Thin Is In! (The New Technology in Porcelain Tile)
July 2nd, 2012

by Thomas J. Kotel

Doing more with less has become the rallying cry in business and in personal lives. It seems everyone is looking for ways to save time, money and resources to become more efficient in what they do.

The flooring industry has been no different. First came the advent of large-format tile designs, providing the customer with greater coverage (not to mention some great new looks) while using fewer total tiles. Still, large-format tile came with its own challenges, not the least of which was the weight of the material. On wall installations especially, large-format, traditional thickness porcelain or ceramic tile can be a bit labor intensive. Luckily for designers and installers alike, a solution has evolved!

Cotto D’Este, an Italian manufacturer, has developed a revolutionary new technology to create Kerlite, a large-format, thin porcelain tile that weighs a fraction of standard thickness tile while still providing the strength and durability of porcelain. Incredibly, Kerlite is just 3mm thick and ideal for walls in residential or public buildings, both indoors and out. Kerlite Plus adds a fiberglass mesh backing, making it 3.5mm thick. This backing makes Kerlite Plus suitable not only for walls, but for floor installation as well. An added bonus of Kerlite Plus is that it can be installed over existing flooring, saving the installer time, money and the mess of tearing off and disposing of old material. The mesh backing coupled with the thin design makes it easy to score and shape the tile to fit rolled-edge countertops, columns and other imaginative applications while ensuring the tile sticks solidly to the adhesive on the substrate.

Now let’s talk size. Kerlite puts the “LARGE” in large-format tile with a variety of sizes up to a maximum of 39-3/8” x 118-1/8”! The variety of color and style choices available makes cladding exterior walls not only functional, but fashionable as well.

Mid-America Tile, the exclusive Midwest distributor of Kerlite, recently had the opportunity to introduce this thin tile technology to the Architectural and Design community at a forum hosted by the International Masonry Institute (IMI) at their training center in Addison, Illinois. Matt Nordloh of MAPEI presented Leaner, Greener, Larger, Lighter: Thin Tile Systems to over 70 architects and manufacturer reps in attendance. The session outlined the features and benefits of thin body tiles including design and installation requirements and techniques for successful projects. Following the class, attendees went downstairs to see firsthand demos and product presentations of the benefits of Kerlite Plus tile given by representatives of Kerlite, MAPEI, Tuscan Leveling Systems, Mid-America Tile and Wedi. Attendees were also able to view a wall mock-up featuring a 39-3/8″ x 118-1/8″ sheet of Kerlite Plus tile.

The attendees left with an appreciation for the possibilities of this unique, new technology and shared many positive comments about the product.

Mid-America Tile also brought its thin-tile message to over 40 union contractors at the Ceramic Tile Contractors Association of Chicago (CTCAC) monthly meeting and dinner, held at the International Masonry Institute’s training center. Attendees were treated to presentations by representatives from Kerlite, MAPEI, Mid-America Tile, Tuscan Leveling System and Wedi, showing the features and benefits of Kerlite as well as the proper installation products and techniques to help ensure successful projects.

One of the most impressive highlights of the presentation was when one of the attendees was handed a hammer and invited to strike a piece of standard thickness porcelain tile. After the tile shattered into a several pieces, he was asked to do the same to a piece of Kerlite Plus 3.5mm thin tile. Despite repeated blows from the hammer, the Kerlite Plus tile remained intact.

The contractors came away from this meeting impressed with the strength and ease of installation of this new product.

There is little question that thin tile is here to stay. As professionals and end-users become more educated about and comfortable with the technology, they are sure to see the advantages of using it on many of their projects.

Mid-America Tile currently stocks selected styles and colors of Kerlite Plus in 39-3/8 x 39-3/8” and 39-3/8” x 118-1/8” sizes. We don’t stop there, though. Mid-America Tile can supply everything the professional contractor needs to help ensure the best results when installing Kerlite Plus, including:

  • Full lines of recommended substrates, mortars, grout and waterproofing components from MAPEI;
  • The Tuscan Leveling System which virtually eliminates lippage during the installation of large-format tile, both on the floor or on the wall;
  • The new, patented Sigma “Kera-Cut” tile cutter, designed specifically for use on thin, large-format tile. Kera-Cut tile cutters are available in two sizes and have a 5-year warranty.

Mid-America Tile, headquartered in Elk Grove Village, IL, is a family-owned wholesale flooring distributor and importer specializing in Ceramic, Porcelain, Glass, Metal, Natural Stone Tile, Commercial Resilient, Electric Radiant Floor Heat, and Installation Products. Now in its 51st year in business, Mid-America Tile provides products and solutions to Architects, Designers, Developers, Home Builders, Contractors and Specialty Floor Covering Dealers involved in Hospitality, Health Care, Education, Residential and Commercial projects.  For inquiries regarding Kerlite Plus and other products, contact Dan Skowron, Marketing Coordinator, at  See more at


Thomas J. Kotel is the president of Mid-America Tile.

“You can buy tile anywhere, but you can’t access talent everywhere.” One on One with Anna Marie Fanelli
June 13th, 2012

By: Jeffrey Steele


“Tile design is not a stepchild to the interior design business.”

Anna Marie Fanelli learned a vital lesson in her early career as an advertising and marketing professional: the only way to give an advertiser what he wanted was to really get a read on that client.  Having long since become a design professional, she’s kept that lesson top of mind.  That same ability to really listen now helps Fanelli ensure her designs beautifully reflect her client’s unique lifestyles.

