Custom Building Products and Wirtz Quality Installation To Handle All Tile and Stone At New Medical Center

Custom Building Products has partnered with San Diego-based contractor Wirtz Quality Installation, Inc. to handle all internal and external tile and stone installation at the new Palomar Medical Center West in Escondido, Calif.

Situated on a 52-acre site, the 11-story medical center, which is scheduled to open in 2012, will accommodate more than 278 patient beds, 12 operating rooms and a trauma center. The construction project, which began in April 2010, is notable not only for its massive scope but also for its sustainable design concepts. The new medical facility will use a minimum amount of water and electricity and contain recycled or renewable materials, as well as special features such as a living roof with natural vegetation to enhance the healing environment.

A broad range of Custom products are being used for the installation, including CEG-Lite 100% Solids Commercial Epoxy Grout, RedGard Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane, VersaBond Fortified Thin-Set Mortar, Prism SureColor Grout, ProLite Rapid Setting Tile and Stone Mortar, and Commercial 100% Silicone Caulk. CEG-Lite was chosen for all patient rooms and the kitchen and cafeteria areas because of its 100% stain resistance and its recycled content, which contributes to LEED certification

“Custom’s products are regularly specified on our projects,” said Amber Fox, president of Wirtz Quality Installation Inc. “We have really gotten to know and trust their brands. And even more important than that, we know we can really count on them to work with us. They are always there for us — to recommend the right products for the right applications and to be there to support us throughout the installation process. It’s a true partnership.”

“Not only have Custom’s products met all of the architect’s specifications, but our involvement in the project has been truly comprehensive,” said Devin Dickey, territory manager, Custom Building Products. “From product recommendations to technical specifications and LEED certification to on-site job visits, we have been integrally involved with every phase of the construction. From product technical support to marketing and sales, every part of the company has been involved in making this project a success.”

Want to reduce the risk of ceramic tile failures?

There is a new sheriff in town and his name is ISO – ISO 13007 to be precise. Does this mean that the old sheriff (U.S.A. industry standard ANSI A118) is dead and gone, replaced by a new world order?

Not on your life!

ANSI hasn’t gone anywhere and in my opinion never will. But this new addition to the Tile Council of North America Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation has much to offer in the way of helping architects and design professionals write more precise specifications that will help reduce the risk of tile and stone installation failures. The following list of Q&A’s might help explain why.

What does ISO stand for anyway? The International Organization for Standardization is a worldwide federation of standards bodies with a strong European influence.

Are the ISO test methods the same as what ANSI uses? No, not even close. ANSI’s primary focus is on tile-to-tile shear-bond strength. ISO uses primarily concrete-to-tile tensile bond strength tests. Shear testing is for measuring lateral stress; tensile is for vertical. ANSI measures in pounds per square inch (psi); ISO measures in Newtons per millimeter squared (1N/mm2 =’s 145 psi ).

Which one is best? Can’t answer that! Both are vitally important. When concrete cracks or expands, a lateral stress comes in to play. When floors bounce (deflect) such as upper levels of shopping malls, vertical stress is applied. When floors heat up from sunlight through windows or skylights, both directions of stress can adversely affect a tile installation.

How are they similar? Wish you wouldn’t have asked that question. There is no simple one-sentence (or even 100-sentence) answer, but I’ll do my best in this limited space. Both standards measure a thin-set mortar’s performance levels. Both have two tiered levels of performance; ANSI has A118.1/A118.4 and ISO has C1/C2. Both take into consideration open times, water immersion, freeze/thaw, and room temperature aging. Additional or optional characteristics include fast-set, extended open times, and non-slip. Both standards also have special thin-set mortar categories for installations over plywood: ANSI A118.11 and the ISO P rating.

