Editor for TileLetter, TileLetter Coverings, TREND and TECH publications.
Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11, and drawing and sketching since she could hold a pencil. Her penchant for observation led to her becoming a paid professional as a trade journalist, publicist and is editor for TileLetter. She has also written for Guideposts, Walls, Windows and Floors, Floor Covering Weekly, and Low Carb Energy.
“We don’t make mistakes. We make happy accidents.” – Bob Ross
Here we are in midsummer – time for a check in. How is everyone doing?
I’m writing the last week of May, and I don’t have a crystal ball that will tell me how conditions will be when you receive this magazine in July. Like many of you, I’ve experienced a lot of my social interactions online, including an inspirational church service I enjoyed just last week via Facebook Live. Minister Debbie O’Connor of the Unity Church of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho delivered a sermon that touched on the rules of improvisational comedy as a guide to getting through these times, which are unprecedented in our lifetime. And I just so happened to have a copy of Tina Fey’s Bossypants in my library, which includes a dog-eared section that addresses these self-same rules of improvisation. These “rules” spoke to me, since more than anything these days, I feel like we are making up life as we go along.
So, in a nutshell, the rules are:
Agree, say yes – never say no. If the improvisational actor says, “I’m on fire,” it grinds the skit to a halt to say, “No you’re not.” Fey says this rule invites you to start from an open-minded place. Basically, we are talking about acceptance. “Yes, we are in a pandemic, with a business to run.” It gives us more room to move than rigidly shutting down. O’Connor says to think of it as “Given this, now what?”
Say “Yes, AND” – “You’re on fire, AND I have these marshmallows to roast! Awesome!” ADD to the situation. “Yes, we are in a pandemic, with a business to run AND I can use this time to hone that marketing plan I’ve been putting off.” Fey says, “YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute…always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion.”
Make STATEMENTS. “Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” She also says just asking questions just puts pressure on OTHERS to come up with the answers. Be definitive and claim your power with what you declare.
There are no mistakes – Maybe this is the most important rule, and one we probably never learned in school. You may start out in one direction (honing your marketing plan due to the looming pandemic), which may lead you to another path (attending a virtual training that helps you tackle a stubborn problem you’ve always had with installation). Leave room for “happy accidents,” Fey says. Those who may be familiar with PBS artist Bob Ross knows he is famous for turning smudges or unplanned marks on his canvas into part of the scenery. “Ever make mistakes in life?” he asked. “Let’s turn them into birds. Yeah, they’re birds now.”
At the heart of it, this is encouragement to accept what’s before you and be creative, strong and gentle with yourself as you move through the current situation. We can strain and stress, but that’s not going to be good for us physically or mentally and it stops the flow of creativity. Try these rules of improv and see if they don’t improve your outlook or your approach to this phase of your business, and help you keep up – with more grace – in this fast-changing world.
In the meantime, check out our TileLetter content this month, from Scott Carothers’ easy-as-pie recipe for creating expansion joints to Pavlo Starykov’s findings on staining in marble showers, to Robb Roderick’s chronicle of a day in the life of an NTCA trainer, to a profile of the husband-and-wife team of Eric and Jennifer Blumer of NTCA Member EJ Flooring. Also take a look at a recap of the historic, first-ever, virtual Coverings Connected.
Eric and Jennifer Blumer run EJ Flooring and Legacy Bath and Tile
EJ Flooring of Columbia, Mo., got its start as a hard surface floor installation company in 2005. Prior to establishing this company, owner Eric Blumer worked for his soon-to-be father-in-law, a general contractor. Eric preferred indoor work to putting up decks in the cold Missouri winter, so he took his Bruce Certified Hardwood Flooring Installer credentials, partnered with his soon-to-be-wife Jennifer, and started EJ Flooring, specializing in the installation of hard surface goods.
During a slow time in 2012, Eric and Jennifer registered for their first Schluter Systems training. Not only did they learn a lot about Schluter products, they also gained a wealth of information about tile installation in general. This was a springboard to focusing more on tile installation, especially showers.
