Editor’s Desk: Tougher Times and Tougher Solutions
September 1st, 2011


Janet Arden

Today one of the economic headlines reports that home prices are up for the third month in a row. But, the analyst cautions, this is at least in part a seasonal effect. Good news, it seems, is always delivered these days with a dose of caution. And there have been many days when good news has been hard to come by. I would be tempted to hide under the covers or, as a favorite children’s book recommends, move to Australia.

But the fact is the best way to deal with tough times is often to meet them head on. This issue of TileDealer has a few suggestions:

1. Give your customers great style. Manufacturers are tapping into technologies like high definition printing to produce tiles that mimic stone and wood so perfectly, even the experts need a second, closer look. Florida Tile has introduced a number of remarkable new lines using this technology, and in this month’s One-on-One, Director of Marketing Sean Cilona describes some of that company’s development process and aspirations for the future.
2. Give your customers affordable luxury. Underfloor heat has moved from the high-end marketplace to a mainstream position. It’s affordable, doable and homeowners love it. If you aren’t making it available and promoting it, you are leaving money on the table. It should be an upsell with every installation.
3. Give your customers a great installation. When it comes to the latest in tile trends, bigger is often better. Large format tile is among the fastest growing trends, and the formats are getting larger with each installation. But sellers and buyers need to beware: large format tiles have specific installation demands. Tile consultant Dave Gobis talks about why large format can fail and how to avoid it.
4. Give yourself the tools to succeed. Total Solutions Plus is November 7-11 in Chandler (Phoenix), Arizona. Jointly sponsored by CTDA, NTCA and TCNA, TSP offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to meet and network with industry peers, learn about the latest trends and techniques, sharpen your business skills at industry-specific seminars and, most importantly, shape your business for 2012. Attendees in 2010 called it one of the best business investments they made. Expect an even better event in 2011! For more information and to register, please follow this link: http:// ctdahome.org/tsp/2011/

There are no easy answers in today’s marketplace. The ideas here share traditional values like quality, customer service, and industry knowledge. These may not be short-cut solutions, but they are “tried and true.”

See you at Total Solutions Plus!

Janet Arden

One on One with Florida Tile Marketing Director Sean Cilona
September 1st, 2011


Sean Cilona

For more than half a century, Florida Tile has built a well earned reputation as one of the tile industry’s most consistent trailblazers. The company has pioneered new technological innovations, steadily worked to enhance quality and taken the lead in striving to protect both indoor and outdoor environments. Five years ago, Florida Tile was purchased by Panariagroup, a leading Italian tile maker comprised of eight brands manufactured in three countries, and with products distributed to more than 100 countries worldwide. The purchase by Panariagroup has given Florida Tile enormous technological strengths, which the company has leveraged to turn out some of the best digital printing in the industry. One of the company’s porcelain products, for instance, looks more like slate than the real thing, and some say actually installs and wears better as well.

Panariagroup’s partnership and multimillion dollar investment in Florida Tile also enabled the latter’s manufacture of large-format throughbody porcelain tile at what is one of only three such manufacturing facilities in the United States. These developments are consistent with Florida Tile’s mission, “to become the most recognized and valuable domestic brand in the mid to high-end segment of the tile and stone market, [and] to recognize the needs of the market and offer the best products and value for every category and every channel.” Recently, TileDealer requested and received permission to interview Florida Tile’s director of marketing Sean G. Cilona, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company’s marketing department, and whose responsibilities include product development, promotions, advertising and merchandising, among others. Following his arrival at Florida Tile in February 2009 following a successful stint as marketing manager at Roca Tile Group in Miami, Mr. Cilona quickly went to work on a variety of Florida Tile initiatives. Last year, he orchestrated the re-branding of the company and its massive product launch at Coverings in Orlando. He has since carried the re-branding through an updated logo design and a brand new website. In this exchange Cilona weighs in on a number of issues of interest to TileDealer readers. He reveals what he believes to be the keys to Florida Tile’s success, and sheds light on the company’s decision to continue innovating through the recession, when many competitors avoided R & D. He discusses the advantages that flow from Florida Tile’s strategic location in Lexington, Ky. And finally, he dons his prognosticator’s cap to talk about the technological changes he believes will impact the tile industry in the next five to 10 years.

TileDealer: To what do you credit the success of Florida Tile – design or technology?
I think that over the last few years, Florida Tile has emerged as a leader in design. From large format floor and wall, to metal, natural stone and glass tile, we are producing the products that designers both residentially and commercially are looking for. Technology does play a big part in this, especially with the digital printing process, but without good design knowledge and a style that people can appreciate, all the technology in the world won’t help an ugly product.

TileDealer: How does Florida Tile so successfully marry the two?
As a product developer, I try to keep my eyes open to all industries to draw on what is popular and what is emerging for the future. Very often trends in color and design are influenced from the most random places. We have a great network of salespeople that let us know what is going on in the market, and we try to listen to their needs. We combine this with a strong parent company that believes in our ability and our future, and continues to invest in new technology.

TileDealer: Florida Tile continued to innovate through the recession; others didn’t. How and why?
The only way to stay relevant is to continue to be in front of people. Some companies choose to do that through gimmicks, we chose to do it through our products. It was a strategic decision that was made before the recession hit and luckily we are able to continue through the tough times and it seems to be paying off for us. I think that other companies just don’t have the resources that we do, or the willingness to believe in their organization and their people. Good people and good products are always rewarded.


TileDealer: Who are Florida Tile’s biggest competitors in the marketplace?
At this point we have to compete with other domestic manufacturers that target the mid- to high-end segment of the market. This is who we are and that is still our goal, to be the most respected and valued brand in the market. There are always the importers that we have to deal with, both in the low end and higher end of the market. But we feel that we can offer something that is better quality at an affordable price and it is made here in the USA.

TileDealer: Florida Tile is paradoxically headquartered in Kentucky. What strategic benefits flow to Florida Tile from its Lexington location?
The most important is the proximity to our manufacturing facility, which is only a few miles from our corporate headquarters. That move was made in 2010 to improve logistics, communication and synergies between departments. We don’t really get hung up on the name, although we do get a lot of laughs. In any case, a Midwestern manufacturing and distribution center is ideally located to the most densely populated metropolitan areas of the country.

TileDealer: Where do you see technology, the marketplace and tile design headed in the next five years?
I think the industry is going to be heavily reliant on digital printing. As more manufacturers are incorporating the technology, the benefits are going to be more widely seen and images are going to be consistently improved. This process combined with other applications is something that we are already doing, but as digital printing evolves, this is where the design is going to head. As far as the market, it is hard to tell, but we’re seeing a strong growth in our commercial business as we introduce more products targeted at that segment. I believe that once the credit loosens up, we will start to see smaller projects and firms get back on track and hopefully an improvement to the residential market.

TileDealer: What benefits does Florida Tile enjoy by participating in CTDA’s fall event, Total Solutions Plus?
This is a great event for us to get together with our distributors and contractor partners to discuss what is going on in the industry, talk about products and hopefully network to develop some new relationships. Overall, it is a terrific event that we look forward to every year.


TileDealer: What’s ahead for you and Florida Tile?
Florida Tile is still developing and introducing new products to meet the needs of the market and define the trends that will carry out through the industry. We are investing in new equipment and people to allow the company to grow in the direction that we dictate—not that current economic conditions dictate. We are focused on being contemporary, but trying to stay consistent with the values and the fundamental elements that have kept us one of the top domestic manufacturers for the last 50 years.

SOURCE: Sean G. Cilona, director of marketing Florida Tile, Lexington, KY 859-219-5213

The Bigger the Better?
September 1st, 2011

By Dave Gobis

Experience is showing that large tile is much less tolerant of substandard floor preparation, poor installation practices and the use of basic thinset bonding materials as well.


Big tile is in and here to stay.
As technology grows, ceramic tile products continue to get bigger and thinner. End users love it; bigger tile means bigger fashion, less grout and easier maintenance. The promised benefit for the installer is faster installation and more money. But, anyone who has ever installed large tile can tell you it certainly isn’t easier or less time consuming to install. The bigger the tile gets, the more challenging the installation becomes. Having spent the last 13 years of my nearly 40 years in the tile industry providing technical assistance, I would have to say the most common call is no longer grout joint issues but lippage complaints. With bigger tile the technical challenges for good tile installations increase in complexity.