“The way one’s home is designed is just as meaningful a style choice, and presentation of oneself, as the way one dresses,” she observes.

“It’s all about how the space comes alive.  It’s about energy.”

For Fanelli, the award-winning co-owner of Tenafly, N.J.-based Floor & Décor, making a home come alive means using tile in ways that are as distinctive as they are dramatic.  For the past 20 years, she has incorporated tile in groundbreaking home designs for some of the most demanding and discerning clients in New Jersey.

As her legend has grown, Fanelli has been showered with numerous awards, as well as both national and regional recognition.  For two years in a row, she was honored by Coverings and Environmental Design + Construction magazine for a green bathroom she designed that captured the “PROJECT: Green” competition.  This year, her submission was spotlighted in the PROJECT: Green Onsite Idea Center at Coverings.

She was also one of just 42 female entrepreneurs nationwide to be featured in the book Never Underestimate the Strength of Women (Jas Literary Publishing).

Her work has been highlighted in publications ranging from the New York Times and Newsday to Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen Makeover and Better Homes & Gardens Bath Makeovers.  In addition, she has written columns for New York City-area publications and discussed home design as a guest on a number of radio talk shows.

We invite you to be captivated by the entertaining and compelling views of this consummate tile industry professional.

TD: How did you get started with tile?

That was an interesting journey.  I was director of marketing for a point of sale advertising agency.  And I had lovely Fortune 500 accounts.  And I married John, who was in this business.   I was traveling a lot and became physically sick, and was given a year sabbatical by the ad agency.  I was newly married at the time, and thought it would be a great idea to work in his showroom.

I got exposed to stone and tile, and loved it. I was able to take the creativity I used in another industry and transpose it to this industry.  Instead of going back, I stayed in this industry, came into my own, and now really emphasize tile.  Tile design is not a stepchild to the interior design business.  I really feel it’s not emphasized enough by design magazines.  It takes a tremendous talent to put together kitchens, bathrooms, foyers and outdoor areas using tile.


TD: What are your favorite tile uses?

In residential, I love the foyer, because that makes your first couture statement.  I’m really into looking at someone’s personal style, and listening to their lifestyle.  That should be reflected in their homes.  I learn people’s lifestyles before I design.  The foyer dictates how the home will evolve.

But I do quirky things.  I just designed a 9-foot-high-by-7-foot wide fireplace.  My client is Russian, and in Russia they really appreciate tile.  This fireplace brought back [to her] her lifestyle of who she was as she grew up in Russia.  What I’m so passionate about is we create art every single day.

And it doesn’t matter if you have a budget, because we have so much material we can work with today; there’s no reason you can’t have design, no matter the budget.

TD: Your PR rep says you are “obsessed with tile.”  What’s the nature of that obsession?

The nature of the obsession is that at any given time, or any place, in my life I always seem to be designing with tile.  Last night, I had to go to Lowe’s to pick up some paint, and while I was there, I gravitated toward the tile department, to see how they merchandised the product.  And while there, I designed a powder room for a rental apartment, giving someone I just met four or five different sketches.

TD:  If you attended Coverings, what tile trends most interested you?

I have to say, I was most impressed this year with 3-D stone in wave formats and interwoven pieces.  There are a lot of porcelains out there that are doing those wave patterns.  And there is another porcelain that looks like a stick format, but is actually dimensional.  But at the show, I have to say the most beautiful displays were the Waterjet designs.  Waterjet is the process, which is so incredibly advanced.

Yes, it’s pricey.  It’s not for every income level.  It is laser cut material using stone, glass and a combination of stone and glass.  But just the process of all the laser cut pieces that are works of art are incredible.

TD:  Where is the most distinctive place you have used tile?

I had a client who said she wanted to have all the archways in her home providing her with a Tuscan, a Mediterranean feel.  She had a lot of these archways, and I thought of using the archways as a focal point.  And I used the 3-D stone as a mosaic, in a brushed finish. The 3-D stone comes from Italy, and there’s a special process to it.  It was new construction.  I was the designer on the entire project, but she said everyone looks at the archways, because people don’t think of using the archways.

People just want to touch them; they’ve become the conversation pieces in their homes.

I’ve done bathrooms in which the budget just for tile was $150,000.

The floor was an entire custom Waterjet floor with exotic, intricate field material.  The back shower walls depict a muse pattern.

When large budgets dictate something unusual, it’s easy to create couture.  The challenge is when you have a tight budget, and still need to be creative.  I did the entire façade of a restaurant in New York City’s Times Square, and created a façade that used slates, mosaics, glass and all different size formats to create a Tuscan bistro effect.

TD:  How do you help your clients select the most appropriate tile for their needs/purposes?

First of all, there’s a specific process.  What do you want to accomplish in a space?  I want to be very clear on what my objective is.

And once I have that I want to determine my client’s style.  It’s about energy, about how they talk, how they express themselves.  That dictates color.

If they’re more soft-spoken, I’m not going to throw out wild colors and materials that go against their grain.  If someone is really sloppy, I’m not going to recommend white Thassos marble.  If you want that white color, I’ll recommend a crystallized white glass that’s maintenance free but provides a similar look.

It can be beautiful at the outset, but if it doesn’t fit their lifestyle, it’s a problem.  You have to know their lifestyle, and the product.