What about standards for installation products other than thin-set mortars? For mastics, ANSI has A136.1 and ISO has a D classification for Dispersion Adhesives. For epoxies ANSI has A118.3 and ISO has R classification for Resin Reaction Adhesives. ANSI covers cementitious grouts in A118.6 and A118.7 standards; ISO in CG1 and CG2 standards. Also, ISO 13006 is a standard for ceramic tile as is ANSI A137.1

So, with this new wealth of knowledge I now possess, how can I use the ISO standards to help reduce the risk of failures for my tile installations? Not so fast! You don’t know enough yet. You have not asked the right question, which is “Besides testing procedures, how is ISO different?” I have a threefold answer to that question; heat resistance, substrate considerations, and deformability of mortars.

The thermal-shock testing (heat aging) in ISO testing closely simulates what happens to tile installations near windows or skylights where the tile and substrate materials all expand and contract frequently and at rapid rates.

The standard substrate in all mortar testing in ISO is concrete while ANSI shear tests are always tile-to-tile.

Lastly, and most importantly, is deformability. Transverse deformation, denoted as “S” in ISO is the ability of a mortar to accommodate vertical movement or expansion between the tile and the substrate. Put more simply, any mortar with an S classification denotes how much a thin-set mortar will bend before it breaks. This adds a new dimension to evaluating installation products.

Expansion Crack


Compression Crack

Both of these failures could have been avoided with more precise ISO and ANSI mortar specifications.

In my opinion, neither standard by itself gives a specifier all the information that is now available. There is much more to consider because there is now much more that is known. Because of the new information that ISO provides, written specifications in conjunction with the information in ANSI can be more precise because it is now easier to identify and match important characteristics of mortars to specific conditions on projects.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. Say you need to install 12″x12″ porcelain tiles on the second floor of a shopping mall. I would recommend ANSI A-118.4 and ISO C2S2E for the thin-set mortar. How about quarry tile on new slab-on- grade concrete? You could save money and still sleep at night by specifying ANSI A-118.1 and ISO C1. I personally sleep very well at night because I have eliminated ANSI A-118.1 and ISO C1 from my vocabulary, but that’s just me. I like the latex contents found in A-118.4 and C2!

I have always felt that the shear/bond performance ratings for A118.4 mortars are much too broad. An A118.4 porcelain-tile minimum-shear bond requirement is only 200 psi and yet there are many 700+ psi products on the market, but ANSI has no mechanism to differentiate between them. We know for a fact that many manufacturers are building-in a fair amount of flex into some of their products, but there is no way to measure the horizontal flexibility capabilities with ANSI; at least not in A-118.4. A-118.12 has a horizontal shear/bond stretch test for crack isolation membranes, but the 50 psi requirement is too low for mortars. Maybe this could be expanded upon some day. As a ceramic tile consultant who has investigated hundreds of thin-set-on-concrete tile failures through the years, I think a workable lateral- shear flexibility (deformability) test for mortars could possibly become the most relevant test of all.

Neither one of these standards is perfect in and by itself, but together many performance characteristics can be ascertained. For example, if an ISO C2S2 mortar has excellent stretch capabilities on a vertical tensile strength test, it’s logical that it would do very well absorbing lateral-shear stress as well. Conversely, if an ANSI mortar has enough adhesive bond strength to score high on an ANSI porcelain tile shear strength test, it’s likely that it’s also quite flexible and would do well with ISO’s deformability testing. Wouldn’t it be great if ISO and ANSI could come together more?

The Tile Council of North America’s Handbook does a great job of giving choices and minimum recommendations for material performance levels, but it is up to the specification writers to make the final determinations. ISO 13007, the new international sheriff in town, can be partnered up with the “good ol’ boy ANSI sheriff” from the USA to help reduce the risk of ceramic tile failures by more closely defining thin-set mortar performance characteristics. In other words, let ISO and ANSI be your guides.

Tom D. Lynch is a 49 year veteran of the ceramic tile industry with an installer, contractor and technical services background. Find him on the web at

The Skinny on Thin Tiles

One of the hottest trends seen at the Cersaie show in Italy and Cevisama in Spain is the emergence of thin tiles. These thin tiles start at thicknesses of about 2.5 mm for walls up to about 6 mm thick for floors. Manufacturers tout a range of advantages, including installation over existing floor or wall coverings, eliminating the need for ripping out existing finishing materials in renovation projects, saving time and money in labor costs. The tiles are strong and lightweight, and reduce material consumption which benefits the environment. They can also be easily cut with a wet saw, and in some cases (easier with non-reinforced slabs) with a glass cutter.