Substrate preparation for large tile is consistently deficient in several areas. The need for a properly prepared bondable surface gains greater importance with large tile. Fewer grout joints means much more strain occurs at the thinset bonding interface of both the tile and substrate. Shiny slabs have proven much more problematic with an 18-inch tile than with an 8- inch tile. All tile experiences some movement, and an installation with 50% less grout joints will move with much greater force.

While end users want the look of large tile, building contractors have not provided the flatter floors that such tile requires. That adjustment increases cost. In a perfect world, we would know ahead of time that we would be installing large tile and the more exacting tolerances required of substrates could be specified prior to construction. To create a fl oor with such flatness requires work beyond the typical standard and recommendations of the substrate trades. The tile industry flatness recommendation of ¼” in 10 feet was adapted in the past by the tile industry and published in the wood, gypsum and cement trade organization’s literature. Recent changes in the American National Standards for the Installation of Ceramic Tile (ANSI A108) call for a floor flatness of 1/8” in 10 feet when the longest edge of the tile is 15 inches or greater. This is not reflected in substrate trade documents. Unless specific requirements for larger tile are established prior to construction and then implemented, it is safe to assume there will be preparation work required prior to tile installation. It is also safe to assume there will be preparation required for any existing substrate. Attempting to correct anything other than very minor out-of-plane conditions with thinset is very labor intensive and often results in unsatisfactory installation. Floor filling underlayment products, self levelers, or even mortar beds may be required to achieve flatness tolerances needed for large tile.

Setting material manufacturers have developed many new products to aid large format tile installation. Many of these products are highly engineered to perform a specific task or tasks. In the past most manufacturers worked on a basic Good, Better, Best system. These traditional thinset products provided different levels of performance and are still adequate for many of today’s current installations. However, with current construction practices, consumer expectations, and installation requirements when using very large tile, we need to make special consideration of the type and condition of the substrate, cure time availability prior to traffic, the flatness of the substrate, environmental conditions of the job-site and the in-service use of the ceramic tile floor when selecting setting materials. Specific conditions can be accommodated with the use of highly engineered latex or polymer modified thinset products.

Seasoned tile installers insist on using traditional products they are familiar with, even if those products are inappropriate for conditions. An 18” or 24” tile has performance needs that are difficult to achieve with traditional thinset mortars. Proper mixing and application are important to realize the value in using premium thinset mortars. I have written more about getting proper coverage than probably any other aspect of tile installation. However, the message is still not being received. The dot or 5 spot method seems to be flourishing now more than ever. I was on one project that consisted of three, new car showrooms all tiled during the winter months with no expansion joints. The first warm week of spring all three buildings tented (lost bond) only a week before the owner’s inventory was arriving. While there was a host of other issues, each 18 or 24 inch tile had received six gobs of mortar. Arguably that meant perhaps 25% coverage and consequently 25% of the bond strength. However, the concrete slab was in a near polished condition, so it was going to fail regardless. The time to install increases greatly when you must trowel the floor and the tile. The suction created by a fully bedded tile can be significant and something most installers would rather avoid if they must adjust the tile, hence the preference not to do it. It is possible that a “contact” mortar may eliminate the need for back troweling the tile in some instances. But, an installer must do what is necessary to achieve proper coverage of 80% equally distributed in interior applications or 95% in exterior and wet areas. Tile is not a structural product; it is a thin, brittle, clay-based covering that must be supported.

Grout joints & rectified tile
Rectified tile is made by grinding or cutting the tile on all four sides so that measurable variance from tile to tile is minimized. (Standards for rectified tile size variation are shown in ANSI A 137.1 Table 10. Similar ISO standards do not currently exist.) One benefit of minimal size variation is that it allows for very narrow grout joints. However, variation in the substrate must be minimal as well as demonstrated in the graph accompanying this article. In the most recently published edition of the American National Standards for the Installation of Ceramic Tile (ANSI A108) minimum grout joint widths and offset recommendations were established for the very first time under industry workmanship standards as follows:

• Grout joint size.
To accommodate the range in facial dimensions of the tile supplied for a specific project, the actual grout joint size may, of necessity, vary from the grout joint size specified. The actual grout joint size shall be at least 3 times the actual variation of facial dimensions of the tile supplied. Example: for tile having a total variation of 1/16” in facial dimensions, a minimum of 3/16” grout joint shall be used. Nominal centerline of all joints shall be straight with due allowances for hand-molded or rustic tiles. In no circumstance shall the grout joint be less than 1/16”.

• Running Bond/Brick Joint Patterns:
For running bond/brick joint patterns utilizing tiles (square or rectangular) with any side greater than 15”, the grout joint shall be, on average, a minimum of 1/8” wide for rectified tiles and, on average, a minimum of 3/16” wide for calibrated (non-rectified) tiles. The grout joint width shall be increased over the minimum requirement by the amount of edge warpage on the longest edge of the actual tiles being installed. For example, for a rectified tile exhibiting 1/32” edge warpage on the longest edge, the minimum grout joint for a running bond/brick joint pattern will be 1/8” + 1/32” or 5/32”, on average. Of necessity, in any installation, some grout joints will be less and some more than the average minimum dimension to accommodate the specific tiles being installed.

• Running Bond/Brick Joint Offset:
For running bond/brick joint patterns utilizing tiles (square or rectangular) where the side being offset is greater than 18” (nominal dimension), the running bond offset will be a maximum of 33% unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. If an offset greater than 33% is specified, specifier and owner must approve mock-up and lippage. These standards were created to define what can reasonably be accomplished given the limitations of clay surfacing units and dealing with the unrealistic performance expectations of end users when using large module tile products.

Accommodating movement
Over the last couple of years I have been on several projects where 18 and 24 inch tiles have completely delaminated with the thinset attached while 8 and 12 inch tile installed in different areas on the same slab with the same thinset remained bonded. Why? Shiny slabs and no movement accommodation joints! Cementious grout joint can act as a sacrificial buffer when it comes to movement. The lateral compressive force to crush a tile is in the 25,000 pound plus range. The force required to crush grout is several thousand pounds. When tile grows, as ALL tile eventually does, fewer grout joints mean less ability to absorb movement. The need for proper movement accommodation is substantially greater with larger tile. The 2011 edition of the Tile Council of America Installation Handbook included several changes. Omitting movement joints is the same as playing Russian roulette; you never know when your luck is going to run out. In my personal experience I would say that two-thirds of the jobs I look at fail in part due to lack of movement accommodation. With large tile, there is an increased importance in their proper placement.

This is only a light reading on the intricacies of installing large tile. We did not have space to devote to the latest emerging trend, large thin tile. While not in widespread use on floors, I have been on a few of those projects already too. In a nutshell, take everything I just wrote and assign it twice as great in need, which would about cover it, literally.

DAVID M. GOBIS, a third-generation tile setter, is an independent Technical Consultant. He has been in the trade for over 35 years and owned a successful contracting business for many years prior to his current position. Mr. Gobis is an Author of over 150 trade related articles and a frequent speaker at industry events. He is member of the Construction Specification Institute, International Code Council, American Concrete Institute, National Tile Contractors Technical Committee, voting member of The American National Standards for Ceramic Tile Installation and Setting Materials (ANSI A108/118), American Society for Testing of Materials (ASTM) C-21 Ceramic Whitewares, and Tile Council of America Installation Handbook committees. You can reach Dave via email, dave@ ceramictileconsultant.com

Total Solutions Plus 2011: Blazing New Trails
September 1st, 2011

Whether you are looking for new products, business solutions, or the latest in tools and trends, Total Solutions Plus offers you a valuable opportunity to leverage the best resources in the ceramic tile industry. Total Solutions Plus is the only event that brings together the ceramic tile industry’s manufacturers, distributors and contractors. Jointly sponsored by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), it offers both the annual meetings and breakout sessions of each of those professional associations and unparalleled joint networking and programming for all three groups. No other event draws on the same resources.

 “If you derive your income from the ceramic tile industry, you cannot afford to miss Total Solutions Plus! This is the opportunity to sit down with your suppliers, customers and competitors alike to address the challenges and risks we face as an industry. Through this process we are empowered to develop collective solutions that benefit all segments and create solutions that protect our ability to be successful. If you are a vendor to the ceramic tile industry, you simply cannot get the same bang for your buck anywhere else. Total Solutions Plus is the most cost effective opportunity in our industry to work face to face with industry leaders and key decision makers. You simply cannot afford to miss it!” — Frank Donahue

Total Solutions Plus offers a wideranging seminar program on topics as diverse as green building and large format tile installations, grout technology and website design. The Table Top Showcase offers a new, intimate venue for product introductions and demonstrations. Distributor and installer forums provide ample opportunity for attendees to tackle the nuts and bolts of running their businesses. A variety of networking events including meals and receptions, sporting events and outings, allow attendees to interact informally and multiply their industry contacts.

