One on One with Lynle Ellis of Lynle Ellis Design
November 12th, 2012

“With the recession, people still want their dream space, but now there’s a dollar value attached to it.”
by Jeffrey Steele

When Lynle Ellis was just a girl growing up in Connecticut, she already had the makings of a future interior designer. She was big on drawing layouts, and already had a very distinct idea of what she liked — and didn’t like.

“I started doing floor plans on my own at age 12,” she recalls.

“I looked at House and Garden magazine, and would do little pencil sketches of room layouts. I was big on sunken living rooms, and tower rooms.

“I couldn’t stand the Bermuda green tile I had in my bathroom. I knew from an early age I didn’t want to date a space.”

Years later, her many satisfied clients are delighted Ellis got an early start doing what she loved. She has been an interior designer since 1991, and has had her own design firm, San Diego-based Lynle Ellis Designs, since 1999, when she passed her NCIDQ (National Certification of Interior Design Qualification) exam and became a professional member of ASID.

Had she not become an interior designer, Ellis might have made a great philosopher, psychologist or commentator on human nature and the economy.

She is a shrewdly observant, honest and colorful interpreter of design trends, developments in tile, relationships between designers and their suppliers, and the psychology of consumer spending on home design.

As the housing industry, and by extension tile, continue long recoveries from the Great Recession, TileDealer reached out to Ellis for a candid examination of her interior design philosophies and how tile figures in the creation of beautiful and functional interior spaces.

She doesn’t disappoint, offering an entertaining and insightful dialogue on design trends for 2013, how the Green Movement impacts design, her biggest challenges as a designer, what she does and doesn’t want from tile vendors, and what’s ahead for tile, design and her own business.

TileDealer: Can you describe your design philosophy?

My design philosophy is pretty easy, and goes with my new tagline, “Inspiring interiors that enhance your well being.” Interior design is about creating a space that enhances who you are as a person.

To me, design is not just about designing a pretty space; it’s about creating a space that works for you and your family, so you have more joy and basic organization in your life. There’s a lot of function in my design.

My first question is how my client wants to feel when she re-enters her space. Some people need creativity and inspiration when they return home, others need peace and relaxation, or honestly anything in between.

That’ s what my design gives them, so they function well and get what they need to decompress from their outside world, be inspired, and be ready and refreshed for the next day. The space feels like who you are as a person.

TD: What do you see as the design trends for 2013, upscale or not?

I work all over San Diego County, and do one hour consultations all the way up to full home, remodel or reconstruction design. I see all economic levels, apartments to multimillion dollar homes, and everything in between. Design should be accessible. It’s not just for those who think, “Well, I can afford it.”

I see all walks of life. Here’s where I’m going, trend-wise, and how I design in general. Basically I mix different elements, contemporary with traditional, and balance masculine and feminine in a space. And that’s what the design trends are: it’s masculine-feminine, traditional-contemporary.

Even if I’m designing a traditional home, I will still incorporate a touch of whimsy, something unexpected, which might come in the form of super-modern tile on your fireplace, or a very contemporary lighting fixture. And then I always, always mix textures. That’s super important, and it’s not a trend. You always must have something coarse with something smooth, and something shiny with something dull. It’s the yin-yang of design and what makes a space unique.

A home can look too decorated, too perfect, and that’s where you have to mix it up, bringing a feminine touch into a mostly masculine home or vice versa.

You have to have that something unexpected.

TD: How does the green movement fit into your projects?

What I find with my clients is they will only take it up to a certain level. They’re not willing to sacrifice what they love for green design. They want green design to be something I think about, but it doesn’t have to be law.

There’s one thing I always do green, and that’s paint. I always do low-VOC paints, and luckily the paint companies have listened and now most of their standard paints are low VOC. What I’m doing right now is a project in the planning stages, where the client wanted green countertops. But on their own, they hadn’t found anything they liked. I introduced them to the recycled bottle countertops, and really cool stuff. It’s Vetrazo. It will create a beautiful countertop that color-wise I can pull the rest of the colors from. You have recycled blue, green and amber bottles, and that allows me to pull my color scheme for the cabinetry and the backsplash tile, making it a cohesive whole.

And that’s a big thing for me.

TD: What’s the biggest obstacle you face as a designer?

How honest do you want me to be? (LAUGHS) Truthfully, budget is the bottom line. With the recession, people still want their dream space, but now there’s a dollar value attached to it.

And that makes for a lot of compromising in the space within the design, and a lot of people are not happy with that.

They want what they are in love with, but have a budget for only what they like. What I do to balance that is have them tell me what they love the most, and we’ll work the budget around that. I don’t want people to sacrifice for a number figure. I can still give them a beautiful space around that one item they love.

Maybe it’s a chandelier they’re in love with, and I get in that by using a less expensive sofa manufacturer. That way, the focal point of the space is still the chandelier, and every time they walk in it makes them happy.

TD: What do you need from clients to produce a great design?

Open communication. It’s that simple. When I meet with a client initially, I want them to give me pictures from magazines of rooms they love and rooms they hate. That will give me sort of a vision into their brain. It’s really important they truly communicate with me. If I present them something they don’t like, which I seldom do, I want them to say, “Lynle, this is not working for us.”

So I will present them with different options. But I have to know. I would love to read their mind, but I can’t do that, so it’s as simple as that.

The other thing is trust. They need to trust they hired the best interior design for their needs. They need to trust that they did their homework at the beginning, so if they can’t visualize something, they know they can trust me as their interior designer, who can visualize it and know it’s exactly what they want.

TD: What do you expect from a distributor in terms of capabilities, delivery, and more?