“Jennifer and I have always worked well together,” Eric said. “I was mostly on my own at the beginning, but if I needed help she would come help me.” When they decided to open the Legacy Bath and Tile retail showroom – also in Columbia – Jennifer took it on as her own, while continuing to maintain Eric’s installation schedule. In a stroke of serendipity, Eric and Jennifer celebrate their wedding anniversary on the 17th of this month!
“Jennifer and I pride ourselves in being a mom-and-pop showroom and installer,” Eric said. “We only have two other employees – Brent, who installs with me on the job, and Jennifer’s mom who works part time at the store.
“When you work with us, we know who you are, what we have talked about – and we get to know our clients,” Eric said. “We work hard to listen to customers and help them find their perfect tile. I think that is what sets us apart.”
The Blumers mostly do residential work with homeowners on projects they are supervising themselves. They specialize in custom-tiled showers and are moving into gauged porcelain thin panel tile for countertops/vanity tops. “We strive to bring out the customer’s personality in the project, and give them something beautiful and useful,” Eric said.
Running the store offers benefits as well as challenges. One benefit is helping homeowners choose their material early in the process, the Blumers said. “We can help them see the end product before anything starts and give them confidence in their selections,” Jennifer explained. “Dealing with suppliers can be very challenging. It’s unfortunate to say, but many suppliers just don’t care about smaller shops. This can make shipping timelines and deliveries unpredictable.”
Through their work, Eric and Jennifer aim to do good for those in the community. A local contractor that the Blumers are working with has been using government grants to remodel and improve homes for veterans. “We take care of installing a curbless shower for them as well as the tile installation,” Eric said. “The contractor isn’t very knowledgeable in the construction trade, but he surrounds himself with professionals that are. We all work together for the same goal, to improve the life of someone that volunteered to protect the rest of us.”
Educating themselves; educating others
EJ Flooring has been an NTCA member for seven years, joining for the education and networking opportunities.
“The business connections, education opportunities and resources are some of the best parts of being an NTCA member, along with the friendships,” Eric said. “Helping spread the knowledge and grow everyone’s business is great. I am a CTI (#1329) and hoping to get to some ACT classes, too.”
EJ Flooring/Legacy Bath and Tile also set out to help support and educate other area installers.
“Within the retail store we like to work with other installers to educate and provide the best products for their project,” Jennifer added. “At our store we have done training with Schluter and ARDEX companies. “We have hosted round tables with other installers and fed them a meal. Any time someone comes in or calls with a question about the use of a product or how to do the job, we are happy to assist them.
“We had a contractor call me out on a job once to see what materials he needed,” Eric said. “I told him what I thought was necessary, then said let’s call the rep and make sure. We called the rep for the manufacturer that we use and he helped us over the phone. The other contractor was blown away that help was that easy to come by and thanked me for making his job much easier. We were able to come up with a solution to waterproof directly over a brick chimney on the interior of the home without having to do a lot of extra framing.”
The Blumers’ businesses have not been immune to the ravages of COVID-19. Walk-in traffic nearly stopped as did phone calls, and a few jobs had to be rescheduled.
“We are starting to open back up now, although our shop never actually closed,” Eric said. “I believe we are going to start getting busier again; it’s just a matter of time. We are using this opportunity to ramp up our thin tile installations. A few contractors seem to be interested in them, and the cost is very comparable to quartz.”
Horizontal and vertical leveling / Powerful and quick to set up / GreenBeam for even better visibility
Stabila rotation lasers are an indispensable tool for every trade in construction thanks to their high level of accuracy and extensive working areas. The new LAR 160 G rotation laser is a robust and reliable companion in any kind of work, from wood, steel and metal construction to carpentry, landscape gardening and bricklaying. Fully automatic and motor-driven, the laser produces a leveling accuracy of +/- 1/8” @ 100 ft. and is ready to use within 20 seconds, thanks to its rapid self-leveling function.
The laser boasts four functions: horizontal rotation, vertical rotation, plumb-line function and right angle in vertical operation, making it extremely versatile to use. In combination with the REC 160 RG set receiver, it offers a working area of up to 1800 feet in diameter. The receiver has a receiving area from a height of 3 inches, making it possible to work over long distances. Visual and acoustic guidance, front and rear displays, and one-touch illumination are additional design features which facilitate the interaction between laser and receiver.