According to Eric Astrachan, executive director of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) there are currently three technologies used to manufacture thin tile: the Lamina process using Italian-made System equipment (System itself manufactures Laminam tiles); the Continua process using the Italian-made Sacmi equipment; and double-pressed or dust-pressed technology that loads powder into the press to produce a thin tile.

Typically, Lamina-made tiles are 3mm thick – largest slabs being 1000×3000 mm and 1200×3600 mm in size; Continua process tiles are equal or greater than 3 mm thick for walls and equal or greater than 4.6 mm thick for floors; dust-pressed tiles typically are 4.8mm thick, and not less than 4.5 mm thick. Most of these processes can be available with or without reinforcing mesh on the back.

Standards: in development

In terms of thin-tile installation, Astrachan said, “There are no nationally-recognized installation standards for thin tiles anywhere in the world of which we are aware. This is a problem because opinions abound on how to install it, and failures have resulted.”

Efforts to develop ISO standards for thin tile and installation standards are afoot, and TCNA is working in conjunction with the international body to provide input. TCNA is also collaborating with labor to quickly develop installation standards for North America to reduce incidents of performance failures due to incorrect methods or materials.

Most recommendations right now are for installation on concrete – when considering thin tile installation on wood frame construction even more variables arise. “The TCNA lab has developed a massive research program to evaluate thin tile installation and minimum physical properties,” Astrachan said. “We are trying to get that funded and hope to have more definitive guidance sometime next year.”

Here are some of the important factors Astrachan said must be considered in thin-tile installation:

  • Lippage must be virtually non-existent to avoid chipping damage to the thin edge.
  • Coverage must be 100% at the edges to prevent edge cracking.

Generally people say coverage should be 100% everywhere but we have seen successful installations with less than 100% coverage – however, performance will depend greatly on the thickness of the tile and type of reinforcement.

The amount of extra tile needed for a job can be much more than a regular project if the pieces being installed are large. It is easy to break a piece and then another large piece (several square feet) would be needed.

Astrachan said that in general, reinforced thin tiles are being installed on floors in new construction as well as in renovations over existing tile. “One of the popular wall tile applications is to go over existing tile in showers to create a very clean and uninterrupted appearance,” he said.

The NTCA Technical Committee has addressed thin tile in its 2010 NTCA Reference Manual on page E4 “Tile Not Manufactured to Industry Standards.” It’s also being discussed at the upcoming meeting this month during Total Solutions Plus in a committee headed by TCNA’s Bill Griese.

In the field
Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile’s James Woelfel has installed Kerlite 3 mm, 16″x40″ thin tiles in about 10 new construction projects of about 100-200 square feet each. Woelfel said the material was very easy to handle, but the reinforced backing created cracking problems when scoring with a glass cutter, so the Mesa, Arizona-based, NTCA Five-Star contractor used a wet saw instead. There were also tile waste problems when the scored tile cracked, and when at least one box of crushed or broken tiles came in each shipment.

Woelfel had good success with MAPEI’s Kerabond/Keralastic mortar system, which was recommended by the manufacturer. MAPEI’s Granirapid can also be used for vertical large thin tile installations, as well as MAPEI Ultralite, a high-performance, deformable, one-part cement adhesive with zero vertical slip and longer open time.

“MAPEI recommends a trowel with slanted teeth to allow the mortar to lay down more easily without sliding the tile to comb over the trowel ridges,” Astrachan said. “Unlike traditional tiles, it is very difficult to slide large thin pieces.” In addition, LATICRETE® 255 MultiMax® thin/medium bed mortar, 4-XLT® non-sag mortar, and Sure Set® medium-bed mortar can be used for thin tile installations.