“Last year’s Total Solutions Plus exceeded expectations. For the first time in over a decade, industry leaders from distribution, contracting, retail, and even design and architecture gathered in one location for four days of education and networking. The new format will come as a welcome update for those who have not attended a management conference recently. And for those that have, the opportunities available from the combined format make the event well worth the time and expense.” — Ryan Calkins

Exceptional Programming
Futurist, Economist, Researcher and Scientist
Jay Lehr is an author, speaker, and futurist. He is currently the Science Director of the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank supported by contributions by individuals, foundations, and corporations. No corporation contributes more than 5% of its annual income. He is also Senior Scientist with Environmental Education Enterprises, Inc. in Ostrander Ohio. In 2008 Dr. Jay Lehr was named Chief Hydro-geologist for Earth Water Global (EWG) corporation, one of the largest providers of water supply projects throughout the world. EWG makes available for delivery previously overlooked, large scale sustainable ground water resources at EWG’s financial risk under a long term services contract with government clients globally. During the past several years, Dr. Lehr has served as a guest lecturer in the Departments of Economics at the University of Illinois, Purdue University, Southwest Missouri State University and Ball State University of Indiana.

Business Solutions
The U.S. Economy and Changes in Ceramic Tile Distribution
Donato Grosser, president of D. Grosser and Associates of New York, is a familiar expert within the ceramic tile industry. An active observer and commentator on the U.S. ceramic tile market since 1980, he is a consultant for the Italian Association of Ceramics, has advised many ceramic tile manufacturers, and authored numerous articles in trade publications. In 1989 he was awarded the Cesery Memorial Award by TCAA for his “Outstanding Service to the Industry”. Mr. Grosser was among a small group of individuals whose planning led to the organization of the forerunner of Coverings. He is Board member of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. Grosser will be addressing the impact of the current economy on the ceramic tile industry as well as the changes in the distribution model.

It’s Not Up-Selling, It’s Selling Right
David Parker is a founding partner of ABG, Inc., an Indianapolis-based global training and businessconsulting fi rm (a division of Adayana, Inc.) Energy, enthusiasm, and passion are all words used to describe David’s approach to facilitation, consulting, and presentations. He has an uncanny ability to connect with audiences, using humor and realworld examples to drive key points home. His focus is on performance and strategy development, and he builds on his own experiences as a business owner, as well as helping literally hundreds of companies develop and implement their specifi c strategies. David is a graduate of Purdue University with emphasis on economics and communication, and incorporates sound business knowledge with practical application into every presentation.

“The joint presentation of Total Solutions Plus by CTDA, NTCA and TCNA has turned what used to be a series of meetings into one key industry event that we simply cannot miss! Not only do we maximize our time and investment by traveling to one location to see all the leaders in the industry, but the energy and opportunities at TSP have multiplied the networking and business potential many times over. It just makes great business sense! — “ Frank Douglas, Crossville Tile

Challenges Dealing with Customs on Import Issues
Robin Grove is the VP Commercial Operations and FMC qualifying individual for Masterpiece International/ Multimodal International Shipping and is a licensed Customs Broker, Certifi ed Customs and Certified Export Specialist. Robin has been in the international/domestic shipping industry for more than 32 years specializing in Stone/Tile/Flooring and overweight containers nation and worldwide. Robin is currently serving as a director of the Los Angeles Customs Broker Freight Forwarders Association as Forwarding Chair for more than 8 years, as well as Infrastructure liaison to the Pacific Coast Council of West Coast Customs brokers and freight forwards association.

Understanding Tile’s Role in Green Building
How well-versed are you in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), and the National Green Building Standard (ICC-700), and how projects designed to these criteria can incorporate the use of tile? These are all topics that specifiers and end users increasingly care about. Attendees will better understand the positive impact tile can have on green building projects, and will be able to explain strategies for achieving standard and rating system compliance to architects, specifiers, and green building professionals. As Standards Development and Green Initiative Manager for the Tile Council of North America, Bill Griese is involved in the development and revision of ASTM, ANSI, ISO, and other industry-specific standards, and the coordination of TCNA’s environmental efforts. He serves as Chairman for the ASTM C21 Committee on Ceramic Whitewares and Related Products, and also works closely with TCNA’s Product Performance Testing Laboratory. Griese is a LEED Accredited Professional and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Ceramic and Materials Engineering from Clemson University in Clemson, SC.

Designing a Website That Will Market Your Business and Increase Sales
Shauna Causey has managed communications, community relations and social media strategy for companies, non-profi ts and elected offi cials. Over the last 15 years, she’s worked for the Seattle Mariners, FOX, Fox Sports Net, and Comcast. She was recently voted in the 100 Top Women in Tech by TechFlash and was one of seven women across the world honored as a top woman in tech at the 2010 South by Southwest Conference. The LA Times named Shauna as part of the “Female Empire of Women in Tech” in an article in March 2010.

CTDA Distributor’s Forum
Every year CTDA distributors gather to discuss several topics and issues they are facing in the tile industry. The format will accommodate the feedback from the 2010 meeting. Submit your topic suggestions and Distributor Forum ideas to CTDA staff.

Installation Topics

The Evolution of Grout Technology
Representatives of NTCA and MMSA will examine the evolution of grout technology, looking at cementitious, epoxy, modifi ed epoxy, urethane and lightweight grouts. Discussion will include live demonstrations.

Glass Tile Installations and Demonstrations
The NTCA will utilize several successful glass tile experts to showcase their work and to examine the uniqueness of glass as compared to traditional tile and stone installations.

Exploring the Science of Natural Stone Tile
Installations Moderator: Bart Bettiga of the NTCA
Presenters: Greg Mowat of Forensic Tile Consultants and Josh Levinson of Artistic Tile

Large Format Tile Installations and Demonstrations
Gerald Sloan and Michael Whistler will examine issues related to large format tile installations, including running bond patterns, substrate preparation, lippage allowance,the effects of lighting on installations, and grout width requirements. Rectified tile installations will be discussed. Effective demonstrations will illustrate the issues that installers and builders face every day in the field.

Using Installation Standards in Sales and Installation of Ceramic Tile and Natural Stone
Contractors and Distributors will discuss the importance of staying on top of the latest standards for both tile and natural stone, and how to use this information to assist in the proper specifi cation of these materials; and in planning and implementing a successful installation. Panelists include Josh Levinson, Nyle Wadford and James Woelfel

Strategies to Improve Market Share over Competitive Alternates
Innovation in product design has been a major key to the success of many manufacturers in distinguishing themselves as leaders within the ceramic tile sector. Research and experimentation have led to improved aesthetics, an exciting explosion in finish, texture and sizes in conjunction with a parallel improvement in the technical quality of tile. The consistent originality of new lines has contributed to increased market share and extended areas of use for tile. This same attention to innovation needs to be applied to the industry’s marketing and educational efforts if we are to realize an increase in market share against competitive products such as hardwood, laminate, vinyl, linoleum, carpet, natural stone, cork, bamboo, sisal and rubber. The ceramic tile industry must integrate some of the effective strategies employed by competitive industries in order to maintain and grow our position within the fl oor-covering marketplace. Patti Fasan will present strategies and examine fresh new ideas and concepts to help you promote the premium value and long term performance of ceramic tile rather than going down the slippery slope of trying to compete on price alone against commodity non-durable alternatives. A Certified Ceramic Tile Consultant (CTC) from the Ceramic Tile Institute of America, (CTIOA) Patti delivers a polished, entertaining, and informative presentation that speaks to everyone. She is relevant. Her dynamic presentations, superb stage presence and vibrant personality inspire audiences to maximize their entrepreneurial goals. Patti has published numerous articles and has lectured in Europe, the United States, Australia and Canada. Her seminars have been featured at Coverings, Surfaces, Design Y.C., NeoCon NY, and AIA Conventions. For the past decade Fasan has partnered with Tile of Spain and collaborated on many facets of Spain’s extensive educational platform developed exclusively for the USA.

