Educational Feature – Teamwork and collaboration with associations and government programs address manpower issues

By Steve Coates, COO of Welch Tile and Marble

Leveraging association benefits, networking, and being able to anticipate the future business outlook is more important than I’ve ever imagined.

As a matter of confession, the earlier years of career #2 were spent with my nose down to the grindstone, working long hours as if enslaved to budgets and schedules.

Transitioning from project management to a division director, becoming part of the larger community and interacting with others has proven invaluable.

Working with organizations and associations

At the local level, we are members of several organizations – ASAM (American Subcontractors Association), CWDA (Construction Workforce Development Alliance), ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) and CFMA (Construction Financial Management Association). Across the board, each association is talking about the lack of human capital/manpower. Many business owners and individuals are wondering if there will ever be positive traction on this crucial topic. We are all talking about it; when will we see results?

Here in Michigan, we are starting to see strategic efforts on several fronts, working to the same end, though not yet in unison. Associations such as CWDA, community foundations, manpower temp agencies, individual companies and governmental departments have continued to push the topic forward to various degrees. While the water is still muddy, let’s see if we can bring some clarity to the topic.

While individual groups are competing for manpower, we are starting to see some trends emerge and movements in this arena. CWDA (founded by ABC, ASAM and The Home Builders Association – HBA) is one of the key leading groups supporting this effort.

CWDA has been in existence for four years, with a goal of bringing awareness to construction job opportunities and training the next generation for the growth of our businesses.

Recently I had the privilege of sharing CWDA success stories at a monthly ASAM meeting. Because of the following CWDA team efforts, we have seen the needle move on the part of high school students, teachers, and counselors related to construction manpower:

  • Long-term strategies include MiCareer Quest, whose construction exhibit booths show off construction trades to over 9,000 kids in our region.
  • Short-term strategies include high school outreach – we share career paths for all trades.
  • Teachers are now open to integrating curriculum with construction story problems or scenarios for practical learning.
  • Providing jumpstarts into construction program and construction summer camps, where students are hired after completion. Tuition is funded by CWDA.
  • Marketing efforts are re-branding construction as a viable profession rather than a dirty, second-rate job.
  • High school counselors are challenged to realistically guide kids into the right career path, rather than 100% into college, because we know the dropout rate is over 50%.
  • Gearing up to team with state-led initiatives to get folks back to work, with Michigan Works Association (MiWorks) as our government partner.
  • Our local community college is partnered with us to supplement trades without apprenticeship programs or help jump start their skills.

Exciting news from the state level has pushed manpower and training to the forefront. Our business- minded governor instructed our state education leaders and business economic leaders to outline specific strategies to get kids better positioned for the real jobs.

The draft directives on this list open the doors and mandate that schools in the future will need to advance kids’ exposure to careers and prepare them for the real world.

In addition to transforming school agendas, the state has tagged 29 million grant dollars to be utilized in the training of new hires and advancement of existing employees. With the help of MiWorks, Welch Tile was successfully awarded $20,000 in training pending completion by each individual.

Recruiting at Welch Tile

On the company level, Welch Tile’s culture transition journey has already proven successful in terms of recruiting. Internal staff members are starting to recommend friends to the business because they feel we care about people, train people, and provide career advancement.

Defying the stats, while the national growth rate is around 3%, and West Michigan’s average growth rate is 5.8%, in the last three months our crew grew by over 15%.

What can you do about the manpower shortage? Team with key associations to collectively push the needle, band together and influence governmental policy and budgets, and create a company that is considered the employer of choice.

President’s Letter – February 2018

Estimating + Best Practices

Martin Howard, NTCA president

A year ago, we talked about the goal of increasing the professionalism of our membership. We want our NTCA brand and logo to carry a respected and positive meaning in the marketplace. One of the many ways we can contribute to this goal is to seek out and incorporate industry best practices into daily use in our businesses.

This month let’s look at best practices in estimating every job we bid, and identify some ways we can improve outcomes. In other words, sell more jobs and increase bottom line profits.