For setting floor tiles, Astrachan observed a practice which goes against the grain of traditional tile installation: walking on the tile to embed it into the mortar. “This tile is flexible…stepping on it pushes it into place.” Not so much for beating the tile into the mortar with a rubber hammer, which can lead to breakage.

Astrachan stressed the importance of leveling the floor first, since mortar can’t be used to build up irregularities in the subfloor beneath – and Woelfel cautioned contractors to fully level the substrate and ensure flatness. “It’s like setting vinyl tile on walls,” Woelfel said. “It will telescope anything beneath it.” Woefel recommended the tile contractor conduct taping of drywall; in some cases, the wall may need to be mudded for a flat surface.

Following are some new thin-tile products:

Cotto d’Este: Black-White, from the Kerlite collection, is manufactured to a slim 3mm thickness using the Lamina process. Sleek and contemporary, Black-White comes in 3×1 meter and 1×1 meter in black and white. Eco-friendly manufacturing is earmarked by reduced emissions and 25% natural gas consumption, plus recycled materials for packaging. Large porcelain stoneware slabs above 3.5 mm thick are reinforced with fiberglass mesh.

Fondovalle: Bi+Fusion technology used in Light 4 Fusion allows the production of large, lightweight, double-pressed 4.8 mm thick slabs with multiple loading and colored pastes, offering great technical performance.

Gardenia Orchidea: Crete di Pian-della Fornace is the latest innovation from the Crystal Ker brand, which uses traditional press technology in a new way to produce extra fine, extremely thin, very white porcelain stoneware in 2.5 mm thickness for the wall covering and 4.5 mm for flooring.

Laminam: Linfa ceramic slab features Lamina technology to produce a 3 meter-long, 3 mm-thick tile with surface effects that imitate various types of wood such as cotton, hemp, bark and coconut. Linfa is made with up to 48% recycled content.

Lea Ceramiche: Slimtech Re-Evolution 3mm porcelain now comes in sizes as large as 40″x118″, in a new resin-like texture created by Lamina technology.

Panaria: The Doghe 0.3 collection is part of the new ZER0.3 line, which uses Lamina stoneware technology to produce large, thin, lightweight ceramic slabs. Doghe 0.3 offers a wood effect in three modern colors in 3mm-thick planks.

Refin: Skin is the brand-new, 4.8 mm slim porcelain stoneware. Using dust-pressed technology, Skin offers the same technical and resistance features of standard thickness porcelain stoneware tiles, with added benefits offered by thin tile.

2012 Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards

As a next step in honoring outstanding installation and design using tile, natural stone and mosaics/glass, the TileLetter Awards – now in its ninth year – has evolved into the Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards for 2012. The competition honors achievement in the outstanding use of materials and the synergy between installation and design, and will be sponsored by its founding publication, TileLetter, and the new NTCA quarterly publication, TADA: Tile for Architects, Designers and Affiliates.

The CID Awards competitions are open to architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers, installers and other professionals whose project demonstrate design and installation excellence in residential and commercial projects, giving special recognition to stunning natural stone, ceramic tile and mosaic tile/glass.

To be eligible, projects must have been completed within the past two years (Jan 2009 – Dec 2011) and be located in the U.S. Both the installer and designer of the project will be recognized. Multiple entries are accepted and encouraged; each entry requires a separate set of entry materials. Entries must be received no later than February 1, 2012 by National Trade Productions, the company that manages Coverings. The competition is free to enter.

Projects will be judged on their levels of creativity, craftsmanship, and outstanding use of ceramic tile, natural stone, and/or glass and achievement within residential and commercial project categories. Of particular interest are projects that demonstrate an original or unusual use of materials, incorporate an innovative technology, reflect installation excellence or successfully combine aesthetics with function in a unique and interesting way.

An independent panel of judges for all award categories will evaluate entries using a blind format based on Excellence in Execution + Installation, Inspiring + Original Use and Overall Design + Purpose.