Ask the Leader
Total Solutions Plus will begin to wrap up its jam-packed educational sessions with an Ask the Leader forum. A grand panel made up of high level executives from two contractor companies, two manufacturer companies and two distributor companies will share their expertise on three topics of importance within their company. Frank Donahue, Owner of Best Tile of NC, will be the moderator for the panel. The format will be Q&A and each panelist will be given an opportunity to describe the three most important things their company is dealing with a

Register now!
Complete details, including online registration, hotel reservations, and more are available at www.ctdahome. org/tsp/2011/


Selling Underfloor Heat
September 1st, 2011

Radiant heat is hardly a new product. Most likely invented by the ancient Romans, the concept of heating a room from the ground up continues to appeal to architects and consumers. The warmth generated from coils or mats beneath the tile radiates through the clay body, and into the air above the floor—efficiently heating the entire space. For those lucky enough to have underfloor heat, the feeling is one of luxurious comfort. Having one’s feet warmed in this way can be best described as the feeling one gets holding a warm mug of hot chocolate on a snowy day. Naturally, the technology has improved since Roman times, but that does not necessarily mean that the customers walking into your showroom know much about it. In fact, even some distributors may not know about all of the options available, or be able to explain exactly how efficient a heat source it is.

Uneven Familiarity
According to Christy Fabros, Public Relations Specialist at NuHeat, “In North America underfloor heating is not as widely known, but in Europe and Asia, especially in Korea, it is used as a standard way to heat interior spaces. In North America, people just aren’t as aware of the efficiency of radiant heat. It is just as good as baseboard heat, and designers like it because it doesn’t interfere with floor space.” “Radiant heat feels warmer than forced-air, just as the sun shining on your faces feels warm, when your skin touches warmth it is perceived as being warmer. When something is heated directly, it warms the object,” explains Fabros.

As one might expect, clients in colder climates tend to be more knowledgeable about underfloor heating options. So, Canadian customers might walk into a showroom asking for radiant heat. Interestingly, in some of the warmest areas in North America, underfl oor heating is used frequently. According to Fabros, the least common place to fi nd it is in the temperate central regions of North America. For dealers in this area, there is a lot of room for growth, since radiant heat is perfect for taking the chill out of a mild evening or brisk morning. In general, most distributors are familiar with underfloor heat, says Ben Shoemaker, Canadian Sales Manager for Emerson. “There seems to be a reasonable amount of knowledge about underfloor heating, but with turnover in personnel, there may be gaps in understanding. Also, there may be some things that new distributors don’t realize.” “I like to tell people that this is a nice feature to have for when the temperature drops for a few days in winter.

Even in Florida and California, places where people use air conditioning, underfloor heating is gaining in popularity. It’s nice to take the chill off for when you step out of the shower,” says Shoemaker. Romi Sheynis of Emerson Industrial Automation agrees, “In Arizona and Florida, people have more ceramic tile. It’s their top choice not just in the kitchen and bath. It’s easier to maintain, it’s durable, and it’s a relief when it’s hot. Because of air conditioning, the tile gets cold fast, but radiant heat makes it feel warm underneath your feet to compensate, especially in the winter and at night,” he says. “It is those people who live in warm areas who are acclimated to heat, they are used to having a warm floor,” adds Shoemaker. Sheynis adds that, “It is not considered a luxury, it’s more of a trend. There’s a lot of flexibility in how you want to run it. It is very energy efficient to use as supplemental heat.”

Selling point: affordable luxury
Many people think of underfloor heat as a luxury item, but Fabros calls it an upgrade. She says that it is now affordable enough to think about it at many price points. “In a standard bathroom, it adds approximately $1000,” she says. “Some tile dealers aren’t as familiar with radiant heat, and they may sell it as an added luxury,” says Fabros. “But they should know that it can be a source of heat. People these days are concerned with energy efficiency and they should know about it as an option.” Shoemaker agrees, saying that it’s an affordable luxury adding only $300 to $350 to install for a 20 to 30 square foot bathroom using thermal cable. As for the amount of energy used to power the system, “You can equate it to the cost of running about three lightbulbs- -depending on the size of the room– from 150 to 300 watts. Plus, if you use a programmable thermostat, you don’t run the system very many hours.” “Because your feet stay warm,” he explains, “you feel warmer at a cooler temperature. So, you can keep the room a little cooler and still feel warm. There’s a lot of benefit for very little expense.”

Explains Fabros, “Radiant heat is a good way to heat a home. On a typical day, a person might get up, go to the bathroom to shower, go to the kitchen to make breakfast and get the kids ready for school and then leave. With programmable thermostats, you can track the heat into only the rooms that you’ll be using on those typical days. It also works underneath engineered hardwoods. We are noticing radiant heat being used in basements more as well.” “You are putting heat into a space that you would have supplied heat to anyway—and possibly at a higher cost—so you’re just offsetting a heating mode you’d otherwise use,” says Shoemaker. “The system uses only twelve watts per square foot, and you get very well distributed warmth. The thermometer cycles on and off to even the temperature, so it is very effective.”

According to Sheynis, Emerson has been in the underfloor heat market for 35 years. The company manufactures cable mats for the flooring industry across North America. “Emerson was the first company to standardize the product, making it a day-to-day shelf-product, whereas it used to be custom to have underfloor heat. It would add four to five thousand dollars to the cost of a bathroom. Now it is off the shelf—a luxury that the average person can afford. ”

Height is an issue
“These days, the product is more standard, so you no longer need the thick mud base, which used to add a one and a half inch thickness to the floor,” Sheynis explains. This thickness required the building to have a drop-down in the rooms where it would be used and this added significantly to the cost of installation. The mat itself is also much thinner than it used to be. That’s another trend, says Shoemaker, “Height reduction. Right now, one-eighth of an inch is typical, although Emerson has a new product in development which would reduce even that insignificant height by 30%,” he says.

Three price points
According to Shoemaker, the systems that are available from the least expensive to the most expensive are:

1. Cable systems—The new cables manufactured by Emerson are only ⅛” thick so they can be installed without changing the height of the floor.
2. Stock roll mats—The mats themselves come in standard sizes, so instead of one custom mat, a set of standard parallel mats can be connected together, and most rooms only require two mats. Cable sets allow distributors to have them available on the shelf. They can be adapted to any space, and by using multiple mats, you can accommodate the shapes to the room. Mats are 20” wide and the carrier can be cut back, but not the cables, obviously. They work best in rectangular shaped rooms, where you can fill in 20” wide swaths.
3. Fully Custom—Shoemaker says that custom mats are designed like a cookie cutter for a particular room, and these can be used in single family dwellings. Whereas the cost of custom engineering one mat would be much higher, Shoemaker finds that the biggest custom market is in the hospitality industry. “We can create 50 identical hotel rooms using the same template and that lowers the cost per room.” Nuheat has a prebuilt custom manufactured system that comes in more than 60 standard sizes (basic squares and rectangles) that will fit a majority of rooms, says Fabros. “But if someone wants to heat an oddly shaped room, Nuheat can build tile, stone and laminate, or engineered wood floors,” she says. “Typically, our products are used in bathroom and kitchen remodels,” says Fabros. “Our electronic radiant heat is a three-step process. The installer will put down a layer of thinset, roll out a mat, and then use more thinset on top. All tile installers can do this and it is really easy for them. Installers are familiar with how to use those products. “One of our newer thermostats is the harmony, which has dual voltage. From a distributor standpoint, it makes purchasing easier, because they only have to stock one product without having to think about whether the client needs 120 volt or 240 volt. When you only have to stock one, the process is much more streamlined, which works well for contractors.

Voltage Requirements
According to Shoemaker, 120 volts is usually standard for 50 square feet and under, and 240 volt systems for 60 square feet and up. You can have 120 volts in a larger room, but then that will need a dedicated circuit, he says. “The programmable thermostats were new about 12 to 13 years ago. You simply set them to go off while you’re at work, and then they go on in the evenings right before you come home.” While programmable thermostats aren’t new, what’s new is the ability for people to regulate the temperature. “This is the major breakthrough in the past few years,” says Sheynis. “People have more ability to control the temperature throughout the day. The systems are more user-friendly; there are more options, such as occupancy sensors, allowing the user to regulate the thermostat, which will find the optimal mode. Also, the interface is now more user-friendly.” In addition, you’ll want to be able to explain to your customers how long the mats are expected to last and what kinds of warranties the manufacturers offer distributors may not know about all of the options available, or be able to explain exactly how efficient a heat source it is.