What I’m looking for from them is the most current materials that are out there. I want to know what’s new and upcoming and exciting in tile design.

But I still want to keep my old favorites, the staples. I‘m not always going to design on trend. Because if you do, you end up with a dated design in 10 years. So I’m looking for my staples, [like] my beautiful pillow edged, glossy cream-colored tile. Don’t take it away from me! Because then I’m going to mix in your really on-trend copper or stainless steel liner. I’m really into metal now. It’s a lot easier to replace a liner down the road than it is your entire bathroom tile.

I’ll also do a beautiful natural stone floor mixed with some of those big 18-by 25-inch rectangular porcelain tiles on the walls. Again, the natural stone is timeless, and I’ll run that rectangular tile up the wall, and use the natural stone as an accent. So you have that traditional natural stone with the more contemporary rectangular tile.
With regards to delivery, I like to know estimated time of arrival. I’m trying to make a lot of elements work, a lot of pieces to the puzzle come together, and the field tile is the major component. I want to know when I’m getting my field tile, as well as when I’m getting my accent tile, so continual open communication between my vendors, suppliers and me is so important.

Let me know. If something is delayed, please pick up the phone and call me. If it is delayed, my clients and I need to discuss whether we will re-select, and if we don’t, how that delayed timing will affect the construction schedule.

TD: Would you advise distributors to change in the way they handle payment terms, becoming more flexible on terms, for instance?

I’m going to say no. I expect my clients to pay me upfront. That way, I have the cash in hand before I place any orders. I would not then expect my tile vendors to give me net 30, net 90 or net 120. I wouldn’t ask them to do that when I’m not giving my client those terms. You do need terms in retail, because you are attempting to sell merchandise before you pay bills. But this is different.

I’m an interior designer, and I’m not holding tile in a warehouse. I’m buying for a specific project, so I always pay cash up front.

TD: When is stone better than ceramic?

Stone is better than ceramic based on how high-end your project is going to be. There’s still an expectation in the high-end market that stone is going to be stone, and not something that looks like stone. There is still a stigma about porcelain looking like a natural material.

I understand it’s more durable. But in a multimillion home, the client is not going to expect to see 18-by-18-inch porcelain tile that looks like stone. They’re going to expect to see the real thing. In high-end homes, for floor, people still expect natural stone. But if it’s a family with kids, I’d recommend porcelain tile.

If you’re a mom and dad of three children six months to five years, you don’t want to worry about maintaining your floor. They’re going to draw on it, drop things on it, they’re kids. So the parents don’t want to have to worry about it. It’s the same thing in a home occupied by older people. I would recommend a ceramic or a porcelain tile, because I can guarantee the slip co-efficient.

TD: Do you see the tile industry rebounding, or will that take time?

It directly has to do with where our economy goes as a country. If it slips into another recession, it’s not going to rebound.

People are honestly tired of living on a tight budget. So they are doing more design. I have had more work in the past year than I had in the previous two years. I would say it’s mid-range rather than high-end. People are doing more renovations. Basically people were getting tired of being super-super thrifty. They wanted to feel that joy again that comes from doing some home projects once more. But if we slip into recession again, all bets are off.

TD: What’s ahead for you and Lynle Ellis Designs?

I’m a planner actually. I’m in the process of developing my own form of design show, where we may start with something just on YouTube.

I have a unique take on my design philosophy, and I want to share it with as many people as possible, so they see it’s not as hard as they might think to add joy to their home and their lives. ###


Lynle Hawkins-Struble (identified here as Lynle Ellis to avoid confusion), owner
Lynle Ellis Designs, San Diego

FreeStyle Linear Drain™ Accessories by Noble Company
November 8th, 2012

In response to customer requests, Noble Company has introduced 3 new accessories for FreeStyle Linear Drains.

•Tile Top Strainer – allows for tile to be installed over the strainer. The kit includes a “tileable” stainless steel strainer and all necessary hardware. The Tile Top Strainer provides a “seamless” look to a shower floor by replacing a stainless steel strainer with tile. Promises to be a popular option.

•Full Mortar Bed Adaptor Kit – allows for the use of a shower pan (like Chloraloy®) to waterproof FreeStyle Linear Drains. The Kit includes a permanent Mortar Guard and all necessary parts for the installation. Should be popular with plumbers.

•Connector – connects any number or size FreeStyle strainers to give the impression of a continuous drain system. Three different Connectors allow any configuration of drains to be connected. Ideal for large projects (interior or exterior) where multiple drains will be installed.

Tile Top Strainer

Founded in 1946, the Noble Company has established a reputation of providing quality, innovative products for the plumbing and tile industries. Identifying problems and developing solutions that add value and exceed customer expectations has been the ongoing mission of our company. Noble Company products are available globally through
our distribution network.

Examples of innovative products include Chloraloy, a sheet membrane made from chlorinated polyethylene (CPE), a durable, inherently flexible elastomer. Chloraloy quickly became the performance leader for shower waterproofing applications. Noburst, a non-toxic antifreeze and heat transfer fluid for hydronic heating systems, and FireFighter, an antifreeze for wet fire sprinkler systems, made Noble Company a leader in the plumbing, fire protection and HVAC industries. Pro-Slope and ProBase save time and ensure pre-sloped waterproofing. FreeStyle Linear Drains offer the latest in design flexibility. Noble products help ensure problem free installations, are easy to install and backed by excellent technical services. All Noble products are made in the USA. For more information, visit our website or call 800-878-5788.

For more information about any Noble Company product, visit our website at, or contact us at 800-878-5788.

2012 Total Solutions Plus
November 7th, 2012

Were you at Total Solutions Plus?