If your experience is anything like mine, there seems to be any number of competitors out there willing to work for wages rather than a profit. I often scratch my head and try and figure out how another bidder could have arrived at a price for a defined scope of work that’s 15%, 20% or even 30% less than mine. Once I get beyond the emotional response of, “They must have missed something” or “They are wrong and will lose money on this job,” I begin the process of checking my take-off quantities and pricing in hopes that I will find the mistake. Sometimes the error becomes obvious, but often it remains a mystery. There are many reasons that can account for these types of pricing differences and most often it’s a combination of several factors.

Let’s look at some of the basic elements of estimating best practices:

Have a written guide – It is essential that you have a written guide outlining every step in the process. This will help to eliminate many of the most common mistakes in compiling an accurate cost estimate.

Understand the scope of work – It’s critical to understand the scope of work to be priced. This may mean collecting and reading all the contract documents including the specifications, drawings, contracts, general conditions, special conditions, RFIs and addenda. Or, it might mean visiting the site and inspecting, measuring and identifying every aspect of work required to meet the customers’ expectations.

Begin estimating the cost of the work – Once this is completed we know what will be required and can begin the process of estimating the cost of the work. This is an area where significant costs can be overlooked if we aren’t careful. If a contract requires that we include items such as composite clean-up, safety orientation, daily stretch and flex, maintained protection of completed work, full-time supervision, 30-hour OSHA classification, delivery during non-standard hours only, and many more, we can lose significant amounts of money. The way we perform our take-offs should be very consistent from job to job. Whether you use a scale and pencil or a digital system, use it the same way on every job. Work your way through each room, area and level of the building the same way each job. Look at every page, read every note. Repetition and consistency are your friends because they help to reduce omission errors.

Begin the pricing process – Once the quantity take-off is complete, we can begin the pricing process. Again, this needs to be standardized so that you approach every bid the same way. I recommend using a system where all the items normally found in a job are pre-listed. After pricing all the direct costs including materials, freight, sales tax, delivery charges, labor, payroll taxes, insurance and labor burden, equipment, trucks, and a factor for miscellaneous small tools, remember to add all the indirect costs. These costs could be a factor of annual costs spread across all your projects such as safety training, supervision, craft training or apprenticeship. Overhead should include all your infrastructure costs such as office, warehouse rent, and all the costs associated with it. Remember to include management, estimating, human resources, regulation compliance, licensing, accounting, etc. This should be the total of all your fixed cost of doing business that is not actually installing tile work.

Break out the questionable costs – WFG, crack-isolation membrane, epoxy grout etc. – in fact, anything in question. GCs have said they prefer this type of break-out vs. leaving these items out of the bid. Being the expert to the architect and GC makes the knowledgeable tile companies an asset that every good client needs. When they have a question, who do they call? You?  Are you building loyal partnerships or just trying to get another job? Build to last.

Calculate your profit margin – Now comes the fun part! Calculating your profit margin. Please see this video for a detailed explanation of Mark-up vs. Margin calculations. or

Here is the formula:

Sales Price minus Costs of Goods Sold divided by Sales Price.

Example: $125 sales price – $100 costs/$125 sales price =
20% gross margin.

At this point, there are two main things every business owner needs to determine: how much do I spend on overhead each year and how much profit do I want to make each year? If you spend $100,000 each year on overhead, what must your sales be at a 15% gross margin to break even? The answer is $666,666 or 100,000/.15.

Now how much net profit margin above overhead do you want to make each year? Let’s say it’s 10%. If your cost of goods sold is $566,666 the sales price must be $755,555 to produce a 25% gross margin that will pay your $100,000 overhead and give you a net profit margin of $88,888 for the year.

Here’s one more thing to think about. Let’s say you forget to install expansion joints in two jobs and they fail and you’re required to replace them at a cost to you of $50,000. How much more work must you sell and perform at a 25% gross margin to breakeven on that loss? $50,000/.25 = $200,000 more or an additional 26% more work than your normal annual volume – and you don’t even make anything for it; you just replaced the $50,000 loss. It pays to do it right the first time.

Let’s work smart and seek to be more profitable in 2018 by setting up a system of consistent estimating procedures – even if you’re doing them on the kitchen table – and make sure we price them with the correct margins to make a reasonable profit. NTCA University has several estimating courses in development – look for them in 2018!