Innovations & Insights
September 1st, 2011


Better than nature’s offerings in many respects, the wood look of Berkshire HDP high defi nition porcelain wall and fl oor tile introduced by Florida Tile evokes the stylistic look of reclaimed, vintage hardwoods. According to Sean Cilona, Marketing Director for Florida Tile, “The Berkshire series is the newest HDP – High Definition Porcelain line from Florida Tile. This incredible departure from the stone looks of other contemporary lines is achieved via our digital printing processes combined with an intricate surface texture. The result is an amazing wood look plank tile virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.” With its rich colors drawn from nature and hand-scraped textures, Berkshire looks and feels like panels of reclaimed lumber that have already lived a lifetime. Available in 6×24- inch planks, the five colors, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Olive and Walnut, are among the most contemporary and traditional used in both residential and commercial applications. Says Cilona, “This palette was designed with American tastes in mind and engineered so traditional hardwood fashions can now go in high-traffic and wet areas that a natural wood could never hold up to.” Berkshire is not only “reality-based” with the appearance of aged wood, it is available in 6×24-inch porcelain tile planks which also achieves the right design look and feel. With up to 40% recycled content, GREENGUARD and Porcelain Tile certified, the Berkshire HDP line meets the .06% wet COF and includes 4×24 bullnose to complete any interior installation. www.panariagroup.it

LATICRETE  announced that Jimmy Archer Jr. has joined the company as the regional sales manager for LATICRETE Texas. Archer has great experience in both the tile and stone industry and the state of Texas. For the last 17 years he has worked closely with LATICRETE® products in a few different roles with Daltile first in Austin, then Corpus Christi and most recently Houston. Archer will step in as regional sales manager for LATICRETE Texas, working with his staff to build LATICRETE distribution relationships and MVP locations for LATICRETE APD. www.laticrete.com

ProSpec announced that Kica Loliyong has joined the company in a newly created position, Vice President of Sales. Loliyong will assume national sales responsibility for the full line of ProSpec products, including fl oor preparation, tile setting and concrete repair products. “Kica’s drive for results has led to a track record of sales and revenue growth in a challenging market,” said Gil Seco, Senior Vice President and General Manager – Construction Products Division for Bonsal American, Inc. “With Kica’s more than 15 years experience in the building products industry, his account management, strategic planning and sales and marketing expertise will be leveraged to continue the positive momentum of the ProSpec line.” Previously Loliyong was manager of the consumer division at Mapei. Prior to Mapei, Loliyong worked at TEC Specialty Products and Sherwin-Williams. www.prospec.com

Noble Company is pleased to announce the appointment of Jeff and Debra Pompadur, of Evergreen by Debra, LLC, as their new manufacturer’s representatives for Hawaii and the U.S. Territory of Guam. Since 1994, Evergreen by Debra, LLC, has provided service to Architects, Interior Designers, the Hospitality Industry and Tile Contractors with quality tile products, excellent service and professional advice. Jeff has worked in the tile industry since 1979. In 1992 he earned the professional designation of Ceramic Tile Consultant (CTC) from the Ceramic Tile Institute of America (CTIOA, Inc.) and has been the Hawaii and Guam Representative and Field Inspector for the CTIOA since 1999. Evergreen by Debra is WOSB DBE HI-DOT Certification Current, and a Woman-Owned, Small Business, DBE Certified Firm under 49 CFR Part 26. Their stated mission is to work with industry professionals to help make their jobs easier when selecting and specifying products, and to provide information about products that will help industry professionals be successful with their clients. In other news, Noble Company announced the appointment of Bill Rivas, of Flooring Technology Partners, as their new manufacturer’s representative for South Florida and Puerto Rico. Bill brings over 16 years of expertise in the southeast regional building materials industry (i.e., flooring installation systems, porcelain, ceramics and natural stone installation methods for interior and exterior vertical & flooring applications). Bill has a diverse perspective of the southeastern market calling on architectural firms, distributors, design firms, large/ small residential & commercial general contractors, and large flooring sub-contractor companies. Rivas’s territory is Indian River and Okeechobee Counties south to the Keys and Puerto Rico. www.EvergreenbyDebra.com and bill@flooringtechnologies.biz.

Grace Construction Products launched Bondera®PRO Tile MatSet, a double-sided, pressure sensitive peel-and-stick tiling adhesive on a roll created specifically for professional use. The newest addition to the Bondera® Tile MatSet line of products uses the same advanced, pressure-sensitive tile adhesive as original Bondera® Tile MatSet, but is available in larger, more economical sizes for professional commercial and residential tiling applications. Bondera® PRO eliminates the need for mortar, mastic and thin set and delivers a three-in-one value – it’s an adhesive that repels water and resists cracking. With Bondera® PRO, professionals save time by grouting the same day and avoid the stress and mess associated with traditional tile setting materials. Bondera® Tile MatSet is ideal for small tiling jobs including kitchen backsplashes, tub and shower surrounds, countertops, tile inlays, tile repair, borders, baseboards and columns, and it makes mosaic tiling projects simple. “Bondera® PRO Tile MatSet helps professionals easily and quickly tackle tiling jobs of all types while leaving virtually no mess behind,” said Rob Madore, Bondera brand manager at Grace Construction Products. “What used to be a two-day installation is now a one-day project, allowing professionals to maximize their time and profits.” Bondera® PRO can be applied to any clean, flat, level surface including drywall, plywood, laminate and Formica® laminate. The product can also be used to install tile over existing tile or countertops, allowing professionals to renovate without the need for demolition. Bondera® PRO Tile MatSet is installed in three easy steps: (1) Peel off the liner, (2) stick tile in place and (3) apply grout the same day. With Bondera® PRO there are no VOCs, odors or dust, and you don’t need special tools to install tile, just a few basic items: tile spacers; straight edge and framing square; measuring tape and level; utility knife or scissors; rectangular trowel; and a permanent marker, crayon or chalk line. 888-862-8738


The Universal Design Living Laboratory (www.UDLL.com), a national demonstration home and garden to showcase the prototype residence of the future, features a sublte, linear channel drain system in the master shower with the ProLine Drain by Quick Drain™ USA. The ProLine Drain is the replacement for the traditional round center drain in modern showers and wetrooms like the curbless, barrier-free universal design shower in the national demonstration home in Columbus, Ohio. The linear ProLine Drain can be placed anywhere in the shower design and comes standard with a one-way, pre-pitched substrate that creates the ability to design ADAcompliant, barrier-free showers. By eliminating the need to have the shower fl oor pitched in four different directions to the old center drain, the ProLine Drain offers limitless designs and will often be installed at the threshold since there is no need for curbs with the linear drain. The ProLine Drain is the logical evolution of shower and wetroom design and both architects and interior designers have been captivated by its versatility and performance. It offers uninterrupted tile designs even with large-format porcelain or the popular rectangular style porcelain tiles. The drain system also has an internally sloped interior trough t

hat creates a much more hygienic shower by not allowing standing water to collect at any time. The ProLine Drain by Quick Drain USA was the very fi rst linear channel system to gain approval for all building and plumbing codes across America. www.quickdrainusa.com

2011 Tactile and visual sensations that bring the warmth and naturalness of the wood come alive in Rovere, a floor gres porcelain tile collection that faithfully interprets the characteristics of one of the most natural products used in residential environments. This is what Ariana is proposing at Cersaie, the leading building trade show in Bologna, from 20th to 24th September 2011. The extremely natural colors, soft (Avorio, Naturale and Noce) and trendy (Wengè, Cenere, Bianco), which show the characteristics of the wood grain, combined with the variability of the graphic and the light oak “planed” effect, allow the collection a wide application flexibility, making it suitable for classical and contemporary environments. Rovere is available in two different sizes, 13,5×80 and 20×80 cm, both rectified, which can be laid, depending on the location and the type of housing, both individually and as a modular solution. In addition to the Rovere collection, the company offers two new products for floors and walls: Stile, an original and elegant tile inspired by a selection of exotic marbles, and Convivium, a collection with a “vintage” flavor reinterpreted in a contemporary way to meet pleasantly the different architectural solutions featuring the house of today. Info@threestudio.it

Imagine Tile is wild about the unveiling of their most fierce tile options yet, animal print tiles! Using a unique, patented process, these commercially rated tiles feature glazed, high-resolution animal print patterns from zebra to snakeskin and are made with durable, easy to clean, eco-friendly ceramic. Easily liven up any room, inside or out, with these exotic tiles. This animal-inspired collection contains no VOC’s, is made with pre-consumer recycled materials and is sustainable with a long life cycle. The tiling is extremely resistant to strong chemicals and is unaffected by UV lighting. These options can contribute to the sustainability of buildings, in accordance with the LEED system. Available for floors, walls, and countertops and in a variety of sizes, Imagine Tile’s animal print tile collection is perfect for residential and commercial spaces. Products are available by special order only and come in an array of sizes to fit any custom project. www.imaginetile.com