Convenience has also been given top priority when it comes to operation. The laser is controlled with three buttons – on/off, tilt mode and manual mode. The assistance system, which makes it possible to monitor the laser visually, also ensures convenient and safe operation: while the laser is being positioned, integrated LEDs emit a warning if it is outside of the leveling range. Two 5/8″ threads integrated in the housing allow horizontal and vertical use on a tripod.
The LAR 160 G rotation laser is protected against knocks and impacts thanks to the shock absorbent Stabila soft grip casing, while a sturdy housing cover protects the laser optics against everyday rough handling on the construction site. It goes without saying that the laser also features protection class IP 65 – dust and water impervious.
The LAR 160 G rotation laser is equipped with Stabila GreenBeam technology. This ensures improved indoor visibility, with crisp green beams that are four times more visible to the human eye than red beams. As a result, the LAR 160 G is an outstanding partner for the whole spectrum of interior construction jobs, from drywall construction to installation work.
The Stabila LAR 160 G is powered with long-life batteries. An integrated battery drawer makes changing them more convenient as it allows this to be done directly on the tripod. A powerful Li-ion rechargeable battery is also available as an option. The laser is available in two versions:
#04500 – LAR 160 G Rotation Full Set – Comes with rotation laser, REC 160 RG receiver with clamp, BST-S construction tripod, Hi/Lo elevation rod, target plate, manual, batteries and hard case.
#04510 – LAR 160 G Rotation Laser Kit – Comes with rotation laser, REC 160 RG receiver with clamp, manual, batteries and hard case.
Luca Setti, former Chief Sales and Marketing officer of Florida Tile, helped turn the tile manufacturer return to a profitable multi-million-dollar company. He did this by redefining a vision and mission and then honing product, distribution, people, process and procedures for the company.
Setti fell in love with this process, and after leaving Florida Tile, went through training to become a Certified Executive Business Coach and Trainer with FocalPoint. His aim is now to help many companies excel and succeed. The challenges posed by COVID-19, led him to develop a series of webinars for leaders, executives and business owners.
His April webinar, entitled “Top 7 Actions Leaders Can Take in Challenging Moments” offered the results of a few studies that FocalPoint conducted on leaders. Setti said the focus was on actions leaders took in good and bad times to be great, including “examples of how we can take those same actions into our own life and business.”
In the webinar, Setti explored the mindset and principles of
successful leaders, including the Law of Attraction (what you think about, you
bring about). His presentation also unpacked the concept of Victor or Victims,
which encourages a positive, proactive, visionary mindset focused on excellence
and a clear and specific goal that leads to being a victor, versus blaming,
excuse-making, negative, denial and scarcity-based mindsets that lead to victim
mentalities. “Nothing GREAT in life or in business comes out if we don’t have a
proper mindset,” he said.
The webinar also offered seven actions that all leaders employ consistently in good and bad times. These 7 C’s of Leadership are: • Clarity: Leaders develop a clear vision of where they want to go, or what they want to become. They invest time in learning about themselves, starting from what they love to do and what they are good at, and then learning about others, and what they need or want. • Competence: Leaders know that in order to be great, they have to become very good in something or in a few things: really, really good! That’s why they constantly work on mastering their skills. • Continuous Learners: Leaders never quit learning, never quit adapting to changes and continually get better. • Constraints Analysis: Leaders aren’t scared to assess themselves, or recruit the help of others, to discover what their constraints, limitations, and weaknesses are or what’s holding them back. They do this because they know that no matter how good they are, they can only go as far or as fast as their limitations. Understanding their constraints is key because they can then create plans to improve them and so reach their goals faster. • Creativity: Leaders develop an ability to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, or just new ways to communicate. This is something that can be achieved by engaging employees, clients, peers or can be cultivated with the help of a trusted advisor, a coach. • Concentration: Leaders focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is not effective or efficient. It’s been proven over and over again that it is impossible to really succeed while doing many things in life. Leaders instead do one thing well. • Courage: Leaders believe so much in their ideas that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get there, starting first from the things they most fear.