The installer and designer of the Grand-Prize-winning project will receive $1,000 each. Additional cash prizes in residential and commercial categories will be awarded as follows:

Residential Tile, Natural Stone, Mosaic Tile/Glass ($500 each)
Commercial Tile, Natural Stone, Mosaic/Glass ($500 each)

Winners must attend the awards reception during Coverings on Thursday, April 19th, 2012 in Orlando, Fla. If winners are unable to attend, the project will be disqualified and a new winner will be awarded.

For entry information, visit and click on the CID Awards link at the right or visit

Custom Building Products unveils CUSTOM
 Technical University

Custom Building Products (CBP), a leading manufacturer of tile and stone installation systems in North America, plans to unveil a new facility, CUSTOM Technical University (CTU), in Q1 2012. The 12,000 square-foot-plus facility, based in Santa Fe Springs, California, will offer a wealth of information resources and host a broad range of events, including industry committee meetings, trade association events and trade technical presentations developed specifically for the contractor. CTU will also provide Continuing Education Seminar (CES) programs for accrediting members of the architectural community.

CUSTOM Technical University will be a unique venue for discussions, lectures and training programs. David deBear, manager of Construction Services has been a long time proponent of the field training programs for Custom Building Products and has been a key player within CBP’s training development team to foster proper curriculum structure and information integration for our valued contractors. The experienced team of architectural consultants and Technical Service representatives along with Mike Micalizzi, CBP’s Technical Services director developed customized content that will focus on the latest industry standards, guidelines, installation techniques, new products and best practices for the contractor, distributor, architect, design and engineering communities.

“Custom Building Products’ top executives Tom Peck, president, CEO and Dean Leffler, executive vice president have driven the development of this program and have provided outstanding support throughout the design, development and construction process.” said Will White, Custom’s Technical Services training manager, who will supervise CTU’s programs, activities and curricula. “It reflects our company’s ongoing commitment to providing the industry with outstanding expert technical support, ongoing information and the latest in product innovations.”

Training remains a core objective for Custom Building Products and a substantial part of the company’s support program to its customers. The construction of this new facility will provide the opportunity to generate well-thought-out, properly-designed programs in a comfortable and accessible environment.

The new facility, designed by Ware Malcomb, a renowned architectural firm and winner of two 2011 Society for Marketing Professionals (SMPS) awards, will house state-of-the-art facilities, including a product-applications room where attendees will have the opportunity to use and apply materials and methods discussed in the various programs. Laboratory tours of Custom Building Products’ Research & Development facility will also be available, affording guests the opportunity to ask questions and interact with some of the brightest chemists in the industry.

McCandless Tile, a company that has worked with Custom Building Products for more than 20 years, is doing the tile installation for the new state-of-the-art technical university. “We are installing large format porcelain floor and wall tile in the bathrooms and lobby areas along with glass mosaic tiles as accents,” said Mark McCandless, the company’s vice president and CTU project manager. “We will be using Crack Buster© Pro and RedGard© for waterproofing and crack-isolation, ProLite© and MegaLite© mortar as our setting material, and CEG-Lite™ 100% Solids Epoxy Grout, which we have found to be the best in the market.”

Guests to the CTU facility will be greeted in an open, comfortable reception lobby where they can check in for their scheduled events. A conference room equipped for quick meetings or personal use will be made available to attendees anytime they need access to it. CTU’s guest-relations staff will be on hand to provide any support during the guest’s visit and indoor/outdoor dining facilities will be available on the premise, serving local and unique cuisine.

“CTU will be a networking environment where visitors can share and gain insight, keep track of the latest and greatest technology, standards, techniques and best practices.” said White. “It’s about learning from one’s colleagues. This is an industry that’s constantly changing, and CTU will be a place where you can stay informed and connected.”