The latest line-up from Questech includes seven different stone colors, two fi nishes, and seven sizes. For all the design variety the collection represents, what each piece has in common is the patented Q-Seal technology that permanently protects natural stone tile from stains and wear while enhancing its innate beauty. “This new collection has a very natural, elegant feel that has been captured in a subtle yet rich color palette – warm browns and golds, soft beiges, creams and grays – all colors that will easily complement a wide range of decors,” said Gary Marmer, VP/General Manager of Q-Seal. “We wanted to give homeowners more variety in their design choices, and with the permanent protection of Q-Seal, natural stone can now be used in any room in the house without concern for maintenance or special care.” Unlike ordinary stone tile that often change color after the sealing process, Q-Seal allows the true color and tone of the natural stone to shine through before it is installed. The collection includes tiles made from travertine, marble and limestone, four with a classic tumbled finish and four with a smoother honed finish. The most popular sizes are a 4×4 field tile for use on backsplashes, walls and showers, as well as a 12×12 tile for dramatic floors and walls. A smaller 3×6 “subway” tile offers a contemporary yet classic option for backsplashes and walls. Two sizes of liners and 1×1 and 2×2 mosaic tiles add visual interest. The protection of QSeal makes it possible to incorporate natural stone into areas that were previously considered off-limits, such as moisture-rich bathrooms or kitchens where food and beverage spills might damage the stone. Q-Seal is the first factory-applied sealant to offer protected, hassle-free beauty backed by a lifetime warranty. Stone tiles treated with Q-Seal are as easy to maintain as their ceramic and porcelain counterparts. Think of Q-Seal as the equivalent of Stainmaster® for carpeting. It permanently protects natural stone from water and stains, causing liquids to literally bead up on the surface, ready to be wiped away. Unlike ordinary sealers, Q-Seal also protects the stone from the harmful effects of chemicals – like the acids in foods and beverages; and bleaches, ammonias and other damaging chemicals found in ordinary household cleaners. Q-Seal has the added benefi t of offering a built-in antimicrobial to fi ght the growth of molds and bacteria. www.questech.com

Leadership Letter: Get Out!
July 1st, 2011

Ryan Calkins

As a CTDA board member and officer, I’ve had the chance to speak with many of our industry leaders about business and life. In those conversations, I’ve noticed a few traits that all successful leaders share. One characteristic is that the most successful business leaders in our industry make time to get away from their businesses. They take vacations. They attend conferences. And they go out and find new opportunity, rather than waiting for it to knock on their door.

Time away serves a number of purposes. First, it allows you to look at the whole business—the high-altitude perspective, so to speak. When you are immersed in the day-to-day operations of your business, it is simply not possible to take in the whole picture. The demands of AR or customer needs or next month’s marketing plan overwhelm the less urgent but much more important long term planning. Second, time away requires that your employees step up and take care of the shop while you are gone. Third, time away provides new perspectives on how to run your business. If all you ever see is how things are done in your neck of the woods, how are you ever going to get the inspiration to innovate your business in a way that makes you more competitive, more profi table, and more valuable to your customers? Finally, time away includes the conferences, exhibitions, and trade missions that create and strengthen relationships, reveal new opportunities, and educate you on the latest trends.

One essential event is the revamped Total Solutions Plus conference, which takes place each year in late fall. This year, TSP will be held on November 7-11 in Chandler, Arizona, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. TSP 2011 builds on last year’s highly lauded gathering of the CTDA, the Tile Council of North America, and the National Tile Contractors Association. As always, there will be ample time to network with other industry leaders in formal and informal settings, as well as educational sessions on pressing topics for the tile business (e.g. Donato Grosser’s report on changes in ceramic tile distribution, a session on navigating new customs regulations, and the latest on green building standards from Bill Griese). And this year’s keynote speaker is one we will all be talking about for years to come. Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL and the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, will share his inspiring story of extreme courage and overcoming impossible odds.

If you haven’t already, please visit CTDAhome.org to sign up for Total Solutions Plus 2011.

Ryan Calkins
CTDA President

One final note. The CTDA community is mourning the loss of a dear friend and colleague. Ronald Gilmartin of Design Materials, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas passed away in June.

Stone Tile Trends
July 1st, 2011

by Kathleen Furore

The Stone Age has returned. And that’s good news for tile dealers looking to get a leg up on competitors and boost profits in the process. “We are in the Stone Age again,” says Donato Pompo, owner of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (www.CTaSC.com), founder of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone, chairman of the CTDA’s Education Committee and a Floor Covering Institute consultant. “Most everyone either wants stone or something that looks like stone. To be competitive, dealers have to offer both natural stone and stone-like ceramic tile to supply the demand and be successful.”

Products featured at the Surfaces 2011 and Coverings 2011 shows underscore stone’s resurgence. Vinyls that mimic the look of stone, and paint that creates stone’s texture and appearance are two examples Pompo cites. “At Coverings, almost every manufacturer was using the latest digital ink jet technology to produce ceramic tile that looks like an authentic stone,” he says. “They emulate stone so well that even I have trouble telling that it isn’t a stone without having to get on my hands and knees to look!”

Profit Potential
So why should dealers offer a variety of stone in their showrooms? The answer is simple for George Feldman, president of Petra Direct (www. petradirect.com), a trade partner with D&B Tile Distributors (www.dbtile.com) headquartered in Sunrise, Fla. “Money—there’s no other reason,” Feldman says. “It sells easily and installs easily. And since it accounts for 25 percent of the market, if you don’t carry it you’re losing all the customers who want stone.” The bottom line benefits are a plus. “Stone is generally much more profitable for the dealer. In general, stone sells for about $6 or more per square foot compared to average ceramic tile that sells for about $3 per square foot,” Pompo reports. “If your margin was 25 percent on your products, would you rather make 25 percent of $3 ($0.75) or 25 percent of $6 ($1.50) for the same amount of effort?”

What’s Hot
With so many stone products available, dealers can build an inventory that appeals to customers’ diverse design preferences and budgets. Granite remains a hit, especially for countertops, thanks to its durability and resistance to damage from acids and chemicals. It also comes in a wide array of color options, making it a versatile choice for dealers to carry. Betty Sullivan, president of Architectural Ceramics, Inc. (www.architecturalceramics.net) —a company with stores in Baltimore, Bethesda and Rockville, Md., and Alexandria and Falls Church, Va.—agrees granite is still popular. But she sees customers “going more exotic and using all different stone with their countertops.

“People are using stones like Zebrano [glazed porcelain tile reminiscent of zebrawood, produced by Cerim Ceramiche],” she says. “The most popular stone in residential applications right now is Carrera in the lightest [color] available, while Calcutta Gold [Marble] is the most popular for people with deeper pockets.” Pompo says limestone is favored in higher-end homes, with travertine the choice for price-conscious homeowners. “Slate, sandstone and quartzite seem more popular for exterior applications where slipresistance is needed,” he adds.

Although rustic, earthy-looking tumbled stones continue selling well, their popularity is waning as products with clean, straight edges gain ground, according to Steve Vogel, executive vice-president of Conestoga Tile (www.conestogatile.com), a wholesale ceramic tile and stone distributor operating in central Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C. “Also, lineal looks are gaining more and more favor whether they are in the form of mosaics or rectangle-shaped tile.”

Color-wise, Sullivan reports that gray, taupe and white stone dominate. Vermont Danby, a white stone with taupe and black veining, and Alabama stone, which is white with small, cloudy grey touches, are two favorite domestic stones, she says. The “latest big thing” Pompo sees are composite tiles made of a porcelain base laminated with a 1/8-inch thin layer of real natural stone. These hybrids, also known as compound tiles, are priced at approximately $7 per square foot at retail, Pompo says. Engineered stone—a type of composite made of approximately 90 percent quartz mixed with resin—is one of the most promising items to hit the stone tile market, Feldman notes. “Mixed with polymers, this new stone can be used in residential and commercial applications and installs easily,” he says.