The webinar was well-received, and has laid the groundwork for another webinar, scheduled this week on Thursday, June 4. “Back in Business with Less Stress? Let’s Build a Strategic Plan” is directed at business owners and executives, encouraging a back-to-the-drawing board approach to strategically position businesses for post-COVID success. Click here for more information and to sign up. For more information about Setti, visit https://lucasetti.focalpointcoaching.com/.
“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” – George Carlin
It’s obvious that when a caterpillar goes into its chrysalis on its way to being a butterfly, lots of changes take place. Squirmy little caterpillars don’t become lithe, beautiful, winged beings overnight – and not without struggle. What actually happens inside the chrysalis is that the caterpillar body dissolves into mush. “Imaginal cells” – cells that had been dormant in the caterpillar form –activate and start to create the process of reforming all the organic material into the stunning butterfly that will emerge.
Imaginal cells don’t initially cooperate – they exist and operate independently, and are even attacked by the immune system when it doesn’t recognize them as being an integral part of the being. Over time, they multiply, and start to entrain with each other, cooperating and communicating to work in tandem and emerge as a brand new being.
This analogy is often used in spiritual and psychological circles to explain the changes that take place in individuals during periods of growth and struggle. But how much more does it apply right now to our country and our industry? Coronavirus has dissolved our usual structures and behaviors into an amorphous soup of sorts. We are in a holding pattern in the “chrysalis” of our own homes – some of us working, some of us unemployed with time on our hands, some of us receiving government relief; some of us struggling mightily to pay our bills and care for our families with lack of income; some of us taking on different jobs to make ends meet in the interim; some of us managing this emotional and economic limbo with patience and grace (with the help of chocolate or alcohol), and some of us acting with impatience and aggression, insisting we get back to being caterpillars!
Now in June, where do we stand? How far along to becoming butterflies do we find ourselves? Has your state “opened up?” Partially? Completely? What is the caseload of infections like in your area? How have you changed your work process to operate safely during the crisis, and how will you engage in public gatherings as the summer wears on? Have you received government relief to assist your business or has red tape or inadequate funding grounded you?
It seems to me that we are still in chrysalis mode (as of this writing on April 27), and the new “being” that will emerge is still forming. We are adopting new features. Our major trade show was cancelled, but 4,000 people attended or participated in the virtual trade show Coverings Connected at coverings.com. People are connecting professionally and personally via Facebook, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts and other virtual conferencing services for meetings, classes, worship services and even dinners and cocktail parties. I recently got to virtually meet people I had only emailed with during a Tile Chix zoom cocktail party. You’ll read about some of these creative technologies in this month’s Business story, written by Contributing Editor Louis Iannoco.
NTCA has partnered with workshop hosts to convert in-person events into virtual training events, to continue bringing important information to tile contractors. And because NTCA trainers are not traveling to NTCA Workshops, they have some time to author excellent technical articles for TileLetter, like the piece on layout this month, written by Robb Roderick.
No one knows the exact trajectory for this metamorphosis. The hope is that we begin to entrain and work together – as an industry and a country – to emerge with new skills, technologies and economic structures that characterize a new incarnation of what has existed before. It could be a beautiful thing. Let’s do what we can to make it so.
A new initiative to promote qualified and quality labor
The industry – and the world as we know it – has been going through some changes. But in the midst of the upheaval, some new initiatives and energy are emerging to move the industry forward in a positive way.
Even though the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) tests have been put on hold in light of COVID-19, in the latter part of April, some discussion began percolating about crafting a message that summarized the mission of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and the broader mission of elevating the tile trade as a whole. This phrase would need to be easily and readily accessible by those on social media.
CTEF board member Joseph Mattice, of On the Level Tile in Greenville, S.C., together with NTCA Assistant Executive Director Jim Olson, NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein, and CTEF’s Scott Carothers and Cathey McAlister, explored several slogans and tag lines. One of the contenders was “Transform the Trade,” which originally emerged from discussions with Mattice, and other newly-named CTEF board members, Erin Albrecht of J&R Tile, San Antonio, Texas; Trask Bergerson of Bergerson Tile & Stone, Astoria, Oregon; and former CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director Heidi Cronin.