You have to take time to listen.  That’s critical. That goes back to my advertising days, where you really had to read your client.  Today, with the economy, people are just tired.  They’re fatigued.  And professionals in our industry are fatigued, because materials from Europe are more expensive and everything‘s more expensive.  If you can read and understand the client, your task becomes easier.

TD: What do you need from a tile distributor?

I’m a tile, stone and plumbing studio, but what I need from my distributors is for them to be service oriented [and] knowledgeable about the product.  I need pricing at my fingertips [and] stock availability.  And if something’s out of stock I need a recommendation, so I don’t have to start all over with the process.

I spec’d the tile for a home down the Jersey shore, I’m thinking about timing because the client wants to be in there by summer, the material has to be cost effective, because she has seven bathrooms.

And I’m thinking about shipping costs.  But here’s the thing, I needed chair rail, but it’s not available for six months.  So I needed to find a different tile that would fit the needs, still be at the same price point, and satisfy the client.

You have to have someone who knows the line and can effectively provide an alternative, someone you can really depend on.

You need someone on your team who can flip material around and really keep your showroom going.

TD:  How could distributors do a better job of marketing and selling tile? 

I think first of all, when new product is introduced, you should know all aspects.  We don’t have time to look at all the price lists.  Be up to speed on the new things you’re bringing in.  Is it environmentally friendly?  How many formats can it offer?  Can it be used commercially?  If it’s a porcelain tile, does it need to be sealed?

Distributors should do as much homework as possible, not just give you something new, say “this is our new line” and walk away.  I want to thoroughly know the product.  I want the distributor to provide several different products.  If they’re introducing several new lines, I want them to bring in several things at one time.

People are more impatient today.  Because of the Internet, it’s instant gratification.  It’s all about timing, and anyone who’s on it and can move fast, that gives you the edge.  As a design studio, we value our talent and time, and in our case, if you’re coming to us for a new kitchen floor, new construction or renovation project, we recommend setting an appointment with us to review our portfolio of work.  A prospective client may always browse our collections of tile, stone and plumbing.  Neither my husband nor I will begin the design process unless we have been retained on the particular project.  The retainer is applied to a client’s purchases.

You can buy tile anywhere, but you can’t access talent everywhere.  Both myself and my husband offer talent and years of experience.  And we have won awards.  You shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for a retainer.  If you’re not putting a price on your talent, there’s no perceived value.

TD:  Do you have additional training in selling or installing tile?

The client is really in a true design environment.  We do tile design for kitchens and bathrooms.  We specify all your plumbing that goes with the tile design.  It’s hand in hand.  It’s one design environment, so why separate it?

We can design custom vanities, we can design lighting, we can do the custom shower doors, we can do the installation.  And we have a different perspective on the tile, because of the installation background my husband and I both have.

My advice to studios and showrooms throughout the country is the more you offer a client, the better it is for revenues for your studio or showroom.  You don’t need 100 clients, because you’re making as much or more from 50 clients.

TD:  What’s ahead for you in your use of tile?

My ultimate dream is to have some kind of webcast or some type of TV show that focuses on tile, and focuses on the process.  As an advertising girl, I’m into media.  There are so many shows out there, but no one really understands our process, and how it evolves to the next step.

They show it done in an hour; it’s not done in an hour.

It’s an aspiration, something I aspire to.  Tile is a labor of love.

I have no qualms about helping people with this talent I have, and my skills.  I really believe in giving back.  Tile fits my personality, because I’m a quirky gal.  My work fits my personality.


Anna Marie Fanelli, co-owner

Floor & Décor, Tenafly, NJ


Are You OPEN for Business?
June 6th, 2012

As an early adopter of social media for marketing, I’ve had a number of distributors ask me why I put time and money into social networks. At the most basic level, not having a social media presence is like opening a business and not putting a sign over your door. Many of your customers will still find you, but why make it difficult? For most of your customers—especially the Gen Xers and Millenials who are buying their first homes—their first impression of your business will be through a web search. Social media is the OPEN sign on your front door.

Here are a few insights from my experience with social media:

Start with one platform. At this point there are more social media platforms than people to use them: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Foursquare and the list goes on and on. Trying to have a legitimate presence on each of them overwhelms even the largest of companies, let alone small businesses. My advice would be to begin with Facebook, as it is the largest of the social networks. Facebook serves as a referral for businesses. When researching tile and stone, your potential customer will turn to your website and your Facebook page for an initial impression. Have any of their friends “liked” your page? What do your customers say on your wall? Do you have beautiful installation images in your photo galleries?

Set realistic expectations. In social media circles, it’s not uncommon to hear about campaigns that reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential customers. Is this really your goal? I hope not. Instead, set goals based on how many social media users you can convert to paying customers. You may only reach a few hundred people with your social media efforts, but if your campaigns result in ten new customers a month, that would certainly constitute success in my book.

Focus on your core constituency. One of the first revelations I had when tinkering with social media was to understand how my core constituency uses social media. Sure, a lot of 18 year-olds are lighting up Twitter with their constant tweeting, but they’re not buying my tile. Rather, it’s the forty-something, married mother-of-two updating her Facebook status with pictures from the family vacation. So where should I position my company on social media? Where my consumers are.

What should you say? Once you have your Facebook account set up, the next step is to start producing content for your page. But what kinds of things should you put on your Facebook page? The best content is to answer your customers’ questions. How will this tile look once it’s installed? (Create galleries of installation images.) What kind of adhesive should I use with glass tile? (Post a link to the installation instructions on your vendor’s website.) Can you recommend an installer? (Link to the CTEF page for certified installers or to the website of a trusted installation company).