If you did not attend, you missed the opportunity to network and learn with more than 400 tile industry leaders.

Miami Marlins Get Grand Slam Performance with LATICRETE Products
October 26th, 2012

by Ron Treister

When the Florida Marlins implemented their name change and became the Miami Marlins at the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, the overall goal was clear: a new corporate image, a new stadium, and a new and successful year.

Plans were drawn for a new stadium that would encompass 966,929 square feet with a seating capacity of 37,000. The Miami Marlins Stadium, named Marlins Park, is located on the site previously occupied by the Orange Bowl Stadium in downtown Miami. With a three panel retractable roof (one of only six Major League Baseball stadiums to have such) which protects both the playing field and seating areas, the Marlins Park is right at the top of its class when compared to the other major league baseball fields. The ballpark is more than just a baseball palace; it also has its own entertainment district consisting of 53,000 square feet of retail space, any stadium experience far more than watching the team play. General contractors Moss Construction and architecture firm, Populous, successfully teamed up to build a ballpark that reflected the new, fresh attitude of the professional sports organization that would inhabit and compete within it. To construct a Stadium that was as ambitious as its team’s upcoming aspirations, the finest construction products, including those from LATICRETE® International, Inc., were specified.

As beautiful and contemporary as is the new Marlins Park, the walkway leading up to it is what anybody and everybody first notices. The tiles and installation systems used to construct this walkway had to be the absolute cream of the crop. The importance of a good first impression is crucial when speaking about a project of such grand scale. The exterior walkways leading into Marlins Park have been designed with vibrant tiles that were produced using Miami Marlins’ brilliant colors, arranged in a striped pattern. This design catches the eye immediately, as separate walkways with different destinations have their own unique scheme.

To achieve the flashy, eye-catching finished tile design, there were some obvious difficulties to address. “There were many challenges for us,” stated Ramone Silvestre, President of R & F Flooring, of Lake Worth, Florida, the company that installed tile for all exterior walkways of the stadium. “There was so much going on. In particular, there was a great deal of underground drilling and other water work being done around us. When landscape workers were installing the sod, sprinkler systems and royal palms, it was just too wet for us to be installing tile.” Despite those tough conditions, R&F was able to get the job done on time.

The use of specific LATICRETE® products was instrumental in making the project not only look good and perform at optimal levels, they helped the contractor meet the project’s very important deadline. Ramone Silvestre was emphatic about using LATICRETE Hydro Ban™, a thin, load bearing waterproofing/crack isolation membrane that doesn’t require the use of fabric in the field, coves or corners. It is a single component self-curing liquid rubber polymer that forms a flexible, seamless waterproofing/crack isolation membrane. “LATICRETE Hydro Ban was of great use as the conditions were so wet, a waterproofing product had to really live up to its reputation not only after the project was complete, but during installation!” exclaimed Silvestre.

LATICRETE 254 Platinum, which is the ultimate one-step, polymer fortified, thin-set mortar for interior and exterior installation of ceramic tile, was also used at the park. “The one-step feature of LATICRETE 254 Platinum lived up to its name, because we were backed up due to conditions, so it allowed up to keep on schedule and save time,” Silvestre added.

“The LATICRETE System really helped us. Battling restraints because of the site conditions and having a good, solid, reliable products to use made it much easier to work within the time we had,” concluded Silvestre. “The final production and ‘look’ ended up being flat and smooth, and the design was just very cool.”

Despite the delays, however, there were no problems with the installation thanks to quality materials the focused determination of R&F.

“R&F Flooring deserves a huge amount of credit for the job they did at the stadium,” Blackburn said. “They dealt with a lot of setbacks that were completely out of their control, but still managed to do a world-class job.”

The Miami Marlins opened their season in Marlins Park against the St. Louis Cardinals, on April 4th 2012. All involved felt the excitement of a new stadium and a new season, and this clearly made their participation in the final tile installation like hitting a game-winning grand slam home run.

Quick Drain Spacer
October 25th, 2012

Quick Drain USA has announced the release of a new ¾” spacer. The product was introduced as an alternative option to address the variety of tile thicknesses available on the market and how they measure up to the adjacent drain for installation purposes. Quick Drain has added the ¾” spacer, making it the seventh different sized spacer the firm offers, all of which are used to easily raise the drain cover to the height of the floor. Other systems use “feet” or “legs” that are difficult to adjust should the customer change the floor material, especially since the feet are embedded in a mud bed that Quick Drain eliminates. Unlike others, the Quick Drain channel drain system is designed to make it easy for the contractor to work with a number of floor materials and thicknesses. ”We love talking to contractors who have installed other systems,” said Jim Van Landingham, Vice-President of Residential Sales for Quick Drain USA. “Once they see ours and how easy it is to work with, they never go back to the others.”

Craftsman, by Florida Tile

This line designed by Florida Tile, embodies these same qualities of contemporary design, extraordinary craftsmanship and the American spirit those people and of that time period. Designed in a classic Marble style, the Craftsman DP line features a smooth flat surface that is ideal for residential and light commercial applications. The graphic development is done using Florida Tile’s proprietary DP-Digital Porcelain technology. With up to 20 different graphics per color in the 12×12 alone, this line features the realistic shade variation of the most modern decorating lines available. 12 vby 12, 18 x 18, mosaics and listellos in biscuit, rye and wheat.