Education is Key
Offering stone will help attract new customers. But closing a sale can be challenging, which makes some tile dealers hesitant to stock stone. “Some dealers are afraid to sell stone because they don’t understand it,” says Pompo. “The key is to educate customers and employees alike about the tradeoffs so they know the features and benefits, and don’t get false expectations.” Stone’s high-maintenance reputation, for example, can turn some customers off right away. It must be sealed initially, and resealed regularly, to prevent staining. And since acids can damage most natural stone, special ph-neutral stone cleaners are recommended. “Stone requires maintenance, some stones more than others, depending on its application and what type of traffic and climactic conditions it is subjected to,” Pompo explains. “But many stones are very durable and perform well in many applications. Unlike ceramic tile, if it chips it is the same material so it won’t be a distraction and it can be repaired.” And as Feldman points out, technology has made stone easier than ever to maintain. “There are products on the market to help seal and maintain stone floors. Customers just need to be educated first—then it is easy,” he says. One of those products is Q-Seal™ (www.q-seal.com), a permanent, factory-applied sealer baked into tiles before installation. It is guaranteed for life to prevent the effects of water and stains, and to never need resealing, Feldman says.

Stone’s physical properties and performance also vary greatly. Granite, for example, is not uniform in pattern or color—something customers should know before they buy. “A particular geological “Most everyone either wants stone or something that looks like stone.” Feature 24 TileDealer July/August 2011 classification of one type of stone from the same quarry can vary significantly from one part of the quarry compared to another, so it is important the buyers purchase stone from reliable suppliers who have verified each stone meets the minimum/ maximum ASTM requirements for its category,” Pompo explains. “Customers who want a uniform look should not use stone unless they are willing to purchase more than they need,” Sullivan cautions. Explaining all of stone’s nuances is important—otherwise consumers develop false expectations about the product they’re purchasing and ultimately become unhappy, Pompo says. “Make sure the stone they select is suitable for the intended application. The dealer has to make sure their supplier is testing their stone and providing them with data sheets explaining the recommendations and limitations,” he adds. “They [suppliers] should provide installation guidelines for various applications,” as well.

Tile dealers also should merchandise stone in creative ways. Pompo suggests displaying the full range of options available in current inventory, and offering pictures of stone in different applications to stimulate sales. “Pictures of projects that combine different types and sizes of stone and those that mix stone with glass and ceramic tile can show how to create a custom look, Pompo explains.

Ultimately, says Vogel, it is all about telling stone’s story. “The only way a dealer can tell that story about natural stone is if they understand the product themselves. Know where it is from, how nature made it, its limitations, how it’s quarried and prepared for the market,” he concludes.

One-on-One with Steve Taylor
July 1st, 2011

Custom Building Products, the 50-year-old Los Angeles based maker of ceramic tile installation products, continually seeks ways to reduce its environmental impact. Director of Technical Marketing Steve Taylor reports that with the introduction of the company’s Emerald System, Custom Building Products has taken action to not only make green compliance simpler, but to move forward on CO2 emission reduction. The Emerald System takes Custom Building Products’ longstanding Build Green program to the next level, Taylor says. All Emerald System products comply with green building agency standards, and all boast recycled material content and low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content. Because they are engineered to minimize their energy footprint, they also comply with major green building initiatives: American National Standards Institute (ANSI), California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Environmental consciousness is nothing new for Custom. Being a SoCal-based company has been an advantage, Taylor says. In the 1960s, California took note of pollution and began regulating VOC compounds. Custom grew up at the same time that these and other regulations were being implemented, helping make it an early adopter of an environmentallyaware philosophy, he adds. For almost a decade, Custom has used pre- and post-consumer recycled materials in its tile and stone installation product manufacturing processes. No fewer than 100 of the company’s building products help contribute to LEED Certification in at least one of several categories. Recently, Taylor talked with TileDealer about the company’s green building philosophy and how Custom Building Products develops new products. Taylor also addresses how the company undertook its intriguing new initiative involving carbon offset credits, and the ways in which it intends to extend and Director of Technical Marketing Steve Taylor reports that with the introduction of the company’s Emerald System, Custom Building Products has taken action to not only make green compliance simpler, but to move forward on CO2 emission reduction. refine its lines of surface preparation, bonding and grouting products.

TileDealer: Please discuss your green building products.
Nearly all of Custom’s products are considered green and qualify for LEED in one of four categories: regional materials, recycled content, low VOC adhesive, low VOC coatings. Some of the better known products include PolyBlend Grout, VersaBond Thinset mortar and LevelQuick self-leveling underlayment, extensively utilized by tile installers.

TD: What is Custom’s green building philosophy.
Being a California-based company, we have always been concerned with the environment. Southern California has always had one of the strictest VOC and emission standards. Custom is concerned with the environment and strives to supply the industry with safe, non-polluting products. We established 11 manufacturing sites across North America to reduce transportation and natural resources consumption. All our facilities are conscious of waste, and employees there do everything they can to reduce energy consumption and the generation of waste to landfills. Dust and water from our processes are recycled back into the process. For the most part, all of this is done on our own. For instance, there are no regulations requiring us to be close to our customers and suppliers. These are things we decided to do on our own to eliminate waste and cost.

TD: How is Custom Building Products developing new products for that market?
At Custom, we all work together to develop new products. Teams with personnel from marketing, R&D and sales evaluate the needs of our customers and formulate plans to fill these needs with new products. Our R&D staff of 40 people works on developing and thoroughly testing these new products to assure successful launch.

TD: What new products are in the pipeline?
Our most recent introductions are our CEG-Lite epoxy grout, an easy to use product that contains recycled content and is part of the Emerald System. We also introduced SpiderWeb uncoupling mat. The Tile Council of North America recognizes that there are some instances that require the use of an uncoupling membrane. We recognized there was a hole in our product offering. The result is SpiderWeb. There are situations in which floors can’t be installed without using an uncoupling mat, which basically uncouples the tile installation from the sub-floor, so if there’s movement in the sub-floor, it doesn’t crack the tile. For a tile installation, concrete normally requires 28 days to cure before tile can be laid. SpiderWeb allows the tile to be set in as little as three days.

TD: How do you anticipate this category will evolve over the future?
Tile and stone are very desirable decorative covering materials. We believe the demand will continue to grow and we will see new products. Many of the newest tile products have also incorporated a green focus and sustainability. Ultra thin tile is an example. This tile is only three mm thick and requires less energy to produce and transport. New tiles like this require new installation products and methods. We plan to make sure that as new tile products are developed, there will be an installation method for them.

TD: You just took on an interesting initiative with carbon offset credits. Can you explain the Emerald System products?
There is so much confusion around green standards — LEED, IgCC (pending), CalGreen, GreenSquared (pending) — that we decided to take the confusion out. We’re watching these standards being developed and want to make sure we have products in place once the standards are approved. We identified products that will qualify for any of these standards and guaranteed that using Emerald System Products will meet the standard and qualify as green. We also wanted to take this one step further and offer carbon offset credits for installations that use a full line of green products. Right now, the Emerald System covers all phases: preparing the surface, setting or bonding tile to the floor, and grouting products.

TD: What made you pursue this tactic?
We wanted to offer more than the traditional recycled content and low VOC in the Emerald System. We have local manufacturing and use regional raw materials. So what else can we do? Many of our products contain Portland cement. Portland cement is the largest producer of greenhouse gases, outside of electrical energy production and transportation. We cannot eliminate use of Portland cement, but we could offset the greenhouse gases emitted during its manufacture. This is one more step to reducing worldwide pollution. In the rest of the world it’s not a choice, it’s a mandate to reduce greenhouse gases. What an offset credit says is if there’s nothing we can do to reduce the greenhouse gases in the manufacturing of our product or the raw materials we use, we can help reduce emissions of greenhouses gases elsewhere, i.e., building a windmill that’s producing electricity, which shuts down a coal-fired energy producer.

TD: How has it been received?
Many of our customers like the idea of reducing greenhouse gases. They see this as a positive attribute for the products. Since this is targeted to large commercial projects, time will tell the value. We’re sort of monitoring the whole thing. We’ve reached out to our field representatives who call on the architects. The trouble is that when an architect designs a building, there’s a year delay between that and the time it gets built, so they wouldn’t recommend any materials until a year later. So we would not see any transactions until then.

TD: Do you anticipate doing this in the manufacture of other setting materials?
There have been discussions concerning the addition of other tile installation products to the Emerald System. As we see the need, we will offer carbon offset credits with more products.

TD: If developers are using these carbon credits, what is their gain?
Developers using the full Emerald System of products, including grouts and mortars, for their tile installation will not only receive up to a lifetime warranty on the installation, they will receive a certifi cate showing the tons of CO2 greenhouse gas they removed from our atmosphere. This can be applied to LEED for credit under the innovation contribution. As more communities adopt Cap-and-Trade limitations for greenhouse gases, obtaining carbon offset credits will be an important step toward attaining the greenhouse gas reductions required.