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA President
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

Crossville’s New Java Joint Collection is Steeped with Bold, Smooth Style

Subtle Striations, Neutral Tone Herald Trends in Tile Design

Crossville, Tennessee – Crossville, Inc. has announced the launch of Java Joint, its latest porcelain tile collection. This domestically-produced line incorporates on-trend hues and sizes to offer designers inventive options to create a range of looks for diverse projects.

With modern sensibilities, the surface visual of Java Joint features striations of crema and bold neutrals. The striations’ linear effect is interpreted in five colors—Two Sugars, House Blend, French Press, Flat White, and Fresh Ground—all offered in an easy-to-clean, unpolished finish. According to Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing, linear patterns in tile are on the upswing.

“The soft striations of Java Joint—reminiscent of cappuccinos and espressos—play into the trend while still having a very organic feeling,” Waldrep explains. “The result is contemporary as well as approachable.”

This unique collection is available in the generous and versatile 12” x 24” field tile format. Bullnose, cove base, and 2” x 2” mosaic options provide an array of solutions to answer project requirements and create fully finished looks.

“Java Joint’s calibrated styling keeps it at the perfect price point for a variety of jobs. With the trim and mosaic options, it has the complete package needed for commercial interiors,” shares Waldrep.

As with all products produced at Crossville’s Tennessee manufacturing facilities, Java Joint is responsibly made in the USA and is Green Squared certified. Java Joint is recommended for interior floors and walls, as well as exterior walls, in commercial and residential settings.

For more information on this collection, visit

Marazzi Debuts Five Trend-Forward, Versatile Product Lines for Spring 2018

New collections from Marazzi continue the tradition of bold design

DALLAS – January 30, 2018 – Marazzi is proud to announce the launch of five new spring 2018 collections. The brand is known for creating beautifully crafted tile and pushing the design envelope, and with the launch of these product lines, Marazzi continues to deliver trend-forward collections true to their brand DNA.

“We’re incredibly proud of this launch because it provides Marazzi customers with fashion-forward designs to create stunning and unique spaces as well as timeless pieces that leave a lasting impression,” said Micah Hand, brand marketing manager for Marazzi. “These five new product lines demonstrate Marazzi’s bold design style as well as the versatility of the Marazzi brand.”


D_Segni™ is the hero of Marazzi’s 2018 spring launch and offers a classic reinterpretation of traditional hand-made cement tiles, with a vast assortment of colors and decorative accent tiles that can be used individually or mixed-and-matched for personalized design. Created to enlighten a space, Hawthorne™ is a velvety wall tile ideal for creating both traditional and modern designs through a variety of monochromatic shades and sizes.

Alterations™ features illustrative graphics with vivid details that display interlacing fibers woven to perfection, offering a solution ideal for fashionable spaces. The artisanal ceramic wall tile, Costa Clara™ captures the essence of hand-made tiles with a coastal feel in colors ranging from light beige to bright blue to deep red. Arenella™ embraces an exquisite illusion of marble with soft natural tones adding elegant style and timeless design to a space.

New Spring 2018 Line



A classic reinterpretation of traditional hand-made cement tiles, D_Segni offers a vast assortment of encaustic-look tiles that bring energy to any room. Whether adding a hint of bohemian romance, giving the space personality or bringing pattern to a room without disrupting a simple palette, encaustic tile designs keep things interesting for the eye. D_Segni’s decorative designs range from geometrical, vintage and metropolitan patterns that can be used individually or mixed-and-matched for personalized designs. Seven coordinating solid colors are also available to complete the look.

  • Seven solid colors and multiple decorative tiles to mix and match
  • 8 x 8 floor and deco tiles

Sophisticated and versatile, Hawthorne™ is a sleek wall tile designed to enlighten spaces. A flat, velvety structure is ideal for traditional designs, or rich beveled edges in large-format sizes add drama for modern appeal. Monochromatic shades of white, taupe and gray coordinate graciously with a variety of stylish design trends.