NTCA Year In Review

The NTCA Board of Directors met in Phoenix, Arizona recently while attending Total Solutions Plus. As the meeting came to an end, everyone was standing and clapping, celebrating the success of the Association, its staff and its volunteer officers. The mood quite simply was refreshing and optimistic. Here is why:


Revenue for NTCA in membership is up for the fifth straight year. Despite increasing challenging economic times, contractors, distributors and manufacturers continued to see the value of belonging to the NTCA. Overall membership remains at approximately 800 companies, and the Member Committee recently added an opportunity for architectural and design firms to join as an associate member.


The Installation Design Showcase is back for its third year in a row, with a new program focusing on highlighting key market opportunities, such as exterior living spaces, hotel bedrooms, and custom showers. NTCA contractor members will once again partner with top designers in one of the most popular features at the show.

The newly created Coverings Installation and Design Awards will replace the TileLetter Awards, and will be managed by the show. NTCA publications TileLetter and TADA will sponsor the awards program, which will recognize both the designer and installer of the projects.

Special programs to promote tile contractors and installers will be a new feature at the show this year, and once again the NTCA will manage the installation seminars at the show.

Total Solutions Plus

This leading educational and networking conference, managed by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, NTCA and Tile Council of North America, will be back in the fall for the third year in a row. This is a unique opportunity for leaders of the entire industry to unite under one roof. A fall date for 2012 is expected soon.


The NTCA is proud to announce the production of a new publication, geared specifically to architects and design professionals, for the purpose of providing important information for the successful specification of tile and stone. TADA (Tile and Stone for architects, designers and affiliates) will be unveiled at Coverings in April of 2012, with subsequent issues to be featured at NeoCon, Total Solutions Plus and Surfaces. A new website for the publication will be live in January, 2012.


Over 15,000 industry professionals continue to receive TileLetter on a monthly basis, and advertising revenue increased by 15% in 2011. Keeping in pat with its strategic plan, the Association will continue to niche TileLetter as the vehicle to promote proper installation of tile and stone, while TADA will focus on proper specification of the same products.

Five Star Program

2011 may well go down as the Year of the Five Star Contractor Program at NTCA. The Five Star Program recognizes companies for a proven track record of success. In response to a meeting held at their corporate facilities in Crossville, Tennessee in June of 2011, Crossville recently announced a Five Star volume rebate program as a way of recognizing the Five Star members commitment to training and education. One requirement will be that all Five Star Members need to participate in the Certified Tile Installer Program offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation.

Look for more programs for Five Star Contractors in 2012, and the Association staff is working diligently to create opportunities for its members to be specified on certain projects with this company recognition.

NTCA Symposium Program

With the support of Dal Tile and several independent distributors, NTCA trainers Michael Whistler and Gerald Sloan performed over 75 programs in front of tile industry professionals throughout the country. In fact, one of the programs took place in Hawaii, making it the 50th and final state to be host to a FREE NTCA event. Dal-Tile is back in 2012 as the Exclusive sponsor of over 70 programs around the United States.

Reference Manual and Member Directory

A printed Membership Directory will be produced for the first time in several years, and will be mailed to all members in good standing of the Association. New this year will be a mailing to over 1,000 of the top architectural and design firms, with a letter urging them to consider hiring NTCA Contractor Members and specifying with products from NTCA Associate Partners.

The NTCA Reference Manual, one of the most valuable components of membership in NTCA, will become even more so when it is printed in an easy to use format in 2012. For the past several years, the NTCA Reference Manual has been available only in a CD Rom version. The book will be published every two years.


There are so many things going on at the NTCA, there is not enough room to talk about it in the pages of TileLetter. So check us out on Better yet, call us at 601-939-2071. Perhaps the most valuable asset of our Association is the wealth of experience we have to offer to our members. We have two technical trainers and consultants available at all times. And our Executive Staff has over 100 years of experience combined in the trade. Simply stated, our staff will go above and beyond the call of duty to assist our members on any subject.

As Executive Director of the NTCA for the past ten years, I invite you to contact us to learn more about what we can do for you as a member of one of the fastest growing tile contractors associations in the world.