Finally, set up automatic monitoring. Social media sites usually allow you to set up alert systems that will notify you daily or weekly of your results, including number of users, visits, comments, and clicks. By monitoring your social media accounts, you’ll be able to refine your content based on what works best and what flops. You’ll also be able to respond quickly to any negative comments.

If all of this sounds overwhelming, find the social media guru in your organization and let them take it on. Give them clear guidance and a couple of hours a week to devote to your business’ social media presence. They’ll make sure the OPEN sign is lit up.

Tile, Twitter and Facebook: Open for Business
May 29th, 2012

By William & Patti Feldman

If you haven’t launched your social media image, here’s an easy way to start.

Social media platforms – most notably Twitter and Facebook – are potent marketing tools for more and more businesses, small and large. They offer a direct way to boost your company’s image and sales among customers and provide an easy way for customers to express their needs, insights, and opinions about what you offer. If you are not yet taking advantage of both opportunities to show and grow your business, now is certainly a good time to make your social media debut.

It’s hard to say what percentage of business owners use Twitter and Facebook -published surveys vary wildly from one third or less of all businesses to two thirds or more. Whatever the true numbers today, they are likely to be higher tomorrow.

Twitter is a platform for sending followers short easily digestible messages to people you may not know, with interactions proceeding along the lines of a ‘public’ group conversation. The message can be complete “as is” or can include a link to your Facebook account, your company website, or to a photo-sharing social media site (such as Pinterest). You also have the ability to send private direct messages to any follower.

Facebook, the number one social marketing medium for business, is a platform for longer form, more detailed postings, including photos. You can also include links on any of your Facebook postings.

To maximize the benefits of social networking to develop positive awareness of your business and to drive traffic to your website, use both platforms because they have different strengths.

Tweets deliver fast facts and ask and answer short questions. Your tweets should, by and large, aim to educate, entertain, converse with or otherwise engage followers, all with the ultimate goals of keeping customers happy and converting new followers into customers. Tweets can carry links that move readers on to more detailed information on your website or on Facebook.

While you may take on these tasks yourself, keep in mind that they really should be daily tasks and do take some time each day or even a few times a day. You may want to assign someone in your office to handle social media or hire a service that provides attention to your Twitter and Facebook accounts throughout the day. Just make sure you know the passwords to log-in.

Getting started on Twitter is easier than getting started on Facebook. It is also easier to tend daily.

Twitter Basics

Your Twitter username should be your company name, if reasonably short, or a recognizable or easy-to-remember abbreviation of it.

Getting your first followers on Twitter should be fairly easy. Right from your Twitter account, you can search  – they can be people and businesses you already know who have email. On the left of the screen is “Who to follow,” which gives you the opportunity to “find friends” by searching your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail & Messenger, and AOL contacts by a person’s full name or username and asking them to follow you. Once they do, you can follow them back. And so it goes. And grows.

You can also search for new followers by clicking on “Browse Categories” – currently about 25 – which include overall several hundred suggestions of public personalities and private businesses with whom you may want to interact. Once you get started with “following” and “followers,” you drill down and browse among their “following” and “followers,” and keep expanding your reach. In addition, as you use Twitter, it becomes “smart” and starts to “recognize” the type of follower you want and offers you a listing of possible people or companies to follow every time you log on.

Every Twitter account comes with space for a 160-character bio and an identifying thumbnail image (either a company logo, photo, or product shot – some dealers use a colorful geometric tile face). Use the bio to tell visitors who you are, what you sell or offer, and/or why they should follow you.

You can tweet anything that fits into 140 characters (spaces included) but it should be relevant, readable information without wasteful fluff. (Also consider occasionally retweeting wise words or interesting links from some of your followers.) Keep in mind that letters and numbers used to create links count in the overall character tally so you will want to use a free URL shortening service such as or URL shorteners convert long addresses to shorter ones, leaving more for your message.

Opinion among social media gurus about how often to tweet a marketing message varies widely. Some experts suggest that one pointed sales pitch per every 4, 6 or 8 tweets is acceptable, but from what we’ve seen on Twitter many tile dealers ignore that unwritten rule entirely, making every other or even every tweet a sales pitch, a promotion, or other clear call to action.

Finding the fine line can be tricky. On the one hand, if a person is following many Twitter accounts, including yours, their incoming tweets will accrue so fast that unless you tweet frequently you may miss out on reaching them with any one marketing or sales tweet. But on the other hand, if you tweet marketing and sales messages too often, you risk annoying – and then losing – your followers.

Everyone agrees, however, that it is important to respond, quickly and politely, to any tweets that include questions or, especially, complaints with positive responses. Resolving complaints promptly and publicly is good business.

Incorporate hashtags (#s) which, used directly in front of a keyword becomes a search tool and helps your tweets on those topics show up in Twitter Search. For example, #tile #backsplash, #countertops and #ceramic increase the chances of someone you do not know who is searching for one of those terms with the hashtag in front of it to find you and view your tweet or tweets on the topic.

Facebook Basics

You will want to create a welcoming Facebook Page (your business’s public profile) where customers and others can interact with you and from which interested visitors can link directly to your company website. From your experience with customers in your stores and from customer service phone calls, you know what customers, in general, want to know. Facebook is an easy way to deliver that information.