  • Sophisticated sleek wall tile with two structures – smooth flat surface and beveled edge
  • Large-format 8 x 24 and traditional wall sizes 10 x 14 and 4 x 12 accompanied by a coordinating jolly trim
  • Monochromatic shades of white, taupe and gray


Alterations™ is an authentic fabric-look tailored to design fashionable spaces. Illustrative graphics reveal vivid visuals of interlacing rich fibers woven to perfection. The contemporary textile appeal is embedded on a durable porcelain floor tile and mosaic. Colors are extended to five on-trend shades for fashion-forward design.

  • 12 x 24 floor tile and 1 x 3 mosaic mesh-mounted on a 12 x 12 sheet
  • Five shades in white, beige, soft gray, dark gray and black


Costa Clara™
Costa Clara™ captures the essence of artisanal hand-made tiles with a refined coastal feel. This luminous wall tile features a translucent glaze and soft undulations that combine for a rich design aesthetic. A lavish sea of colors ranges from light beige to bright blue to deep red. Mix two wall sizes with a coordinating rail liner or jolly trim for a unique effect.

  • Create a custom effect with 6 x 6 and 3 x 12 sizes
  • Refreshing color palette in ten colors
  • Coordinating rail liner and jolly trim


Arenella™ embraces an exquisite illusion of marble with soft natural tones. This classic selection conveys an elegant style for a timeless design. An alluring neutral color palette with colors Off White, Light Beige and Light Gray emits a captivating view. The variety of sizes for floor and wall, accompanied by a mosaic option, makes this an intrinsic choice for an absolute design.

  • Glazed ceramic with marble inspired visuals for a timeless design
  • A variety of sizes for floor and wall, accompanied by a 2 x 2 mosaic dot-mounted on a 12 x 12 sheet
  • Floor and wall trim, and jolly trim available in all colors
  • Neutral color palette: Off White, Light Beige, Light Gray

American Olean’s New Collections Offer Contemporary Style for a Variety of Spaces

Elevate floors and walls with three new lines from a proven brand in tile

DALLAS – January 30, 2018 – Trusted by the best in the industry, American Olean is further expanding its product assortment with the addition of three new lines for spring. Each collection offers consumers, architects and designers contemporary style, ideal for a variety of spaces.

“American Olean’s newest product additions remain true to the trusted brand heritage while featuring the latest styles and trends,” said Micah Hand, brand marketing manager for American Olean. “From tile that seamlessly transitions from interior to exterior spaces to eye-catching wall tile, we’re introducing exciting collections that truly represent the brand’s take on today’s hottest trends.”

Influenced by the urban chic trend and popularization of concrete, Union™ is the hero of the spring launch and provides an authentic interpretation of time-worn and weathered concrete floors. Designed using StepWise™ technology, the Union collection offers superior slip resistance, allowing this large-format tile to be used in both interior and exterior applications.

Blending the look of smooth concrete and weathered stone, Windmere™ is a modern take on minimalism for floors and walls in a variety of monochromatic colors and sizes. Artistic and fashionable, the Visual Impressions™ collection features neutral colors and 3D patterns, empowering customers to create a stunning masterpiece on walls.

“The new collections tap into several trends we are seeing in the industry, such as varied textures and large-format tile, while adding the contemporary twist that American Olean is known for,” said Shelly Halbert, director of product design for American Olean. “From concrete-looks to 3D patterns, this launch offers something for every customer, regardless of the design vision.”

New Spring 2018 Line



The current movement to revitalize vacant factories and abandoned downtown buildings by converting them into modern living spaces has created the hot trend of urban chic and popularized the robust appeal of concrete as a coveted element in industrial-inspired design.  Fitting perfectly into this new wave, American Olean’s Union tile offers an authentic interpretation of time-worn and weathered concrete factory floors. Union captures the uniqueness of the industrial trend in a beautiful way to bring contemporary artistry to a room.  Superior slip resistance with StepWise™ technology and five tone-on-tone colors in large-format sizes with TruEdge™ deliver exceptional indoor and outdoor tile performance with contemporary style. Union’s modern mosaic completes the design for the ultimate urban industrial look.



An impeccable blend of smooth concrete and weathered stone, Windmere™ by American Olean modernizes a traditional look to create a minimalist design. Enjoy simplicity with an essence of sophistication, expanding your scope of design with a full assortment of floor and wall sizes. A soothing, monochromatic color palette finishes the look, making Windmere the ideal choice for versatility. A full assortment of floor and wall sizes are available including a mosaic and jolly trim.