Next-Generation Sound-Reduction Membrane

Researchers at MAPEI have delivered a new, patent-pending sound-reduction membrane for use in both residential (homes, apartments, condominiums) and light commercial (office buildings) environments. Mapesonic™ 2 provides reduced transmission of both impact sound (footsteps, dropped objects, etc.) and airborne sound (voice, TV, etc.) through floors. The membrane also helps prevent movement up to 3/8″ (10 mm) wide from transmitting through flooring assemblies. Mapesonic 2’s next-generation technology combines sound reduction and crack isolation in a thin, flexible, lightweight, load-bearing, fabric-reinforced “peel-and-stick” membrane approved for use under ceramic tile, stone and wood flooring. The challenge for MAPEI’s R&D group was to meet or exceed a rating of 50 for both STC (airborne sound) and IIC (impact sound) standards on a 6″ (15 cm) concrete slab with no ceiling. Mapesonic 2 met both of those challenges head-on, bringing to the marketplace an easier-to-use membrane that compares favorably with thicker membranes currently on the market. Brian Pistulka, Business Manager for MAPEI America’s Tile & Stone Installation Systems product line, commented enthusiastically on Mapesonic 2: “This patent-pending membrane is the most significant development in the industry that I have seen in my career. The MAPEI Group did in-depth research into understanding sound, how it travels, and how various materials and the dynamics of components work together to reduce that sound. Mapesonic 2 is truly a product innovation – delivering better sound-performance results with a thinner membrane than existing contenders, because of its material composition and design format. The result is technology you can build on.”

Blogging Basics – Blogs can boost your business’ profile
October 23rd, 2012

By Kathleen Furore

Everywhere you turn, the business world is buzzing about social media. Companies not communicating via Facebook, Twitter and a website risk looking dusty in this digital age; and even those that do are being upstaged by competitors whose blogs tout the latest news about products, promotions and industry trends.

“Business that don’t have a blog lose out on a great new channel for bringing in business. A blog offers the opportunity for a potential customer to get to know the business by reading what they have to say,” says Daniel Decker, internet marketing strategist and owner of One Marketing (, a company that specializes in web design and internet marketing, direct marketing, graphic design, and strategic consulting for small and mid-sized businesses. “It’s a much more personal introduction than a standard website. Businesses without a blog will also generally be out-performed in the search engines by businesses that do blog.”

Since tile dealers and distributors are no exception, understanding how to create and manage a blog is key to your social marketing success.

What is a Blog?

“Blog” is an abbreviation for “weblog”—a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. “A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other web sites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order,” information from WordPress, a self-hosted blogging tool and full content management system, explains.

While blogs’ style and content vary, most include a main content area with articles listed chronologically (usually the newest on top, and often organized into categories); an archive of older articles; a list of links to other related sites (sometimes called a “blogroll”); and “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files.

High-quality blogs also let visitors comment about posted articles and even message each other—an important feature that distinguishes blogs from static websites, industry information says.

The Benefits of Blogging

Blogging is valuable for tile dealers and distributors for several reasons. It demonstrates industry expertise, increases exposure on Google and other popular search engines, and keeps tile businesses connected to potential clients and the industry as a whole.

“Blogging establishes the expertise of the dealer or distributor. It helps them build the perception of being an industry expert, which in turn makes customers more likely to do business with them,” Decker explains. “Studies have shown consumers are more likely to buy products and services from people they know. You might not be able to personally meet potential customers, but a well-written blog can leave them feeling like they know you. It’s an ideal place to demonstrate your expertise and let your personality shine through.”

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) benefit is a very important plus, Decker adds. “Greater visibility means more website traffic, and more website traffic means more sales. That’s something we all want!” he says. “Search engines love content, and your blog is the easiest place to deliver fresh content that is relevant to your business. Your blog will dramatically increase your visibility on Google, which will lead directly to more traffic and more sales on your website.”

Blogging also helps tile professionals stay up to date on industry trends and remain “in the loop” as a participant in online conversations.

“Your blog gives you the opportunity to deliver branded content to customers, potential customers and, perhaps most importantly, to search engines,” Decker says. “Your blog gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and your personality while simultaneously increasing the online visibility of your company.”

Statements Tile and Stone ( is one company delivering content and reaping rewards with Ciao! (, the blog that Statements’ president, Ryan Calkins, launched five years ago.

“We started the blog in September of 2007 to provide a more informal source of information for our clients. Our website, much like a product catalog, needs to be clear, detailed and somewhat technical. It’s not conducive to the conversational tone that a blog can have,” Calkins explains. “For events, interviews, less conventional information and client-generated content, the blog is a much better format. And of course, our goal with the blog was to engage new and existing customers to encourage them to use us as their tile source.”

Calkins says the blog—which includes such categories as Sustainability, Style + Design, Vendors and Trends, plus links to Facebook, Twitter and “Ideabooks by Statements”—has met those goals.

“Ciao! has helped us to build a brand as a personal, local, and engaging business. It deepens the client’s sense of who we are, and creates additional spaces for people seeking tile options to find us,” he says.

Another upside: Blogging can help build a brand at no cost. “It’s possible to blog without spending a penny. It’s a no brainer,” Decker stresses. “If you’re not blogging already, it’s time to get started!”

Ready, Set, Blog!

So it’s time to get started. But what does it take to embark on the road to successful blogging?

While Decker advises tile dealers and distributors to seek professional help to create a blog, he says anyone can tackle the task.

“It is certainly something that can be done by an individual. Sites like and allow anyone to create and maintain a blog completely free of charge,” Decker says. “Anyone with basic computer skills should be able to set up a functioning blog that looks and works just fine.”

Calkins, in fact, turned to WordPress when Statements debuted the Ciao! blog.

“I personally had some experience with blogging for a non-profit, so I was able to set up a rudimentary blog using WordPress,” he recalls. “Aside from a few adjustments to the template, we have not changed the format all that much.”

