FCLC Research Highlights Motivations and Barriers of Flooring Installation as a Career

CHICAGO – In January, 2018, the Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC) commissioned an independent research firm to conduct a multi-phase study to quantify the scope and severity of the lack of installation professionals on the flooring industry’s sustainability and growth. A Chicago-based research firm, The Blackstone Group Inc., was contracted to conduct the research, whose quantitative components focused on businesses that purchased workers’ services by engaging floor covering installers as direct employees and/or subcontractors in 2017. A total of 334 executives, representing floor covering contractors, retailers, workrooms, and installation businesses across 45 of the 50 states, participated.

Part 3 of this 5 Part Series describes motivations and hurdles when considering flooring installation as a career path. The quantitative research’s findings regarding floor covering installation as a career included these highlights:

  • A key consideration motivating the executives who would recommend a career in installation was its perceived financial advantages.
  • The primary barrier to recommending installation as a career was the tough working conditions that installers experience.
  • To boost the odds of finding the “right people” for installation work many of the executives who expected to hire installers in 2018 planned to rely on current employees’ recommendations.
  • Executives’ main source for recruiting employees varied by region. Those in the south and west more often expected to depend on personal ties than did executives in the northeast and Midwest.

Executives observed that, as a specialty trade, floor covering installation is a good career choice for those that have particular combination of traits:

  1. Aptitude for and interest in manual work.
  2. Capacity and commitment to handle the rigors of the trade.
  3. Ambition to be an entrepreneur.

The FCLC research initiative had several overarching objectives:

  1. Estimate the size of the gaps between the supply of and the demand for floor covering installers, now and in five to 10 years.
  2. Quantify the financial impact of the installer shortage up the supply chain.
  3. Identify key drivers of the installer shortage as well as potential solutions.
    The study’s findings suggest not only that the labor shortage is real, but that its financial impacts up the flooring supply chain are significantly greater than previously understood.

Associations included in the FCLC coalition and others donated the funds needed to accomplish the 2018 research. Ongoing industry fundraising will be coordinated to generate the funding needed for the initiative’s future work.

Part 4 of this series will focus on the assessment of perceptions of installation labor shortages. Presentations detailing the FCLC research findings will take place on January 24, 2019 at The International Surface Event (TISE) in Las Vegas and on February 28 at Domotex USA in Atlanta.


The FCLC was established in 2015 as a coalition of flooring industry trade associations committed to identifying issues and developing solutions to the industry’s most pressing challenges. Currently, twelve flooring associations support the FCLC: American Floorcovering Alliance, Inc. (AFA), International Certified Flooring Installers Associations Inc. (CFI), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Floor Covering Installation Contractors Association (FCICA), Multilayer Flooring Association (MFA), Natural Stone Institute (NSI), North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD), North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), National Institute of Certified Floorcoverings Inspectors (NICFI), National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI), World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). For more information, visit www.fclcouncil.org.

My week with the pros, or how CTEF changed how I look at the world, one room at a time

Scott Carothers teaching CTEF course

Many of our mornings started out with the lecture portion of the program.

Spend a little time with me and it’s quickly noticeable that I’ve worked in the flooring industry. The first thing I notice about a room is its flooring – whether it’s hardwood, carpet, stone, tile or (ugh) laminate. Is it real hardwood, wood-look tile, or LVT? I notice how it works with the room and what installation pattern was used. Admittedly, I’m a realtor’s nightmare; I partially rejected a house because it had plank tile that wasn’t installed following the 33% rule. But that’s where my installation knowledge stopped – until I spent a week at CTEF.

The course included choosing and installing your substrate.

I know lots about tile, from how it’s made to recommended usage. What I didn’t know was how to install it, so I jumped at the chance to take CTEF’s Understanding and Installing Ceramic Tile course. This five-day course teaches the basics of tile installation. That description will probably make quite a few seasoned tile guys and gals say they don’t need that course. Think again. 

My class was filled with a mix of seasoned installers, experienced professionals, novice setters, house flippers, and builders. The one thing we had in common is by the end of the week, we all left with a lot more knowledge than what we entered with. 

John Roberts mixing thinset. Mixing thinset is the one thing I didn’t get to try.

The course is structured as part lecture/instruction, part demonstration and part hands-on. We usually started the day in the classroom. Instructor Scott Carothers, aided by John Roberts of John Roberts Designs, Inc., – a NTCA Georgia State Ambassador, CTI #1278 Certified Tile Installer and CTEF Regional Evaluator – encouraged us to actively participate in the discussion and interject our own knowledge, experiences, challenges and successes. It allowed us to apply real-world experiences to what we were learning. (See more on John in the TileLetter December 2018 issue, Member Spotlight column, page 62.)

The demonstrations were the bridge between the lectures and the hand-on portion.

The demo portion really focused on the tools of the trade and how to pick the right tools for the job. This portion of the course really taught you about planning before you even start, choosing the correct tools, substrate prep, cutting tile efficiently, and the importance of correct mortar coverage. We learned everything from what trowel to use to how to use a wet saw (my favorite part).

I was eager and anxious about the hands-on portion. My class was filled with people who did this for living, and this was my first experience even picking up a trowel. We broke up into small groups and were assigned to a room. Throughout the week, we prepped and installed the tile of our choice in our spaces. I partnered with Kathy Meyer, Director of Marketing from the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). Together, we did part of a tub surround. 

Did I say how much I loved the knee pads?!