Visual Impressions

Visual Impressions™

Create a masterpiece with the artistic edge of Visual Impressions™, a contemporary and fashionable wall tile by American Olean. Neutral colors and 3D patterns produce stunning works of art that you can feel, and integrate seamlessly thanks to a large-format size with TruEdge™. Complete your look with coordinating jolly trim for a complementary, on-trend design.

Daltile Announces 12 Show-Stopping New Collections, Three Line Extensions for Spring

New offerings showcase sophisticated designs that meet the latest trends

DALLAS – January 30, 2018 – Daltile, the leading manufacturer of ceramic and porcelain tile, natural stone, and countertops and slabs, is pleased to announce 12 new collections this spring, in addition to the extension of three existing lines. From realistic wood-look tile in a variety of shapes and sizes to lines that emulate the craftsmanship of handmade, encaustic tile and the beauty of natural limestone and travertine, the new Daltile collections offer homeowners, builders, architects and designers a breadth of on-trend offerings ideal for a variety of installations.

Emerson Wood

“When developing our spring collections, we leaned into the hottest current trends, ensuring that we provide our customers with the latest and greatest design options possible,” said April Wilson, director of brand marketing for Dal-Tile Corporation. “From porcelain and ceramic tile and stylish mosaics to unique natural stone lines, our new collections offer something beautiful for every surface, regardless of application.”


A contemporary wood-look tile, Emerson Wood™ features a subtle wire-brushed effect for an authentic cerused wood texture and visual. Large format sizes in 6 x, 8 x and 12 x 48 incorporate Daltile’s innovative StepWise™ technology, improving slip resistance, making Emerson Wood the ideal solution for both interior and exterior spaces. Quartetto™, an 8 x 8 tile with the look of handmade, encaustic tile, is ideal for creating a creative and dramatic touch, incorporating eight decorative patterns and 8 coordinating solid colors in warm and cool palettes.


A play on mid-century modern design, RetroSpace™ is a translucent-glazed wall tile that beautifully reflects light in spaces and can be mixed to create a personalized wall design. A clean, subtle, linear tile, Aviano™ provides a contemporary and structured look through a modern, monochromatic color palette.


Building upon the popularity of cement looks, two new collections, Chord™ and Koncrete™, take the trend to new heights. Available in a plaster graphic or cement visual, Chord features a floor tile, 12 x 24 decorative accent and three-inch triangle mosaic that can be mixed to create a unique and harmonious design. Blending soft cement and fabric visuals, Koncrete uses a balanced, neutral color palette to bring out the softer side of minimalism.



With natural stone-inspired tile continuing in popularity, two new collections, Balans™ and Articulo™ offer new takes on limestone and travertine respectively. Balans captures the elegance of natural limestone in a complete line of floor, wall, mosaic and trim options providing a balanced, relaxing atmosphere. For a touch of drama, Articulo beautifully replicates linear vein-cut travertine in a variety of sizes, including two large-format floor tile options.

Inspired by shimmering waterfalls, Cascading Waters™ is a glass mosaic offered in a 4 x random stacked mosaic that can be installed horizontally or vertically, allowing for personalization. Illuminary™ features three mosaic patterns and three decorative liner designs, enabling the creation of unforgettable feature walls that exude glamour and beauty.



Additionally, Daltile announces two new natural stone collections, Parksville Stone™ and Center City™. Inspired by natural landmarks around the world, Parksville Stone features marble, limestone and travertine offerings in a variety of sizes. Marble and limestone combine for a distinct fossilized look with Center City, a unique look ideal for modern, urban spaces.

“This launch showcases not only the advancements of the tile industry, but also Daltile’s ability to deliver sophisticated designs that combine beauty with the benefits of tile, including ease of maintenance, durability and creating healthy homes,” said Wilson. “Through our expansive line of tile, natural stone, countertops and slabs, we aim to empower our customers to bring any design they can imagine to life.”

Cascading Waters


In addition to the new spring lines, Daltile will expand three existing collections: Cove Creek™, Santino™ and Linden Point™. The line extensions will offer customers even more solutions for their designs.