Mattice brought this catch-phrase, as well as several others, to a Zoom meeting of CTIs the last weekend of April for feedback. “We polled everyone about messages – not just about the [CTI] test, but how it correlates with CTEF mission statement,” Mattice said. “Transform the Trade”
(#transformthetrade) was the overwhelming favorite of the group.
The alliterative phrase was also chosen because of the different ways it can succinctly highlight other core messages of the CTEF mission, such as:
Transform the Trade – Take the Test
Transform the Trade – Prove yourself
Transform the Trade – Become a CTI
Transform the Trade – Join CTEF
“We determined to begin using #transformthetrade as a hashtag on our posts and emails and YouTube, etc.,” Heinlein added.
From there, Mattice connected with CTIs Jim Tsigos of Tsigos Construction, Delran, N.J., Ken Ballin of Skyro Flooring in West Creek, N.J., and Brandt Garrison of Garrison Tile & Renovation in Heyburn, Idaho, to create a Facebook group. The Facebook group is intended as both a place for CTIs to exchange information, but also where those who are interested in taking the test can come to get information from existing CTIs. Once live tests start up again, an announcement will be posted at the top of the page with locations and dates, Mattice said. Mattice also runs weekly Zoom meetings to address various aspects of the effort, such as addressing social media and programs for CTEF to support CTIs.
“Transform the trade” gives a context to discuss elevating standards and qualified labor in general: “It’s where we all want to go,” Mattice said. “It’s not just about taking the test – it’s also about getting industry partners involved. For instance, distributors have to eat a lot of terrible installs, so it benefits them to focus more on quality and qualified labor. And qualified contractors tend to buy better product, so that benefits the manufacturer. This is about the overall trade – the test is just one element of it.”
Mattice is proud to be part of this effort. “An exciting thing is the energy the CTIs have poured into this in 1.5 weeks!” he said. “It just blew up! It’s a positive focus and a call to action. This is a step you can take that will actually transform things.”
NTCA member Ken Ballin, CTI #1392, CFI #13604 of Skyro Floors in West Creek, N.J., shares his experience and his thoughts about life and work during the time of coronavirus.
I remember hearing about [coronavirus] and not thinking much about it. I remember hearing more and more about it and thinking about other times that I’ve heard similar stories in years passed.
I remember coming home from Surfaces, going to soccer practice with my daughter, and as we were wrapping up I let out a single cough. I looked up and said “oh no” out loud, because I knew it felt funny. That’s the sickest I’ve been in a long time, sick enough to actually go to the doctor, and sick enough to keep me from going to work for a couple days. In the 12 years I’ve been in business I’ve never missed a day. Never. Now that was before they were testing for anything besides the regular run-of-the mill influenza, but for me to miss work, even for just those two days, has stuck in my mind since.
I can’t imagine what people are going through who’ve actually been out of work since the lockdowns started. I know what it’s like not to be able to afford the same luxuries as others. I know what it’s like to wonder what you’re going to do after you finish the job you’re on because nothing else has come through yet. I also know what it’s like to use a bad situation to my advantage and come out on top and that’s exactly what I did when I lost my biggest contract a few years back and I had all my eggs in one basket.
If the current situation has taught us nothing else as business owners it’s the need to diversify your customer base. If all I was doing at the time of the shut down was residential remodel then I would be sitting home with nothing to do, right back in the same situation I was in a few years back. I’ve been blessed, or lucky — or maybe a combination of the two — enough to be working entirely in unoccupied second and third homes. It’s been mostly new construction with a local builder I’ve developed a very good relationship with and for homeowners still staying at their primary residence.
Having the ability to not limit myself to one kind of installation has kept me working, without needing to take advantage of any of the loans currently being offered to business owners, albeit by myself without any help — but let’s be honest, with social media none of us are really alone. There’s always a voice out there happy to tell us that the first tile should have been 1/8″ to the left.