Crossville Announces NTCA Five Star Contractor Rebate Program

Crossville is pleased to announce that it will support the NTCA’s 5-Star Contractor with a rebate specifically designed for them. Crossville, as a company, has always believed in training and education as a foundation of building better business and better business relationships. The NTCA also believes this; so to that end, they have chosen to support the 5-Star Contractor who commits to the requirements to join this elite group.

The program will begin in January, 2012 and will include a quarterly rebate based on paid invoices through Crossville distributor partners. Participation and eligibility in the program will be conditional upon at least 10% of the tile contractor’s field crew to be certified by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation by January 1st, 2013.

The program will be evaluated on an annual basis.

Total Solutions Plus Was A Great Success

It began with an optimistic prediction about the future of the tile industry, and it ended with a thought provoking and emotional recount of heroism in the line of duty on Veterans Day. Everything in between was just what the leaders of the tile industry needed as they came together to participate in Total Solutions Plus November 8th-10th in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nationally recognized speaker Dr. Jay Lehr energized the crowd of more than 300 in his opening keynote presentation on the future of the global economy and the role the ceramic tile industry will play in it. Dr. Lehr echoed what many of us in the tile industry have been promoting for some time; the future of tile in the United States is extremely positive. He compared per capita consumption of ceramic tile with other leading countries around the world, and he challenged industry professionals to partner together with one clear and concise message to promote the product over competitive alternatives.

Sponsored by Tile Of Spain, Patti Fasan, considered by many to be the leading passionate voice of professional speakers in the tile industry around the world, followed up Dr. Lehr’s message with strategies that could be implemented to sell the value of tile as a luxury product as a solid investment and design pleasing choice.

Donato Grosser, sponsored by Ceramic Tiles of Italy, shared his channels of distribution and took a glimpse at the U.S. Economy and its roles in the tile industry.

Technical Presentations included several contributions from the NTCA, with Gerald Sloan partnering with NTCA member Greg Andrews on glass tile installations, and with fellow NTCA trainer Michael Whistler on Large Format tile installations. Sloan also worked with representatives from the Materials, Methods and Standards Association (MMSA) on the evolution of grout technology. Live Demonstrations were a highlight of the technical programs.

NTCA member Josh Levinson of Artistic Tile and Recognized Consultant Gregory Mowat delivered an excellent program on stone tile installations.

The conference culminated with a tearful reminiscence of his life in the military and his experience in Afghanistan by former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell is the author of the book Lone Survivor, and recounts how he survived in the Afghan wilderness for several days and the loss of several of his fellow Seals as they died fighting for our freedom. The book will soon be available in a motion picture and anyone in the room with this patriot while he shared his story will never be the

Over 450 leading tile industry professionals attended the second annual Total Solutions Plus Conference, which took place at the luxurious Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. Total Solutions Plus is jointly planned and promoted by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Council of North America. (TCNA)

Look for an announcement shortly on the venue and dates for Total Solutions Plus 2012, and mark your calendars now.

NTCA Tile Person of the Year: James Woelfel

Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co.’s James Woelfel Named NTCA Tile Person of the Year

James Woelfel, vice president of Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co., of Mesa, Ariz., was recently named the National Tile Contractors Association “Tile Person of the Year” for 2011. The award — bestowed annually since 1958 — honors a tile professional who is dedicated to supporting the mission of the NTCA. Woelfel, whose father Butch was the 1993 recipient, becomes the first son of a former Tile Person of the Year winner, to receive this prestigious recognition.

In addition to running the daily operations and estimating at Artcraft, Woelfel is a tireless advocate for strengthening industry standards and methods. He is chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee and serves as 2nd vice president of the association. Until recently, he also served as the chairman of the NTCA Standards and Methods Committee.

Additionally, Woelfel represents the NTCA on the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook Committee, and serves on the ANSI ASC 108 Committee, making Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co., one of two contractors worldwide to sit on all three committees.

Woelfel was recognized for this prestigious honor in front of family, friends and peers at Total Solutions Plus on November 10th, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, here. Presenting Woelfel with the honor was his friend and NTCA President, Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Service in Youngsville, N.C.

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