After you create your Page, invite your employees, friends, and customers to visit and “Like” your Page (achieved simply by a click on the LIKE icon). A Facebook Page with at least 25 LIKEs also provides the account administrator with demographic information and statistics about traffic to the site. As soon as you have 25 LIKES, you shorten and customize your Facebook username.

When a visitor to your Facebook page clicks “like” the first time, that person in essence becomes a subscriber to your updates (unless or until he or she un-subscribes). By liking your site, that person endorses your company to all his or her Facebook friends, potentially growing your social media network in many directions.

Facebook is a great place to show off recent projects, introduce contests, offer special promotions or discounts, post photos of new or long term employees, and mention participation in local sports and community-based projects.

To help build your followers and fans, be sure to include your Twitter and Facebook Page URLs on all your marketing materials.

Some Ideas to Get Started on Both Platforms

Here are representative tweets and Facebook postings that tile dealers have posted recently, some with links:

  • ask your tiling questions here
  • what’s new
  • special discounts on products and services
  • “gone green? we offer eco-friendly products
  • photos of new van, truck, or staff outside place of business or at a community street fair
  • photos of store displays and in-store layouts
  • Check out this fabulous before and after bathroom remodel
  • pros and cons of DIY remodeling
  • Great selection, service, and professional planning at all our locations
  • “we’re hiring”…send resumes to: (list email)
  • what can we do to better serve your tiling needs?
  • Find showroom
  • Can’t decide what color to paint walls? Why not tile them instead?
  • Visit us at LOCATION for huge selection of tiles at great prices
  • Introduction of new member of design team
  • NAME announces new technical sales rep
  • NAME introduces new collection
  • Bathroom of the day
  • Bathroom with attitude
  • Backsplashes with pizzazz
  • DIY Tip of the Day
  • Who wouldn’t want to relax in the gorgeous bath? Our tile couldn’t have found a more elegant home
  • Special Today – 20% off entire online purchase for orders placed before 3pm -
  • Cyber Monday 20% off all mosaics today
  • June 23rd Sale -  celebrating 23 years of serving you – 20% off floor tiles

Other Twitter and Facebook topics could include: tiling design trends; tools to use for a bathroom/kitchen tiling job; how to determine how many tiles are needed to tile a proposed space; differences between wall and floor tiles; differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles; indoors versus outdoor tile; how to grout a tile floor; and how to clean heavily smudged tile.

More and more business postings on Twitter and Facebook also include links to Pinterest. Pinterest ( is a social photo sharing website – a visual bulletin board – that allows users to create and manage image collections. You can use it to “pin” images of your new, most popular, or trendiest tiles and finished installations, for both direct viewing on your Pinterest site and for sharing on Twitter and Facebook. (About 80% of Pinterest users are women, with home decor among the most popular subjects.) Visitors can “re-pin” images to their own collections or “like” photos. You can have separate boards for different subjects. By monitoring your own Pinterest account, you can see which “board” earns the most pins and the most “likes.”

Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are among the sites popular now – emphasis on now, as in today. More are certain to develop but in the meantime, these are good places to add to your traditional marketing mix.

LATICRETE Technical Design Manuals now Available as eBooks
May 21st, 2012

LATICRETE has developed a library of LATICRETE Technical Design Manuals which are now available as eBooks for the iPad from the online Apple iBook store, for the Kindle on the Amazon website… and, for the Nook® on the Barnes & Noble online Nook Book store, as well.  According to Henry B. Rothberg, LATICRETE Senior Vice President, Training, “It’s all about innovation. LATICRETE is committed to innovation with regards to tile and stone installation materials, methods and  technologies. Innovation in services and support for the design and construction communities. Progressive architects & designers, distributors and tile contractors continue to appreciate and take advantage of the rapid access of information via eBooks on tablet devices such as the iPad, Nook and Kindle.” The LATICRETE Technical Manuals currently available as eBooks include Animal Health and Wellness Facilities Technical Design Manual; Industrial Tile and Paver Applications Technical Design Manual; Mass Transit Ceramic Tile and Stone Technical Design Manual; Medical, Educational and Hospitality Facilities; Tiled Steam Room and Steam Shower Technical Design Manual and Tiled Swimming Pools, Fountains and Spas Technical Design Manual. All are available wirelessly to users’ tablets for just $.99 apiece, or for free viA The process of downloading LATICRETE Technical Design Manuals is a quick and simple procedure, that takes even a neophyte eBook user only a few moments. “LATICRETE recognized and quickly addressed the potential of offering technical eBooks, and today we now provide a library of not only tile & stone installation technical design manuals but also, specifications, drawings and product catalogs,” continued Rothberg. “Clearly, Bill Gate’s prophecy of ‘Information At Your Fingertips’ has arrived!”

Crossville Brings Large Format Tile Panels to the U.S. Market
May 21st, 2012

Crossville Inc. is launching “Laminam by Crossville,” a full line of lean profile, large format porcelain products. This important new offering comes through an exclusive distribution agreement with Italian manufacturer Laminam, a division of Systems Group. Under the agreement, Crossville is the sole source for Laminam’s innovative large unit porcelain panel products throughout the U.S. The distribution agreement is effective immediately, with product availability anticipated in early June. “This is a landmark agreement and another example of Crossville’s commitment to meeting the needs of the U.S. market,” states Crossville President John Smith. “We recognized the growing demand for very large format, thinner, so we searched the globe to source the best products that would appeal to the American aesthetic and match the Crossville quality standard.”