If you’re currently out of work, or even if you’re working but want to change up your game a bit, diversify your customer base. There are always high-paying jobs out there. You just have to figure out where to look. Be smart. Be safe. This too shall pass.
“Your focus determines your reality.” – Qui Gon Jinn, Star Wars
Happy May. How is everyone doing? We have had quite the wild ride for the last few months. We’ve seen the cancellation of Coverings, and other events – and heavens knows what else between March 20, when I am writing this – and by the time you receive your issue. We are all doing our best to manage the tremendous challenges that we are facing personally and professionally. Since this is a fast-changing situation, we are addressing things as they come up on tileletter.com and in our digital newsletters which allow us to post pertinent information for you as it arises and as it shifts. We also are posting links and resources on www.tile-assn.com. But look to Tileletter print edition for evergreen topics and informative, educational and inspirational articles with information you can incorporate into your business and successes in the industry we can all celebrate, even while social distancing.
For your reading pleasure in this issue, check out Bart Bettiga’s interview with Robert Roberson of David Allen Company. As this company celebrates its 100-year anniversary, Mr. Roberson, a legend in his industry, shares a long-term perspective of the industry, the company and involvement with NTCA.
Are you a qualified installer who yearns to work with Cosentino’s Dekton ultracompact panels? Now’s your chance. Learn about the emergence of Dekton University, which Cosentino has fully committed to and invested in to train tile contractors to handle and install this material, blowing the market wide open for Cosentino and adding to the skill set of dedicated contractors across the country.
We get to know Michelle Blomquist Hamilton – originator of the Tile Chix group on Facebook – in this issue’s Member Spotlight, that focuses on how her passion and desire to excel and create are powering the business she shares with her husband.
Stumped by the estimating process? Luke Miller of Tile Money walks you through a clear, concise process of determining cost and profit in our Business article. And in our Technical section, ARDEX’s Mark Pennine explores proper substrate preparation, even more important these days with large-format and gauged porcelain slabs growing in popularity.
A special report takes a look at the news coming out of the Cevisama show, held in Spain in early February.
Finally, if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll want to read our Case Study this month. Jonathan Stanton transforms the old broken-down bathroom in his company’s new shop into a mosaic masterpiece and homage to Star Wars, complete with a shower mural of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Yoda, and other intentional finishing and accessory touches that make the space a true delight.
Whatever you do this month, be kind and gentle to yourself and to those around you. These are some crazy times. But our industry – and our country – can get through them if we work together, respect each other, and stay mindful of what’s needed to emerge healthy from this current adventure. May the Force be with you.
Tile of Spain manufacturers returned to Spain in February to bring their latest productions and innovations to CEVISAMA, the International Fair for Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings. This year’s annual show took place from February 3rd to February 7th, 2020 and was held the Feria Valencia center in Valencia Spain.
State of the industry
During the Tile of Spain Press Conference held at CEVISAMA (pictured), Vicente Nomdedeu, the president of The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association (ASCER), highlighted the 2019 production, sales and exports figures that reflect the strength of Spain’s industrial sector.
The Spanish tile industry surpassed the levels of success of those obtained in 2018 with overall sales increasing by 4%. With approximately 75% of all sales made abroad, Spain currently exports to 185 countries worldwide with a total export growth of 3% since 2018.
Featured trends for 2020
The 38th edition of CEVISAMA saw 800 exhibitors showcase their new collections to over 90,000 industry professionals from all over the world. With no shortage of new styles to inspire interior and exterior design, following are the most prominent trends and innovations on display by Tile of Spain USA’s featured companies at CEVISAMA 2020:
Neutral tones enhanced by metallic motifs will shine strong this year. The iridescent reflections seen in the Akila collection from Azteca (pictured), Stardust collection from Fanal, Iron 4D collection from Museum and Grespania’s Patina collection bring an edge of luxury and reflect natural light to visually expand a space.
Geometric patterns and eccentric graphics make their way back to the forefront of tile design after years of toned-down styles. Whimsical looks including Vives’ art deco-inspired Pop collection (pictured), Aparici’s Altea collection, and Arcana’s uniquely-designed wood-look collection Komi, make bold statements and turn spaces into true works of art.