Throughout the week, I was relieved to find out that everyone was eager to help other groups succeed. The experienced installers often helped us novices figure out next steps. Once everything was complete and set, we pulled pieces of our tiles up to check our coverage. Achieving the correct coverage is much harder than many of us thought it would be, but is a lesson better learned in class than on the jobsite.

I achieved the 95% coverage required in wet areas.

While the hands-on portion was fun, the group contribution and instruction is where I learned the most. I learned that there are common challenges that installers face on the job, just how much installers need to know to be really good at their trade, and that within this industry (unlike any other I’ve experienced) there is camaraderie, support and encouragement.

Now when I walk in a room, I still notice the flooring, but now I also see installation flaws and successes. I can see if the layout wasn’t properly planned, have an idea why the tile might be cracking, and mentally pat the installer on the back for a job well done.

Here is part of our tub surround during installation.

It was an exhausting week and my body hated me for choosing a tub surround, but the class was an amazing experience. I will never be an installer (it requires way more math and science than I care for, and more patience than I have), but I have a new passion for installation. And even though I will be calling a Certified Tile Installer for my next installation project, I’m still asking Santa for a 1/4” notched trowel, those awesome knee pads and a wet saw for Christmas. I think it is well-deserved for achieving 95% coverage on my tub-surround.


Tile of Spain Manufacturers Preview Cutting-Edge Trends for 2019 at CERSAIE

Tile of Spain manufacturers returned once again to Italy for CERSAIE, the international exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings. The annual 5-day event invited industry professionals to explore international manufacturers at The Europa Auditorium in Bologna.

As one of the major world powers in ceramic tile production and export, Spain is a regular participant in the show. Over 90 Spanish ceramic manufacturers showcased their latest collections as a preview of what is to come for the 2019 year.


A Return to Geometry 

Aparici, Tango

A growing trend is to look beyond structure and function when it comes to floors and walls and think decorative.

In 2019, ceramic tiles with geometric designs will play a major role in visual design of virtually every room. Inspired by the Art Deco movement of the 20s and 30s, these geometric shapes create attractive spaces and sophisticated environments while being sensitive to the nostalgia of the past eras.

Up-ing the Color 

Gayafores, Kaleido


Doses of color that shy away from the traditional monochromatic hues convert floors and walls into the absolute protagonist of the room.

These new tonalities are capable of completely transforming design by giving the allusion of a larger space while also playing on the reflections of natural light. For 2019 there are no favorite colors, but a commitment to a combination of all colors in the pursuit for more daring designs and stylistic experimentation.

Playing with textures 

Ceramica Gomez, Zante

So long are the days of matte finishes. In 2019, we will see different textures and reliefs introduced in order to enhance the aesthetics of floors and walls. Weathered, high-gloss, volumetric, rugged and embossed finishes break the strict functionality of the material and turn ceramic tile into works of art.

A Classic Bet 

Baldocer, Hannover

Collections that are based on elements from the past will still remain popular in 2019. Marble inspired ceramics that are seen year after year lend a sense of purity and infinitude. This year though, manufacturers have also lost their fear of dark tones and are releasing collections in black, green and gray hues for a more dramatic and sophisticated feel. 

The classically traditional Terrazzo inspired ceramics will also remain strong in 2019, but reinvents itself by experimenting with different colors, shapes and sizes to suit every project. 

Bettiga to Receive NTCA Ring of Honor Award

NTCA logo

Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), has been chosen to be the 2018 recipient of the NTCA Ring of Honor Award.

The NTCA Ring of Honor Award is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes NTCA contractors and associate members whose efforts have helped grow the association and assisted in achieving its objectives. Recipients are chosen by NTCA executive officers.

Martin Brookes, president of Heritage Marble & Tile Inc. and second vice president of the NTCA Board of Directors, said Bettiga was chosen because of his dedication to the tile industry and the tile installation trade. “Bart has demonstrated both leadership and friendship that has advanced the NTCA into a world-class trade association. His relentless energy and passion for the tile and stone trade is remarkable and he is a true asset to the industry.”

Bettiga has been NTCA’s Executive Director since 2002 and also serves as publisher of its publication, TileLetter. Having over 30 years of experience in the tile and stone industry, he is also a well-known speaker and author on the distribution and installation of ceramic tile and natural stone. During his tenure at the NTCA, the association has gained over 1,000 members.

Bart Bettiga

He [Bettiga] has grown the NTCA to an incredible size, most importantly in value to the membership,” said John Cox, president of Cox Tile, Inc. and NTCA Board Advisor. “Joe Tarver took the NTCA to one level and Bart has certainly taken it to heights well beyond anyone’s expectations.”

Jim Olson, assistant executive director of the NTCA emphasized how Bettiga’s leadership style and forward-thinking have been integral to the growth of the association over the last 16 years. “Bart has led the NTCA with ideas that bring value to our members and grow the association. He is constantly thinking of ideas and ways to give back to the contractors who make this industry so great.”

Bettiga will be the first active NTCA executive director to receive the honor in the award’s 14-year history. In 2007, the award was bestowed upon past NTCA executive director emeritus Joe Tarver. Tarver was executive director from 1972-2002 and the creator of NTCA Reference Manual and the NTCA workshops. Other past recipients include John Cox of Cox Tile, Scott Carothers of CTEF, Don Scott and Robert “Bob” Robertson of David Allen Company, and Harold Turk of Dal-Tile.

“His inclusion in the Ring of Honor is an award showing that his peers have recognized how hard he has worked and there is nothing more honorable and prideful than what this award represents,” said Cox.

Bettiga will receive the award on October 30, 2018 during the Industry Awards Gala at Total Solution Plus in Grapevine, Texas.