Laminam by Crossville products, each selected expressly for the U.S. market, are suited for interior wall installations and may be used on an array of surfaces. The initial offering of 3mm thick fiberglass reinforced porcelain panels will be available in over 50 items. As Smith explains, the extremely lean profile of these reinforced panels result in durability, versatility and unparalleled technical performance. “These products are game changers,” Smith continues. “The colors and styles of Laminam by Crossvile are right for the American market. These thin but extremely durable large panels are very simple to work with and install and will invite innovative field applications. Architects and interior designers should really have fun exercising their creativity in new and unique ways.”

Walking the Show Floor at Coverings with Tile of Spain
May 11th, 2012


Tile of Spain, the international brand representing 200 ceramic tile manufacturers belonging to the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER), offered a number of new introductions including:

  • TAU’s new S3 Technical Ceramic Wall, is a system where any technology can be seamlessly hidden behind a beautifully tiled wall. The Technical Ceramic Wall is a vertical extension of a removable floor behind which all wiring and fittings for domestic appliances, devices and electrical equipment is concealed.


  • APAVISA showcased Archconcept, a new indoor/outdoor ceramic collection that provides new volumes to vertical surfaces, including hexagons with volume in its core and square panels with raised and folded corners.  The tiles are created with stone, metal and cement finishes that have revolutionized traditional porcelain finishes.


  • APARICI introduced its Neutral series, available in eight colors featuring several different relief patterns, and its Jungle collection, tiles that imitate a mosaic of different types of wood.


The Right Angle on Sustainability: Green Squared by Jeffrey Steele – Part One
March 19th, 2012

Everyone knows tile is green. So why is the new Green Squared standard and certification program launching at Coverings so important to the industry? How did it come together, who took part in the development process, and what is likely to be its impact over time? TileDealer is excited to preview this new program and share some important basics with you.

Why it’s important

The tile industry has long recognized that its products are inherently sustainable, says Bill Griese, manager of standards development and green initiatives for the Anderson, SC-based Tile Council of North America (TCNA). Tile is selected in building and remodeling projects because it endures and is made from natural materials, which is “the very definition of green,” he asserts.

“But we wanted to take it to the next level, and continue to improve from a manufacturing standpoint, a material and resource standpoint, and an energy standpoint,” he adds. “We also wanted to look beyond the environment and focus on social issues. What it came down to is we are really an industry rooted in standards. That’s how we set expectations for ourselves. We have a long history of very good standards for both products and installation.”

There were other reasons for pursuing the establishment of a standard, says Tom Bruursema, sustainability director for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based NSF International, one of three certifying bodies for the standard. “This initiative around building materials and sustainability has been ongoing for a number of years,” he says. “Standards for flooring materials like carpet and resilient flooring have been around for some time, so it’s only natural for the tile industry to have its own standard . . . You often hear sustainability referred to as the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. These standards are comprehensive in that sense. They look at product and corporate initiatives as well.”

Dan Marvin, director of quality assurance and technical service at Florida Tile in Lexington, Ky., who served as the chairman of the Green Initiative Committee, worked closely with Griese to put together the standard and ensure stakeholders from architects, manufacturers and the green community would be represented. Creating a standard was essential to give tile a voice, he says.

“There were a number of single-attribute green accreditations, such as GreenGuard, but none that addressed manufacturing or corporate governance or some of the other big picture aspects,” Marvin reports.

The multi-attribute quality of Green Squared is also emphasized by Noah Chitty, the Crossville, Tenn.-based technical services director for StonePeak Ceramics. “The standard was important for the tile industry to undertake,” he says. “It’s clear green rating systems in the U.S. are going away from a single-attribute criterion and toward multi-attribute criteria. We’ve put together a pretty comprehensive standard for the industry that goes beyond just criteria of products, and also addresses corporate strategies and facility strategies.”

In addition, it’s important to understand that had the tile industry not created Green Squared, two things would have likely occurred, Chitty adds. One is that some certifying company would have written a standard for green tile, without seeking the input of the tile industry. Second, in the absence of a standard set forth by the tile industry, other industries that did have standards would look increasingly enticing to those involved in green building projects.

Asked if the standard and Green Squared certification will most impress architects and the U.S. Green Building Council, Atlanta-based U.S. Gypsum field marketing and technical services manager Steve Rausch responded in the negative. “Absolutely not,” says Rausch, who sat on the TCNA Green Initiative Committee. “You have stakeholders, people who need to understand how to interpret and validate products. You have consumers demanding that, home builders, remodelers, as well as the architectural community.”

Creating the standard

The first meetings concerning what would result in the standard’s creation and the Green Squared program were convened in 2008, and grew exceptionally intensive in 2011 as efforts were made to “get people to buy in,” says Marvin, who adds “Florida Tile is the first to go through the process.“

Industry representatives were assembled to discuss and define what it meant to be a green product, Griese adds. The result was the establishment of the standard, ANSI A138.1 American National Standard Specifications for Sustainable Ceramic Tiles, Glass Tiles and Tile Installation Materials, covering not just tile, but everything in a tiling system. That includes mortars and grouts, liquids and paste goods, sheet goods like membranes and panel goods like backer boards, as well as tile. The consensus-based standard requires an evaluation of products in five performance categories: Product characteristics, manufacturing, corporate governance, innovation and end-of-life.