Soft pastels and soothing hues were in abundance at CEVISAMA this year. Travel from Emotion Ceramics, Clash by Rocersa, and the Bow collection from Harmony (pictured) gradually shift away from the neutral color palette that has been in high demand over the past few years and subtly bring color to interiors. Muted pinks, blues and greens visually enrich environments and lend a relaxing atmosphere.
Three dimensional details
Not just colors and patterns are making waves in 2020. Curved ridges and beveled surfaces to concaved details, manufacturers are experimenting with texture and dimension that quite literally raise the bar in interior design. Wall tiles like the Donna collection by Peronda, the Underground collection from Keraben Grupo (pictured), and Natucer’s custom D’Autore series expertly portray this unique trend to create a one-of-a-kind look.
Resurgence of shapes and decorative tiles
Iconic and bespoke-shaped tile stood out among its conventional counterparts at CEVISAMA. The shapes featured in Cevica’s Chintz collection (pictured), Roca Tile’s Rockart collection, Apavisa’s Intuition collection and Onix’s Hex XL collection allow for more interesting layouts and bring a sense of sophistication to designs that have not been seen in recent years.
A return to traditional formats
In contrast to unique shapes, traditional formats were in abundance with a return of subway tile in small and square formats. New collections including Pierre by Small Size, Delice by Gayafores, and Antiqva by Equipe (pictured) offer both interior and exterior solutions for all types of surfaces.
The Trans-Hitos Exhibition of Ceramics for Architecture celebrated its 15th anniversary at CEVISAMA in a series of three impressive projects entitled “IDENTITY”. The annual Trans-Hitos exhibit was sponsored by the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Association (ASCER) and coordinated by the Habitat Area of the Instituto de Tecnología Cerámica (ITC).
“IDENTITY” (pictured) reflects on the use of ceramic tile as a material for global use in architecture since the 18th century. Ceramic tile serves as a link both culturally and technologically, accomplishing a relevant role as a functional and aesthetic material that has left a legacy in the history of art and architecture grandiose works that still, to this day, are reference points for the whole world.
Dekton University offers intensive training opportunities to qualified installers
It’s no news that gauged porcelain tile is going gangbusters in the tile industry. This incredibly versatile product can be used for not only walls and floors, but sinks, countertops, or any kind of cladding you can imagine.
In 2013, around the time the term “gauged porcelain” was being coined, the manufacturer of Silestone quartz surfacing launched ultra-compact surface Dekton® by Cosentino, an extremely large-format, extremely and consistently flat material that combines raw materials in a high-heat, high-compaction sintering process that makes it super strong, resistant to staining, scratching, abrasion, high heat/fire resistant, freezing and UV rays. It also is GREENGUARD certified low in chemical emissions, to benefit the environment.
This highly-technical product originally was the purview of fabricators. But with the introduction of thinner panels – 4mm and 8 mm – Consentino is partnering with qualified labor to equip installers with the knowledge and experience to install these products with confidence and success.
Tomas Echeverria, Technical Coordinator for Cosentino, said the company is willing to invest to train installers to properly work with and install this unique product. “The company has invested a lot in manufacturing and R&D. It wouldn’t mean anything if it’s not installed properly to perform as it should,” he said.
The benefit of this partnership was revealed at Cosentino’s national sales summit in early February in Houston. Presenters from NTCA Five-Star Contractors J&R Tile in San Antonio, Texas, and Casavant Tile in Saugerties, N.Y., provided the closing two-hour session to explain the opportunities for Cosentino to partner with qualified tile installers to expand the market for Dekton product – specifically 8mm and 4mm panels.
Cosentino has partnered with NTCA Five-Star Contractors for about five years, offering preferred pricing for these top-tier installers. But the sales summit presentation pointed out the benefits of working with a much larger universe of 1,600 Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) who are dedicated to not only upholding standards in their work, but seeking the training and experience that’s needed to work bring a highly technical product like Dekton into their repertoire.