The story is similar at East Coast Tile (, which now boasts two blogs, according to Director Stacey Mednick.

The company’s website blog debuted three and a half years ago, while Everything Tile and Stone is two years old.

“The website blog was part of the design of our then-new website. I believe we announced its launch in eblasts,” Mednick says. “Everything Tile and Stone was created through a company called HiveFire using their Curata ( technology. Neither were difficult to set up, but we spent time designing the look of the blogs and deciding on the types of content.”

The blogs, Mednick explains, have separate missions.

“The goal of our website blog is to inform customers about our products, unique customer service and store locations. Everything Tile and Stone is set to help inform everyone on the Internet searching for topics about ceramic, porcelain, glass and metal tile, stone and flooring,” she says. “We felt the blog on our website was limited to our own customers’ reviews, product mix and store events. Everything Tile and Stone let us branch out into the whole tile and stone industry.”

Posts on Everything Tile and Stone, for example, cover topics ranging from design ideas and shopping tips to “green” tile options and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects.

Maintaining your Blog

Once a blog exists, the only real upkeep is site maintenance—a time-consuming but necessary task.

“We recommend adding content once per week. At a minimum, the blog should be updated twice per month,” Decker recommends.

Calking says his company adds at least one post a month—usually product-related—to the Ciao! blog, and over the past two years has shifted some posts to Facebook and Twitter, as well.

“We have multiple people who can update the blog, each with a different emphasis. Our audience loves to hear about our ‘extracurriculars.’” Calkins says, noting that topics about Statements’ community involvement are popular. “A couple of months back, unbeknownst to me, someone took a picture of me relaxing with my feet up on my desk and posted it under the caption, ‘working hard or hardly working?’ That was one of our most popular posts all year!”

A similar blogging strategy is at work at East Coast Tile. New posts are added to the website blog a few times a month, while updates are added to Everything Tile and Stone every weekday. Mednick shares responsibilities with other employees for the website blog, and is responsible for the daily additions to Everything Tile and Stone.

“For the website blog, I typically ask a few key managers and salespeople to periodically come up with content. For Everything Tile and Stone, the popular tiling topics on the Internet guide my posts. The most popular ones are typically design-oriented,” Mednick explains.

While each tile dealer and distributor will have different ideas about what content to include, current bloggers share basic advice about how to best manage blogging.

Mednick recommends finding a few quick writers who are knowledgeable about specific topics. “For example, find one person who can write for contractors, another for design and another for DIY. Have them each be responsible for a certain number of blogs a month,” she suggests.

“Find somebody in your business who is passionate about social media and let them run with it. If it’s just a chore for someone, that sense will come across on the blog,” Calkins adds, noting that maintenance and security are key. “A blog is another window into your company, and therefore needs to be monitored,” he stresses.

Clearly, blogging has become a marketing “must” for most small businesses. But creating and maintaining a blog can be challenging, especially from a time-management perspective, the experts acknowledge.

“Blogging takes time, and business owners are always short on time. The key is to develop a system and stick to it,” Decker says. “One of our most successful clients dedicates an hour to blog writing every Tuesday, usually from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Choose a time that works for you and schedule it into your week. Treat this time as importantly as you would a meeting with a potential client. It’s not optional!”

Next up: Marketing your blog for maximum exposure and profit
Getting a blog up and running is just the first step toward a successful blogging future. Learn how to maximize your marketing efforts to increase traffic to your blog in Part 2 of the blogging series, coming in the next issue of TileDealer.

A Dictionary of Blogging Terms

Archive: A way to keep track of articles on a site. Many blogs feature an archive based on dates. The front page may feature a calendar of dates linked to daily archives. Archives can also be based on categories featuring all the articles related to a specific category. You can also archive posts by author or alphabetically.

Blogroll: A list, sometimes categorized, of links to web pages the blog’s author finds worthwhile or interesting. The links in a blogroll are usually to other blogs with similar interests. The blogroll is often in a “sidebar” on the page or featured as a dedicated separate web page.

Feed: A feed is a function of special software that allows “Feedreaders” to access a site automatically looking for new content and then post updates about that new content to another site. This is a way users can keep up with the latest information posted on different blogging sites. Some Feeds include RSS (alternately defined as “Rich Site Summary” or “Really Simple Syndication”), Atom or RDF files.


How about a cradle-to-cradle installation?
October 22nd, 2012

Crossville Tile & Cannon Design team up to recycle old bathrooms into new!

When Cannon Design in Chicago was renovating 78 bathrooms over 39 floors of the the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building, the company tapped Crossville Tile to create the tile – more than 57,000 square feet.

Once Cannon learned that Crossville had invented the solution for recycling fired porcelain tile, they asked if any porcelain body could be recycled, i.e. – toilets, sinks and urinals. After testing was completed, Crossville determined that, indeed, any porcelain could be recycled to make new tile.

So, Crossville set about to harvest all existing porcelain from the building so that all new tile could be manufactured from those materials.

The design challenges were substantial. First, create all new tile by recycling all tile and porcelain fixtures from the building’s bathrooms, a true cradle-to-cradle installation. A second, equally important challenge, addressed logistics: time the demolition/installation so that tenants always had bathroom access within one floor of their work locations. Happily, Cannon & Crossville were able to meet these expectations.

The tile that Crossville created for this unique project went on to inspire Shades by Crossville, the new line of porcelain tile launched into the full market a few months ago.

Importantly, the project turned out to be a great success well beyond the beautiful and truly sustainable renovations of the building. Because of this project, Crossville developed a partnership with TOTO USA to recycle their fired yet unused toilets, saving thousands upon thousands of product from entering landfills each year. As a result, Crossville is now a net consumer of waste!