The standard was created by the ANSI ASCA 108 committee, comprised of representatives from manufacturers, designers, the green building community, architects, and distributors. “It was a consensus process that included all stakeholders, and was approved unanimously,” Griese says.

*To Be Continued in March/April TileDealer Issue

New Options on Green Squared and an Innovative Mortar That Sets in Hours
February 23rd, 2012

New Rapid-Setting Mortar from MAPEI

In response to ceramic contractors’ needs for time-saving products, MAPEI has introduced Ultraflex™ LFT Rapid mortar to its line of fast-setting tile and stone installation systems. This mortar sets quickly, allowing grouting in three to four hours. Ultraflex LFT Rapid has a high content of a unique dry polymer, resulting in excellent adhesion to the substrate and tile. Its nonsag medium-bed and thin-set mortar characteristics are ideal for installing large-format tile and stone on interior and exterior floors, walls and countertops. Ultraflex LFT Rapid directly answers the need for quick-turnaround on installation of larger-format tile residentially and commercially in a variety of environments. MAPEI began developing rapid-setting mortars and grouts more than 20 years ago with the introduction of Granirapid® mortar, a faster-setting version of its premium Kerabond/Keralastic™ mortar system for indoor and outdoor applications. Another rapid-setting product, Ultracontact™ RS mortar, allows installers to “drop and go” without back-buttering tiles, a huge time-saving asset for large projects such as shopping malls and airports. MAPEI chemists also developed Planiprep™ RS, a rapid-set patching compound for fast-track concrete repairs to substrates before installers begin setting the tile or stone. When it comes to grouting the joints, MAPEI provides Ultracolor® Plus rapid-setting sanded grout to finish the job quickly. “In terms of commercial renovation projects, the time savings from these rapid-setting products allow the owners to re-open the floors sooner to their customers, or maybe not close the spaces at all,” said Brian Pistulka, Business Development Manager for MAPEI’s Tile & Stone Installation Systems. “We see the need for speed as a key requirement for flooring contractors today, and MAPEI products play an important role in helping them get the job done on time and on budget.”

Sustainable Tiles and Installation Material Manufacturers Can Now Earn Green Squared Certification through NSF International

NSF International, an independent global organization that writes public health standards and certifies products for food, water and consumer goods, now offers Green Squared Certification for sustainable ceramic tiles, glass tiles and installation materials. NSF’s Sustainability division is a leading developer of sustainable standards and certification programs for building and furnishing products such as furniture, wallcoverings, and furnishing fabrics, carpets and flooring.

Developed by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Green Squared certification provides accurate, third-party verified information on the environmental impacts of certified tile products. Green Squared certification through NSF Sustainability helps manufacturers and suppliers of tiles and installation materials distinguish their products from competitors, earn preferred vendor status by environmentally-minded consumers and companies, and demonstrate compliance to state and federal purchasing requirements.

The NSF certification process includes a comprehensive documentation review and onsite facility audit to verify conformance to the standard upon which the Green Squared certification program is based, ANSI A138.1 American National Standard Specifications for Sustainable Ceramic Tiles, Glass Tiles and Tile Installation Materials. This consensus-based standard requires an evaluation of products in five categories of performance: Product Characteristics, Manufacturing, Corporate Governance, Innovation, and End-of-Life.

“Green Squared provides a standard of excellence in sustainability for the entire industry as it covers not just tile products but also the materials required for their installation,” said Bill Griese, TCNA Standards Development and Green Initiative Manager. “We are pleased that the certification bodies we have participating in Green Squared are leaders in the realm of developing sustainability standards and certification programs for interior furnishing products, and these organizations have the expertise and industry experience necessary to provide high quality certifications under the Green Squared program.”
“Green Squared and NSF Sustainability certification programs are the most credible certifications available in the marketplace,” said NSF Sustainability Director Tom Bruursema. “Architects, designers and consumers can now easily identify products carrying the Green Squared and NSF Sustainability marks. NSF certified sustainable products such as furniture, carpets, flooring, wallcoverings, furnishing fabrics, and now tiles and tile installation materials, help companies and consumers meet their sustainability goals and demonstrate their commitment to the environment.”

Tiles covered by the Green Squared program may include mosaic, quarry, pressed floor, glazed wall, porcelain, specialty, cast glass, fused glass and low-temperature coated glass tiles. Installation materials may include mortar adhesives, mastic adhesives, reactive resin adhesives, grouts, tile backer units, crack isolation membranes, waterproofing membranes, water containment membranes and sound reduction membranes.

News from Florida Tile, LATICRETE, and Crossville, Inc.
February 15th, 2012

Florida Tile Sets Recycled Content Bar

All domestically produced Florida Tile porcelain products have been certified to contain at least 40% recycled content, thus setting a new standard in an industry eager for valid environmental initiatives. The certification was made by the independent Bureau Veritas, a third-party world leader in conformity assessment and certification services, established 1828 with the stated mission… “to seek out the truth and tell it without fear or favor.”

“This achievement is just the latest step in Florida Tile’s ongoing CARES (Creating A Responsible Environmental Strategy) program,” said company President Michael Franceschelli. “In early 2011 we contracted with Bureau Veritas which conducted a painstaking assessment of our claims and our processes. In September, we were awarded certification verifying that ALL of the porcelain product lines manufactured in our Lawrenceburg, KY factory incorporate AT LEAST 40% pre-consumer recycled content,” he added.