J&R Tile’s Erin Albrecht walked the attendees through the program, while J& R Tile’s Triniti Vigil and Casavant Tile’s Eric Treteault demonstrated the ease of crafting sinks and countertops with Dekton and hand tools. The speed and quick turnaround of completing Dekton projects by tile installers using hand tools like grinders was eye-opening for the sales force.
Introducing Dekton University
The presentation introduced a brand new concept to the sales team: the development of Dekton University. Cosentino has committed to partnering with and supporting qualified labor locally to develop a network of highly-trained installers to install Dekton panels. Trained CTIs – many who are NTCA members – will be regional trainers in locations where Cosentino has facilities.
Dekton University is scheduled to kick off this spring, with dates for the year in development at this writing. The plan is for each trainer, who will be funded by Cosentino, to hold two trainings regionally a month, explained Tetrault. In addition LATICRETE and Bostik have signed on to provide complete antimicrobial systems of grouts, mortars and setting materials, punching up the pro-environment qualities Dekton offers.
Training is an intense two-day, hands-on program, with resources like TCNA Handbooks, tools, equipment and resources supplied by Cosentino. Three attendees at each training will win a complete set of tools specially designed to work with Dekton, valued at between $8,000-$15,000. In addition, contractors who complete the program will have access to this tool set for 12 months on a break-even basis – if a designated amount of Dekton is sold, the contractor can keep the set for free, Tetrault explained. Equipment includes a table, cutter, and cart. They will also each take home two modules created during the trainings for marketing purposes.
That’s not all. As mentioned, NTCA Five-Star Contractors have had preferential pricing from Cosentino and will continue to do so. But pricing advantages will be tiered for CTIs, ACT-credentialed contractors and those who take the training. There will be tangible rewards, benefits and advantages for those contractors who invest in training, education and excellence.
“Qualified labor and trade associations are at the forefront of everything: the center of the whole program,” Tetrault said “Everything revolves around that. The entire program is geared to open up a new market for Dekton, and provide unprecedented support to the installers and contractors who make the commitment to be educated and trained.”
Dekton University will employ a team of knowledgeable trainers to administer the program at Dekton facilities. Jamen and Chanel Carizzosa, of Icon Tile, a husband-wife installation team out of Washington, are jazzed about this program. “When Erin and Eric approached and told us about this program, we were really excited,” Jamen said. “In our area, most guys are not doing the large panels. If they get a job they try to talk the designer out of it. They are scared to touch it. Chanel and myself have wanted to push ourselves forward in getting to be better with these products.”
Zack Bonfilio, owner of San Antonio’s American Tile & Remodeling, said, “possibilities are endless” using Dekton. He said he created an integrated sink with linear drain on a foam base – including miters and cuts – in just four hours using Dekton and his grinder. There was no need for costly, time-consuming waterjet work.
Carl “The Flash” Leonard, CTI #1393, from New Jersey asked, “Why would you trust your install to anyone who isn’t certified? Certification is key to our industry – keeping standards high.”
These passionate and dedicated tile professionals are among those who will run the Dekton University intensives. CTIs will have first dibs on a slot in the classes, and then other promising installers will be contacted about taking the trainings.
“The big message is you don’t need a fabricator,” Albrecht said. “If you partner with skilled labor, you aren’t waiting weeks. As the song goes, ‘Anything you can do – I can do better.’ With trained tile installers, you have a one-stop shop. You can have six or less employees working with thin material, and with the right tools, set up and system, you can do a lot of square footage.”
As much as a learning curve as it is for installers, it’s also a learning curve for Cosentino, who is open to learn what this new-to-them labor force needs to succeed, and provide strong support.
“It took a group of tile contractors to sit down and say ‘Let’s do something about this,‘” Albrecht said. “And it took a large tile company to invest. Cosentino is a family-owned business. They care about the installers but have humility to know they are not installation experts. With Dekton University, they are looking to connect with tile contractors.
“They are listening and they care,” Albrecht added. ”They are willing to learn and become leaders – only partner with the best, on high-end installations and protect their brand. Their intentions are for everyone to support each other. They don’t want to sell to everybody. They are trying to do it right.”
Interested in Dekton University? Contact Tomas Echeverria at (786) 527-1501 or email [email protected].