A 9-Point Plan for Industry Optimism
September 12th, 2012

Every once in a while a good pep talk is in order. Here are nine reasons why we in the tile industry should be optimistic.

1. Housing Starts. The number of housing starts have been steadily improving over the last several months. As the number of foreclosures inches down and housing inventories fall relative to demand, builders and buyers are sensing opportunity. And to add a little icing on the cake, the size of the new homes is increasing once again, after years of decline. Larger floorplans equals more tile.

2. Affordable Care Act. After two years of back and forth on the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the law provides small businesses owners with some certainty regarding their healthcare budget lines. The tax credits available to small businesses that provide healthcare to their employees will also be a welcome relief after years of escalating costs from insurers.

3. Strengthening Dollar. For those of us who import most of our tile, a strong dollar is a welcome sign. In the last year, the Euro has dropped nearly 20% in value against the US dollar. If you haven’t already discussed better pricing from your overseas suppliers, you should be doing so now.

4. Better Materials. Advances in ceramic technologies have improved the performance and the look of tile. High definition glazes, large format porcelain and thin tiles are all the result of new technologies that are improving the products we bring to market. In addition, grouts, adhesives, sealers and other sundries have all made great strides in the last decade, resulting in fewer claims, longer lasting installations, and less maintenance.

5. Better Installers. The recession in the construction business had at least one silver lining: it drove out many of the fly-by-night installers who got into the business for a quick buck during the boom. The installer who survived the recession is of a higher caliber, both in terms of quality of installation and customer service. In addition, installer certification courses like those offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation raise the standard. Installers are our key partners in the industry, since even the best looking tile won’t look good if the installation is bad.

6. Echo Boom First Time Buyers. Pessimists fret over the retirement of the baby boomers. Optimists look to the Echo Boom–children of the boomers–as the new source of economic stimulus. The Echo Boomers are hitting their thirties now and starting to purchase homes. While their tastes may be somewhat different than their parents, the Echo Boomers will be buying tile for their kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces and, who knows, maybe even their bedroom floors. Just think how elegant and functional one of our wood-look tiles with underlayment heating would be in a master bedroom.

7. Conclusion of the Presidential Campaign. Whoever you happen to be rooting for in November, we can all agree that presidential campaigns are not good for business. Advertising costs skyrockets as campaigns buy up all the airspace, and the general uncertainty about the direction of the federal government causes businesses and individuals to put a hold on major initiatives. The good news is that it will all be over in just a few short weeks.

8. Healthy Homes. American consumers are paying closer attention to the importance of safe and healthy materials in the construction of their homes. They are concerned about increasing asthma and allergy rates among children linked to chemicals used in many of the products found in our homes. Unlike many of our competitors’ goods, tile emits no volatile organic compounds, does not require the use of harsh finishing goods and is simple to clean. Tile also is mold-resistant.

9. Sustainability. Last but not least, tile is the most sustainable flooring material on the market. There is plenty of hype around bamboo, recycled carpet, and whatever the latest green product is, but once all of the factors are weighed, nothing comes close to tile. The raw materials are abundant and available close to the point of production. Production is clean and energy efficient. Installation does not require harsh chemicals. Maintenance is simple. And, most importantly, tile lasts as long or longer than anything else out there. Ask a carpet rep to give an example of a hundred year old carpet installation and then show him a thousand year old tile installation in the churches of Europe.

Now is a great time to be in the tile business.

Ryan Calkins
Statements Tile & Stone

“I Owe a Lot to This Industry”
July 24th, 2012

One-on-One with Donato Pompo, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants


Jeffrey Steele

One might say Donato Pompo’s career in tile was foreordained.  His grandmother was a tile company employee while expecting Donato’s father, who not only would go on to a long and illustrious tile industry career, but serve as both inspiration and role model for his son’s career in tile.

In the 30 years since Pompo followed his father’s footsteps into the business, he has earned two MBA degrees, gained five industry-related certifications, written nearly 30 published articles, captured countless industry accolades and presented more than two dozen educational seminars.

Most importantly, he is the founder of San Diego-based Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, and the University of Tile and Stone, a pre-eminent provider of education to industry employees and customers.  The university’s online programs are available to CTDA members.

 TileDealer: Please discuss your family history in the tile business.

My grandmother worked at Gladding McBean (Franciscan Tile), hand painting dinnerware while she was pregnant with my father. My father worked for Franciscan Tile for 30 years, and then purchased their San Diego location, renaming it Southwestern Ceramic Tile and Marble Company.  I was in the tile union as an installer after high school, before being drafted into the Army and serving in the 82nd Airborne Division as an MP paratrooper.  I attended college after the military and got a biochemistry education with an MBA in marketing and finance.

After college, I worked in the family distribution business for 17 years,  in the warehouse, customer service, driving the large diesel truck and in the showroom. Then I specialized in architectural and contractor sales, and specified and sold many larger architectural projects.  Eventually, I managed the company and grew it into one of the largest tile distributors in the country.

My father was CTDA president, and I was on the CTDA board of directors during that time.  I later worked as a sales manager for Laticrete International for seven years, before founding Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) on May 5, 2002.  I am currently the chair of the CTDA Education Committee.

TD: What did you learn from your father’s experience?

My father was a very successful salesman and businessman.  Working with him gave me a great foundation to allow me to be successful in my own business.

TD: How and why was CTaSC Established?

Drawing on my MBA knowledge and industry experience, I created a feasibility study and business plan to determine the needs and opportunities, and to establish that there was a need for a consultancy company in the ceramic tile and stone industries.