“The certification is not only a great achievement for Florida Tile but also an industry first,” according to Franceschelli. “Other US manufacturers have successfully achieved high recycled content with certain colors or among some series, but not across the board in porcelain and definitely not to this extent.”

How did Florida Tile do it? According to President Franceschelli, “We’ve been working at it for a long time, consistently incorporating increasing amounts of recycled content into our domestically produced tiles. Starting in 2007 with a major upgrade of our facility in Lawrenceburg, we created a system allowing us to recycle and re-use the byproducts of our manufacturing process, including water used in production, clay, unfired tile, dust and unfired ceramic tile. We built on that initiative by sourcing raw materials close to the manufacturing facility, including some with high levels of post-industrial recycled content. Then last year we went on line with a proprietary system which allowed us to regrind fired porcelain and to reintroduce it into the body of new tile.”

“We knew all along that our CARES initiative is the right thing to do, but with green washing so prevalent in every industry, including our flooring and interior coverings marketplaces, Florida Tile felt the need to prove its claims via independent validation for the sake of the industry and our own credibility,” Franceschelli added. “Now our customers, whether they be designers, architects, builders or the end customer, will have the satisfaction of knowing that their US-made product not only meets current GREENGUARD guidelines but in fact leads all brands with an across-the-board recycled content.” For more on sustainable attributes of Florida Tile products, visit or

Hydro Ban™ System includes Pre-Sloped Shower Pans, Pre-Formed Seats & Niches LATICRETE has brought to market Hydro Ban™ Pre-Sloped Shower Pans, Pre-Formed Seats and Pre-Formed Niches. These are components of the expanded Hydro Ban line of waterproofing products that allow for top quality, highly expedient shower installations. Constructed of lightweight high-density polystyrene, each component is equipped with a code-approved waterproof coating, which may be tiled over immediately upon installation. Hydro Ban Pre-Sloped Shower Pans eliminate the need for traditional “mud bed installations” and come equipped with a factory-installed drain assembly saving contractors valuable time during installation. Additionally, these drains can easily be modified on-site to adjust for any measurement variations. Lightweight, durable and code-approved, the LATICRETE Hydro Ban Shower System is backed by an available lifetime warranty providing both peace of mind and insurance of installation. “Waterproofing is becoming more and more of a focal issue within the tile installation process,” stated Sean Boyle, LATICRETE Marketing and Product Development Director. “We’ve successfully addressed that issue with LATICRETE Hydro Ban Waterproofing membrane. Now, we’re taking this process to the next level with our waterproof shower pans, seats and niches. The end-user no longer has to worry about water problems after his or her shower tile installation. Now, that same person can have a comfortable and beautiful spa-like shower complete with built-in seating and a recessed soap & shower niche.”

Crossville introduces Origins glass mosaics and Structure Porcelain Stone ® tile Crossville® introduced Origins Glass™ mosaics, a new take on Old-World craftsmanship. Made of post-consumer recycled glass, Origins Glass requires a minimal amount of materials for production, yet its textured, swirled and iridized surfaces create great visual depth and give the appearance of hand-made glass. The line comprises 20 colors in five groupings: Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Universe – all inspired by nature. Designed by one of the industry’s most respected color forecasters, Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, DC, CAUS, the line has a clear, luminescent quality, which is extraordinary for recycled glass. “Specifiers and homeowners alike may mix, match and blend these hues to create colorful and dramatic installations, while knowing that they are using a product that is good for the planet,” says Schirmeister. Face-mounted on 12″x12″ sheets, Origins Glass mosaics are available in 1″ x 1″ and 2″ x 2″ sizes, as well as an offset mosaic featuring 1″ x 2″ tile. Also offered are 1″ x 1″ blends, as well as custom blends, which may be designed with Crossville’s Mosaic Blender Tool @

Inspired by concrete and refined stone, Crossville’s new Structure™ is a U.S.-made Porcelain Stone® tile that serves as the canvas upon which you can create your vision. Clean and fresh, this unpolished contemporary line provides an understated backdrop for bold, minimalist design statements. Designed for both commercial and residential installations, Structure contains a minimum of 20=percent pre-consumer recycled content and is manufactured by Crossville® using recycling processes that have been certified by Scientific Certification Systems.* Offered in five colorways – Gypsum, Sandstone, Shale, Timber and Basalt – and in rectified, large format and plank-shaped sizes: 24″ x 24″, 12″ x 24″, 6″ x 24″ and 6″ x 6″, Structure is part of Crossville’s Get Planked® program, whereby additional plank shapes may be cut with no minimum order and a short lead time. Coordinating trim is available as a 4″ x 24″ Single Bullnose and a 6″ x 12″ Cove Base. “Because Structure is Porcelain Stone® tile, it has unsurpassed durability, resists staining and scratching and will remain virtually maintenance free on interior floors, walls and countertops,” says Lindsey Ann Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing. “It will never need sealing or waxing; plus, Structure is also highly recommended for exterior walls and cladding.” Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, DC, CAUS, who is color and design consultant to Crossville, Inc., adds, “The subtle textural appearance of Structure represents an emerging design movement toward a new, more interesting minimalism.

Crossville’s offering of five pivotal neutrals were carefully developed by Crossville’s R&D team to harmonize with current interior palettes. These select hues will afford the architect and designer unlimited color solutions when used as a foil in creating both monolithic and contrasting schemes with soft or bright colorations.”

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