Center City

Parksville Stone


Dallas, TX – January 30, 2018 – As hosts of one of the largest booths at the Surfaces 2018 tradeshow, Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean are bringing the same excitement, high degree of style, effective product presentation and clear selling messages to their Surfaces booth that the brands bring to retailers’ showrooms all throughout the year.

“Our 2018 Surfaces booth is designed to effectively showcase new products, engagingly present their accompanying selling stories and serve as an exciting networking space on the show floor for customers,” said April Wilson, director of brand marketing for Dal-Tile Corporation. “After visiting the booth, our distributors and retailers will feel equipped to engage in conversations back home with their own customers about our exciting new products and selling stories. Everything in our Surfaces booth ties back to the overriding goal of equipping our retail partners for success — all year long!”

“Consumers want choices,” said Wilson. “Through our concept of ‘Three Powerhouse Brands — One Extraordinary Family’, we collectively present consumers with every style, design, performance feature and price point they could possibly want. This empowers consumers to bring their design ideas to life using products they will be happy with for years to come.”

“For retailers, this level of customer satisfaction results in repeat business as well as additional referral business,” added Wilson. “We have strategically positioned each brand to target a different segment of the customer base. With our family of brands as the foundation of their tile program, a retailer is able to capture more of their market than they otherwise would, setting their showroom up for success.”

Daltile booth #5603 / #5821

Marazzi booth #5613

American Olean booth #5613


Dallas, TX – January 29, 2017 – At the upcoming Surfaces 2018 tradeshow, the Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean brands will be showcased together in one expansive booth, effectively demonstrating how in the marketplace, each of these brands fully functions as a distinct stand-alone product line while also successfully serving together as the ULTIMATE OFFERING for consumers.

“Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean are the most influential brands in the industry, and have been known and respected for years,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of marketing for Dal-Tile Corporation. “We’re proud to have each of these brands in our portfolio, serving distinctive roles in the tile industry. We are able to showcase the breadth and depth of our product offerings through these three brands to satisfy any style and price point. Each brand claims its own unique personality and place in the market.”

The three brands have been positioned in the marketplace as follows:

  • Daltile: With products and styles for every budget, Daltile delivers the broadest and best selection of tile, natural stone and countertops with unmatched availability. Daltile helps its customers bring any design imaginable to life.
  • Marazzi: Offering trend-forward designs with a flair for bold Italian style, Marazzi is the brand that delivers tile for homeowners and designers to create stunning and unique spaces.
  • American Olean: American Olean is the proven tile brand of choice for architects and designers – known and trusted for nearly a century to deliver sophisticated designs, incomparable commercial expertise, outstanding tile and stone products as well as unsurpassed service and distribution.

“Each of our brands brings award-winning style and design to the market,” said Thorn-Brooks. “Beautiful, custom spaces are our passion. From classic to contemporary, traditional to bold, we design products that will bring any style you can imagine to life.”

“We offer a heritage of quality – the Daltile brand has been synonymous with quality products and outstanding service for more than 70 years, American Olean for almost 100 years,” added Thorn-Brooks. “Consumers enjoy extraordinary value when purchasing any of our products. As the industry-leader, our in-house design, manufacturing and distribution allow us to deliver affordability along with the style and design our customers demand.”

Does lack of 80% mortar coverage mean that a tile installation will fail? – Tech Talk – February 2018

By Tom D. Lynch, CSI

Not on your life! But you’d never know it by the way most professionals view this issue. The TCNA Handbook and ANSI A108 strongly recommend that 80% coverage should be attained for most installation scenarios, and rightfully so (exterior projects and showers recommend a minimum 95% coverage). The Handbook even goes so far as to offer explicit instructions as to how this can be obtained (thanks to Joe Tarver’s research years ago at the NTCA).

I agree wholeheartedly that the 80% goal should be reached on every tile installation; but I disagree that if it is not attained it will doom an installation to failure. I have seen too many installations that have been in for two years, three years and more that have never had the slightest inkling of failure until dramatic structural movement triggered lateral stress – most times as a crack in the concrete slab – that caused tile to dis-bond and shear loose. Then, if the coverage was something less than 80%, the tile contractor got blamed for the entire failure, or at least the vast majority of it. Never mind that the floor never failed for several years. Never mind that it is obvious that a crack in the concrete triggered the stress put on the mortar. It becomes the fault of the tile contractor because of the less-than-80%-coverage issue.