I realized there was a need for a sophisticated forensic consultant with installation, distribution, and manufacturing experience and with a science background who could provide and articulate realistic, detailed investigation conclusions.  I had been a Certified Ceramic Tile Consultant (CTC) through the CTIOA since 1979 and a Certified Construction Document Technologist through CSI since 2000.  With the addition of my Certified Microbial Remediation (CMR), I had substantial experience, knowledge and credentials to be an effective consultant.  CTaSC performs forensic investigations to determine the cause of problems and how to remediate those problems;  we also perform laboratory testing, prepare installation guidelines and provide on-site quality control services on new tile and stone installations.

CTaSC is made up of accomplished ceramic tile consultants, stone consultants, ceramic tile and stone installers, architects, engineers, general contractors, construction scientists and other industry specialists.  Most CTaSC inspectors are seasoned installers with management experience, so they are great quality control inspectors who can also train installers on these jobs.  Often tile installers don’t have the opportunity to get formal training in the industry.

CTaSC created the UofCTS in 2002 to develop online education courses for distributors, manufacturers, installers, architects and other professionals in the ceramic tile and stone industries.  It provides a means to effectively and practically educate members of our industry.

CTaSC also is the co-publisher of the Catalina Stone Report that is updated every other year and is a contributor to the Catalina Ceramic Tile report. Both provide data and insight in past and current industry trends.  CTaSC also develops business and marketing plans for foreign and domestic companies trying to develop products or businesses for the ceramic tile or stone industries.

TileDealer: How do you choose your international team of consultants?

CTaSC only hires quality-minded people with a lot of experience in their fields of expertise. Most CTaSC inspectors are master tile setters who were company owners or superintendents.

When we run into projects where we need a level of expertise that we may not have, then we team up with architects, engineers and testing laboratories that are leaders in their field.  In fact, we just added a stone restoration specialist to our team who is working with one of our other terrazzo investigators on a large terrazzo project at a major airport.

TileDealer:  One of your services is forensic investigations. Why are those investigations needed and how are they undertaken? What do they reveal?

There is a big need for quality forensic investigations by companies that can provide realistic and reliable conclusions.

Tile failures are very expensive when you consider the cost to tear an installation out, re-install the tile, and likely experience collateral damages that need to be remediated; along with the inconveniences and lost opportunity of use during that process.  When there is a problem it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Everyone will pay one way or the other in loss of time, money, and reputation. Everyone typically points fingers at someone else.  Parties hire so-called experts to defend them with hypothetical, but unrealistic, conclusions.

Then, quite often, in trying to reduce their costs and hoping the problem goes away with time, the parties responsible only want to treat the symptom of the problem rather than correct the problem itself. Too often, failed projects are not remediated correctly and fail again. That is why they need a knowledgeable and honest company like CTaSC to find the true cause of the problem and to determine what it will take to remediate it.

I have been very dedicated to our industry in volunteering my time over the years to help make our industry better, which has rewarded me with a lot of knowledge, and status as an expert with industry standards. Early on as a Ceramic Tile Consultant I attended all training programs and volunteered my time for performing inspections in San Diego.

As a distributor I was involved in CTDA committees to help develop programs for the industry.  I was the chairman of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America Technical Committee for many years. I am a member of the tile ANSI A108 committee, the ISO TC189 committee, the MIA Technical Committee, and the ASTM C18 Stone committee. I participate in the TCNA Handbook committee and the NTCA Technical committee. All are involved in setting industry  standards so we can avoid the negative advertising of problems and failures and ensure successful installations.

TileDealer:  Discuss the architectural specifications aspect of your work.

Architects are responsible for all aspects of specifications for a project, so they can’t be an expert at any one aspect of it. Typically architectural specifications are ambiguous and incomplete and don’t provide enough details to ensure the installer installs the tile correctly.

Often the architect or designer selects products based on color and texture rather than on suitability.  What’s more, they really have nowhere to turn to get an honest answer, since salespeople are always selling them something and embellishing the product. CTaSC evaluates architectural specifications and applications to determine if the application and products are suitable for the intended application. That will include quality assurance testing, detailed specifications referencing specific industry standards, and specifying a quality control process during the installation to make sure the right products are used and installed correctly.

With my science background, experience and expertise in construction documents, we can reduce the risks of project problems and delays.

TileDealer: You provide some of the CTDA’s online training. What does the training consist of?

The Ceramic Tile course includes industry standards and sales techniques.  It is designed to give salespeople the tools they need to increase sales, give tile installers the knowledge of industry standards and how to assist clients with selecting ceramic tile, and give professional designers the knowledge of how to select and specify ceramic tile.

The Natural Stone course also includes industry standards and sales techniques.  It is designed to give salespeople the tools they need in order to increase sales, give stone installers and fabricators the knowledge of industry standards and how to assist clients with selecting natural stone, and give professional designers knowledge on how to select and specify natural stone.

The Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification course instructs installers on industry standards and proper installation methods for tile thin-set applications that apply to ceramic tile, porcelain tile, stone tile, glass tile and other types of adhered tile materials.  This course is also meaningful to architects, general contractors, consultants, inspectors, and owners who want to be aware of the industry installation standards and methods.

TileDealer: Why is the training particularly important today?

Knowledge is power. Knowledge enables the avoidance of problems and false expectations. Employees who are trained become more knowledgeable, more confident in offering their company’s products and doing their work, and more effective at their jobs. Salespeople sell more; in a more professional way, installers install better and avoid potential problems.