TD: Your products comply with all major green building initiatives. How long has it taken the company to comply with all these?
We are involved with many of the committees developing the green standards. By constantly reviewing the drafts during the standards development, we can see that our formulas are modified as needed to meet proposed standards. It’s one of those evolving situations. We see things developing we need to address and respond quickly.

TD: Were you yourself always environmentally conscious, or did that develop over time?
I’ve been with Custom for 21 years, and in building materials for 35. I hate to admit it, but I’m a product of the 1960s. There were a lot of tree huggers back then, and I’ve always had an interest in the environment. Being so long in California, where Los Angeles had the worst pollution in the world in the 1960s, it was always, “How can we develop products with no VOCs and solvents?” We were always concerned with making solvent-based products water-based. I just kind of hit the ground running.

TD: What’s ahead for Custom Building Products?
We envision that we will be the green leaders for tile installation products. We will continue to refine and extend our lines of surface preparation, bonding and grouting products that meet the requirements of the green community. We will also position our cleaners and sealers as environmentally sustainable.

SOURCE: Steve Taylor, director of technical marketing Custom Building Products, Los Angeles stevet@cbpmail.net 562-296-9569

Who Needs Training and Why?
July 1st, 2011

Industry Education Gives Your Company a Competitive Advantage

Continuing education to keep up-to-date with the way things are, rather than the way things were, is a fact of modern life. This could not be truer in today’s tile and stone industry. Everyone who wants to stay ahead of the competition and take advantage of new marketplace opportunities needs to leverage the latest industry information, a.k.a., industry education. The tile and stone industry has a number of excellent education and training resources. Because some of the biggest challenges are fitting training into our budgets and schedules, there are a number of cost-and time-effective training options available.

Instructor led or traditional classroom training is most familiar. It allows interaction between teacher and student, as well as discussion among students. This is also the most effective way to deliver hands-on training, where the student is required to complete tasks in simulated real world environments. It’s also a costly delivery method due to travel and lodging expenses in combination with the loss of productivity due to time away from work. (According to Bersin & Associations, in 2009 as much as 40 cents of every dollar spent on training was spent on travel and lodging.) That’s why many professionals leverage classroom offerings that are part of a larger industry event, like Coverings or Total Solutions Plus.

E-learning uses web-based programs on the Internet. Online training can be either synchronous, where the learners and instructor meet at the same time in a virtual setting, or asynchronous, at one’s own pace. Synchronous training is typically done through webinars, which allow for live two-way communication between instructor and student. It is also used as web conferencing, where teacher and students can meet, or student groups can collaborate. CTDA maximizes this format in monthly webinars that allow companies to sign up as many individuals as they would like from one location making it even more cost effi cient.

Asynchronous training allows the student to login 24/7 to take a course at their own pace. In addition to cost benefi ts, online training respects today’s busy work schedules, as it can often be completed at any time or place (with exception to synchronous webinar training) as long as there is a computer with an internet connection. Online training also means employees don’t miss work or any opportunities to sell their products. According to ASTD, in 2009, 36.5% of learning was technology based.

Mobile learning (mLearning) that takes place through a device such as a phone or iPad is increasingly common although many of us are not even aware that we are doing it. Every time we Google from a phone, text 411 to get a phone number, text someone a question, or use a social media platform from our phone, we are taking part in the mobile learning phenomenon. The fact that much online training can also be completed on a mobile device makes it the most convenient way for people to learn on the go. Currently, technology is trying to “catch up” so that the traditional eLearning courses are accessible on all mobile device platforms, but for now there are still some limitations.

All of these training mediums have their benefi ts and drawbacks, which is why a blended learning approach is considered to be the most effective way for someone to learn. Blended learning is a combination of online and instructor-led training, which harnesses the benefits of both types of training in order to maximize knowledge transfer to the student.

Options in the tile industry
The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) has been providing industry training since 2002, with flagship courses on ceramic tile and stone training, as well as an upcoming course for tile installers on thin-set application. Tile and stone courses are designed to teach sales reps, installers, designers, and architects all of the many facets of tile and stone. With an emphasis in consultative sales techniques, these courses are popular among distributors and dealers who not only utilize them to train their sales organizations how to maximize every sales opportunity, but to train their customers so they can sell more of their products.

The upcoming thin-set installation course will teach industry standards and proper techniques for thin-set applications for all types of tiles. This course is for all industry installers whose goal is to limit liability and reduce the likelihood of failures.

The UofCTS also develops private labeled eLearning content for companies who need training on specific products. UofCTS offers a fully functional LMS online campus for providing self-paced or live courses. The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) offers UofCTS online training courses to their members at a significant discount through their CTDA Online Education program.

These courses help CTDA members to increase revenue by making their employees more effective at their jobs, and at a reduced price, further increasing the benefit to CTDA members. CTDA members can log onto the CTDA website for more information and to purchase these courses. CTDA also offers the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program, the only certification designed specifically for salespeople.

CTDA’s monthly webinar series features industry experts who present information on various industry specific topics as well as general subjects such as economics, business, and how to increase sales. Webinars are archived so CTDA members can watch them at their convenience at a reduced price. NTCA offers hands-on symposiums, training seminars, customized training programs, and a library of training manuals, books and videos. The symposiums are fast-paced technical presentations hosted by NTCA’s director of training and education as well as by industry experts. The training manuals, books, and videos cover a wide variety of construction and installation topics and are available for purchase on the NTCA website.

In addition, NTCA plans to provide their members with privately branded UofCTS training courses. The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) specializes in standards-based installation training and certification that covers installation techniques and best practices. They provide hands-on and lecture-based training to many industry segments with an overall goal of raising the quality of ceramic tile installation.

MIA offers a blend of educational offerings, from instructor-led to online webinars. MIA, in conjunction with Stone World Magazine, offers stone industry education events on topics from fabrication to installation and marketing. They also offer free webinars to MIA members on topics such as website optimization, employment practice liability, and making money in a tough economy. MIA also offers a wide variety of DVD training available in their online store.

International Industry E-Learning Academy (IIEA), sponsored by Italian Association for Machines for Ceramic Tile (ACIMAC), is an Italian company that develops and sells technical and business e-learning courses on an LMS platform for the global industry. UofCTS is representing IIEA in North America and will soon be offering online training for ceramic tile manufacturers and others within the industry.

There are other options for training and education in our industry such as Fred Jackson with Estudio Group, who provides instructor-led training on various subjects such as ceramic tile and stone basics, care and maintenance, and green issues. In addition, there are other online and instructor-led training providers in our industry as well as a plethora of “how to” videos on YouTube and even forums like John Bridge’s Ceramic Tile Advice Forum, where you can post questions and give advice to others.

Education should be proactive, not reactive. With the current state of the economy and no significant shortterm improvement in sight, it is up to us to improve ourselves and give our businesses a competitive advantage to increase our opportunities and our income. We are fortunate to have so many training options that are tailored to what we do, designed by people who are in this industry and who are passionate about training in order to better our industry. Those who take advantage of these resources are the ones who will truly thrive.

JOSEPH L. RUSS is Director of E-Learning and Training Director for the UofCTS, responsible for new course development and the creation of customized courses. Russ is chief administrator of the Learning Management System (LMS), the educational technology behind the University, and manages business development and client relations.


Learning opportunities at Total Solutions Plus
When Total Solutions Plus convenes late this fall, attendees will have a wide selection of seminars and presentations to help keep them “in the know” about the latest tile and business trends. Here’s just a sampling of what to expect:

  •  Robin Grove: Challenges Dealing with Customs on Import Issues
  •  Bill Griese: Understanding Tile’s Role in Green Building
  •  NTCA: Glass Tile Installations and Demonstrations
  •  NTCA Training Director Gerald Sloan, along with highly acclaimed glass tile installation experts Greg Andrews and David Palmer.
  •  Josh Levinson and Greg Mowat: Exploring The Science of Natural Stone Tile Installations
  •  Shauna Causey: Designing a Website That Will Market Your Business and Increase Sales
  •  Josh Levinson, Nyle Wadford and James Woelfel: Using Installation Standards in Sales and Installation of Ceramic Tile and Natural Stone

For details, please follow the link at www.ctdahome.org

CTDA - Membership
CTDA - Online Education