I disagree! I’m 100% on the side of the tile contractor here! Let me shed some needed light on this topic.

Let’s go back to the 1950s and ’60s when thin-set mortars were first being introduced to the market. ANSI was tasked with evaluating these new mortars that were beginning to replace full-blown mud-bed installations. ANSI A118.1 was developed, which included a porcelain tile shear strength rating of 150 psi. ANSI A118.4 came in at a porcelain shear of 200 psi. It was determined (and still is) that A118.4 has the desired mortar strength for installing porcelain tile. You with me so far?

Realizing that human beings are incapable of 100% perfection at all times, the Tile Council of America (now TCNA) and ANSI deemed it permissible to allow only 80% coverage for most installations. This is cool, but the one factor missing is that the ANSI testing is performed with 100% coverage on the test samples.

Oops! Now what?

If 100% coverage yields 200 psi, then it might be safe to assume that 80% coverage would yield only 160 psi. Make sense? Okay, so now let’s improve our installation mortar upwards to the newer A 118.15 mortars that achieve 400 psi shears with porcelain. 80% coverage with this mortar would yield a 320 psi shear strength which is exactly twice as strong as what A118.4 mortar achieves. This could also mean that only a 40% coverage rate with an A118.15 mortar would equal the required A118.4 rate of 160 psi at 80%.

What?? Am I suggesting that the rate of coverage be dropped to 40% minimums? Absolutely not! But what I am advocating is that if an installation has the tile edges and corners adequately supported and yet the coverage rate is something less than 80% it is NOT necessarily a cause for failure, and the tile contractor should be given the benefit of the doubt until the actual cause of the failure is discovered.

Up until now this 80% minimum coverage rate has been the death knell for tile contractors. It is unfair and needs to be stopped.

Here’s another point to consider. If the coverage on a particular failure was 80%-95% and a crack appeared in the slab causing the tile to shear loose, whose fault would it be? Obviously the concrete guy’s, right? So who can determine how much lateral stress the cracking of the concrete caused? 100psi, 200psi, 500psi, 1,000psi? It’s humanly impossible to determine, so let’s give the benefit of doubt to the tile contractor. Remember, when concrete cracks it’s generally like a mini explosion taking place – sudden and violent. It is never a silent and gradual separation.

I would venture a guess that there are more un-failed and completely successful tile installations in this country with less than 80% mortar coverage than there are with it. As professionals, let’s concentrate on solving failures rather than copping out by simply calculating coverage issues that more times than not unfairly condemn the tile installers.

Tom Lynch is a 55-year veteran of the tile industry and one of the NTCA’s initial Recognized Industry Consultants inductees. He can be reached at (336) 877-6951, [email protected] or at 

Coverings and City of Atlanta launch student design competition celebrating Atlanta through tile creations

Coverings (, the largest international tile and stone show in North America, has partnered with the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to develop a student competition that will create three artistic public benches for the City of Atlanta.

The competition is accepting submissions through March 1, 2018, 11:59 pm, and is open to any Atlanta-area graduate and undergraduate students who are currently enrolled in an interior design, architecture or studio arts program. Three winning structures will receive cash prizes and be built for display at Coverings 2018 from May 8-11, 2018. Winning structures will be placed in a park in Atlanta  following the show.

“Our partnership with the City of Atlanta gives us the opportunity to highlight the unique perspective of students, while showcasing the impact that tile artistry can have on a community” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Events, the management company for Coverings. “We’re thrilled to return to Atlanta for the first time in five years this May and to further build relationships with local students and communities through this competition.”

Designs which consider utilitarian aesthetics and serve a dual purpose as both an object that can be used and an artwork to observe will be given priority. Submitted projects should also incorporate the following key criteria:

  • Encourage community togetherness and engagement
  • Showcase the versatility of tile
  • Highlight the vibrancy of Atlanta
  • Provide a sense of pride

For further detail on all project requirements and submission format, visit the online Submission Page. To learn more about Coverings 2018, visit

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