Trained architects and designers select products more suitable for the intended application and specify more clearly to avoid project delays and problems.  The ceramic tile and stone industries are unique.  And most people don’t have the in-depth understanding and experience of our industry.

TileDealer: Who is likely to benefit from the training?

Everyone benefits from training. The entire tile and stone industry benefits from training because, as I said before, when there is a problem, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault.  Tile failures cost our industry a lot of business. When someone spends as much as they do on tile in dollars and emotions, and then has to be subjected to a failure that costs a lot of time and money, regardless of who is at fault, they are likely to avoid using tile. And they will tell their friends and neighbors all about the terrible experience.  The result is negative advertising. I see lots of what should be tile jobs go another way because of previous failures.

Most failures tend to be due to installer errors and are the result of the installers not following the industry standards that were created to avoid failures.

All major committees and associations such as TCNA, NTCA, TCAA, CTEF, and UofCTS encourage tile installers to be trained, and specifiers and home owners to only used qualified installers.

Training salespeople helps prevent problems too.  As a result, they don’t put out bad information and/or allow their customers to have false expectations.

Training the architect helps ensure the installers get clear instructions on how to install the tile, and that there is a quality control process in place.

TileDealer:  You’re on record predicting late last year: “My feeling is tile industry growth is going to continue, but slowly.”   Are you more optimistic today than several months ago?

My business has gotten a lot busier, but I still see the industry being sluggish and only slowly improving. Until home foreclosures slow down significantly and housing stops depreciating and starts appreciating in value and building resumes, we aren’t going to see a huge change.  Residential remodel work and some commercial work are keeping businesses going right now, and driving the slow recovery.

As soon as more people go back to work and consumer confidence goes up, you will see some good growth in the residential remodel sector that will eventually drive home building, which will drive the growth of the ceramic tile and stone industries.

TileDealer:  What’s ahead for Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants?

CTaSC will continue offering its consulting services in finding solutions to problems and providing services to help avoid potential problems and help clients plan for opportunities. UofCTS will continue to develop new courses. We are currently developing a new CTDA Certified Ceramic Tile Specialist Study Guide both for online use and as an insert in the CCTS notebook study guide. We are developing a new course named “How To Specify Tile and Stone with Architects,” that will teach architectural sales reps how to specify their products with architects, and it will teach the architects how to properly specify tile and stone.

We have another course we have started on called “How to Install Tile for DIY and New Professionals.”  This will cover all the basics of tile in terms of making sure the tile is suitable for the intended use, how to properly prepare the tile substrate, how to lay out your tile, how to install the tile, how to grout and seal your tile, and how to maintain your tile floor.

I will continue to volunteer with the industry in any way I can. I owe a lot to this industry, which has provided me and my family with a good life and with many rewards.   We can be proud in our industry that our products are not only building materials that provide a lot of benefits in function and sustainability, but they represent art and beauty that will be our legacy to the future.  ###



TD: CTDA promotes the online training, and members get a break on the cost, but it’s available to others, as are other training programs you have developed.  What prompted the development of the first class?  Which class was it?  What has continued to drive that aspect of the business? For example, you have recently introduced “Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification.”

I founded The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) in 2002 because as a distributor for 17 years, and then as a manufacturer sales manager for seven years, I realized how important educating employees and customers is to the success of a company, as it was for me in my roles as a distributor and manufacturer.  Everyone always acknowledges that educating their employees and customers is important, but few have the time, resources or commitment to get it done.  Education is important to everyone, but it isn’t urgent, as so many other things are during their day.  I always had a special interest in education.

I was the creator of the well known industry TileWise cartoons in 1987 ( where I worked with an artist and created cartoons about industry problems and issues that exaggerated the issue and conveyed the educational message in a humorous way.        When I discovered e-learning technology that universities and large corporations were using to deliver training to their students and employees via a computer and the internet, I was impressed by its effectiveness in teaching, and delighted in that it was a very convenient and practical solution to effective training.

Students get 24/7 access to the online campus and course, the courses are self-paced so the student can come and go at their convenience, and the courses are interactive, which engages the student and reinforces the key points that we want the student to learn and retain.  There are no travel costs or loss of productivity, because the courses can be taken at home or at work, and the courses are professionally narrated and loaded with photos, short video clips and animations.  They’re enjoyable as well as informative.

The UofCT’s first course, “Understanding the Basics of Ceramic Tile,” has been a huge success. It has been updated several times.  It was customized for CTDA Online and recently “Canadianized” for the Tile Terrazzo Marble Association of Canada (TTMAC) to offer to the Canadian market.

With the success of the ceramic tile course, we started getting lots of requests for a stone course.  The consumption of natural stone and manufactured stone had increased tremendously, but most lacked the knowledge to be able to intelligently sell the material.

Thus the “Understanding the Basics of Natural Stone” course was created and released about two years ago and then customized for CTDA Online.  In June 2012 the stone course was adapted for TTMAC to offer to the Canadian market.   In fact, TTMAC has gotten both their ceramic tile course and the new stone course accredited for Continued Education Credits by the architectural organization OAA and AIBC, and they have also been accredited by the professional interior design organization IDCEC.

Now architect and interior designer members from those respective associations earn CEU credits when they take those courses.

As soon as the stone course was released we started working on the new tile installer course, because we knew the industry desperately needed a way to easily and practically allow tile installers to learn the industry standards.

The “Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification” course was released at the beginning of the year and has done extremely well.  Now installers can easily learn the current industry installation standards and methods without travel expenses or missing work. The course has been customized for CTDA Online and is now available to CTDA members. The course is currently  being adapted for TTMAC.  ###



Donato Pompo, founder

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Jamul, Calif.


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.

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