President’s Letter – TRENDS 2016

James Woelfel

New tile technology may resurrect old installation methods

Qualified installers are key to large thin porcelain tile and plank success

As many of you reading this know, it is clear that larger, linear tiles and thin porcelain tiles are here. Wood-looking plank tiles are everywhere and very popular. I have seen these plank tiles as large as 8” x 72” and they are beautiful and more realistic than ever. Thin porcelain panels are gaining steam; we are fielding at least one call per week asking about the installation of these panels.

More than ever, finding a quality, qualified contractor to install these tiles is paramount. Tile contractors need to stay up to date on the latest technologies when installing tiles this large. Knowing industry standards for substrates is the key for successful installation. The flatter the substrate the better, and knowing the latest technologies in leveling materials and mortars will help the tile installer with a successful installation.

Distributors need to direct their customers to good tile contractors. These tiles are, in my opinion, specialty installations. The issues with warpage in the plank tiles could lead to lippage issues and hollow tiles. We in the industry need to make sure these installations are successful so the market will continue to grow. I believe that distributors are key in educating their customers that the low price is not the best price.

Manufacturers of large thin porcelain tiles (LTPT) need to update their distributors and end users on the latest installation guidelines and the proper specifications of where these tiles can and cannot be used. LTPT is an exciting technology, and more square footage is being made and shipped at lower costs. These panels can be used in tile-over-tile applications that can update bathrooms, showers and other areas of homes, hotels and other residential and commercial settings.

This technology is also being used for thicker tile panels as well, meaning that slabs of 3/4” porcelain can and are being used for walls, floors and counter tops. Just think: these slabs of porcelain are stain and scratch resistant. This means that long-term maintenance costs can go down. It also means that “old” installation techniques like plastering walls and mud-set floors could be making a comeback; something old is new again.

It is a very exciting time for the ceramic tile industry with these and other new tile products. Designers have more products from which to choose. If manufacturers, distributors, designers and contractors work together, it means that installations can last longer, maintenance costs can go down and the customer wins in the end.

James Woelfel, President NTCA
[email protected]artcraftgmt.com