2006 and my responsibilities as CTDA president, I am struck by the incredible value CTDA membership offers. Where else can you find such an enthusiastic network of business associates meeting the same challenges you face every day?

The industry-specific knowledge you need is always available from CTDA. Consider the following:

• Tile Training in a Box offers a one-stop education shop for newcomers to the industry as well as experienced workers who could benefit from a refresher course on ceramic tile. This program has recently been expanded with PowerPoint presentations for group or individual learning and an informative section on stone. Learn the basics about the industry’s newest trend.

• Ready to learn more? Online Education is only a click away and a great value for CTDA members. This self-guided ceramic tile course offers both the Basics of Ceramic Tile and necessary Sales Techniques to help you and your employees work—and sell—most effectively with your customers.

• Industry seminars, like the mold panel at the 2005 Management Conference, offer all of us an opportunity to listen and ask questions about topics important to us and our businesses.

• Run a smarter company thanks to the input of professionals like Al Bates. Leverage programs from and Staples to help you save real money every day in your business.

Okay—these are all great membership benefits (and there are more, just check them out at, but that’s just the beginning.

Industry opportunities

CTDA membership also offers the added advantage of industry networking, not only at CTDA events but also at industry events like Coverings. Meet and get to know your suppliers and fellow tile dealers. There is no better way to learn about the industry than from its leaders. CTDA members have been leading the ceramic tile industry since 1978. From our co-sponsorship of Coverings, the industry’s largest trade show in the America’s, to the publication of TileDealer, CTDA has always lead the industry.

Industry networking is not limited to CTDA events. It’s as easy as calling up a CTDA member locally or across the country to see if he has a product you’re looking for or experience with the question that’s plaguing you now. CTDA is, after all, about the people who share in the industry.

The association is also about some wonderful opportunities, and I can think of none better than the gracious invitation from the Turkish Ceramic Federation to CTDA members to travel to Istanbul in June and become better acquainted with them and their remarkable products. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand your corporate horizons, tap into new product lines, and deliver wonderful products to your customers.

What if you’re not a member of CTDA?

If you’re a former member of CTDA who let your membership drop, or you’re a prospective member trying to decide if you really want to join, there has never been a better time to become a part of the industry’s leading association. Surfaces and Coverings are just ahead. CTDA members will be leveraging their association relationships to maximize these events and the others that follow. If you’ve been thinking about joining, the time has never been better.

Membership benefits grow and opportunities multiply with CTDA.

I’ll see you at Surfaces!

Mark Carlson
CTDA President

From the Editor’s Desk: What Are You Doing New In 2006
January 1st, 2006

by Janet Arden, Editor

January-February 2006

How ready are you for the future? In his presentation at the CTDA Management Conference, Jim Carroll accurately captured the mood when he said, “Change is happening faster than ever before.”

Tile is very much about change—especially if you look at design innovations like glass, metallics, and large format, to name a few. How we deal with change, of course, is the challenge.

Some challenges are welcome.

We are part of an exciting, fast-growing marketplace. Tile has become increasingly part of the design/build/remodel industry. Its low-maintenance and long lifetime qualities are appealing to buyers looking to build or remodel “up.” The National Association of Homebuilders estimated that new home construction in 2005 was valued at $250 billion and remodeling added another $235 billion. Are you doing everything to tap this market potential?

Some challenges are unexpected.

The soaring cost of oil in 2005 has had a ripple effect across the industry. How are you coping with this? TileDealer talked to distributors and manufacturers to see what they are doing to meet this challenge. They have come up with a variety of solutions, and you can read about them in “The Marketplace Now.”

Some challenges we see coming.

For some time now the industry has wondered about the impact of Chinese tile imports. The latest numbers (as of September 2005) from the U.S. Trade Commission indicate Chinese imports are up 114-percent. Some industry leaders call this good news, because competition is always good for the marketplace. But it may present some marketshare challenges, and it certainly has the potential to impact the industry overall. This issue TileDealer talked One-on-One with importer Robert Briggs to get an insider’s perspective on Chinese imports.

Some challenges we meet together.

For the last three years, Tile Partners for Humanity has offered the industry a remarkable opportunity to give back to the community by providing materials, expertise, labor and financial support to help build and finish homes for families that would not otherwise be able to own one. They always have more need than they can accommodate, but the devastation wrought by the hurricanes in 2005 has multiplied this need many times over.

In the weeks and months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, industry members flooded Tile Partners for Humanity with calls about rebuilding through donations of materials, labor and installation training. Until now, Habitat for Humanity—with whom TPFH works to coordinate tile donations for Habitat homes—was not able to address flooring needs for homes in affected communities. TPFH is working with the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) and Habitat for Humanity International to coordinate donations along the Gulf Coast and TPFH NEEDS YOUR HELP. NOAHH will build or rehab more than 500 homes in 2006 in the City of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and the devastated areas in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. We will also work in communities along the coast in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Please stop by TPFH booth #G2144 at Surfaces for updated information on build schedules and material and labor needs. Updated project and build information will also be posted on the TPFH site at You can also request information after mid-January from Allyson Fertitta, TPFH executive director, at

“We desperately need tile, carpet and other flooring materials for use in our home building activities. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity will lead the way by building and renovating MORE THAN 500 homes within the next year. While we have many eager volunteers and Habitat partner families, we need professionals to work on our projects and help train volunteers to work with them. Please give us your thoughtful consideration!”—Jim Pate, Executive Director, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity

TPFH and industry partners have tiled nearly 200 homes in three years of partnership with Habitat for Humanity International. TPFH is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization and is guided by representatives of seven leading tile industry organizations: Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, Ceramic Tile Institute of America, National Tile Contactors Association, The Tile, Tile Council of North America, and Tile Heritage Foundation.

So, the question is, are you ready to meet these challenges?

See you at Surfaces!

Janet Arden

CTDA - Online Education
CTDA - Membership