NTCA transcends countries to attract quality-minded tile setters

Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone works to establish and update standards in Australia

Of NTCA’s nearly 1,600 members, a number of tile contractors make their homes and operate their businesses outside of U.S. soil – allowing our membership to spread to Australia, Mexico, Canada and other countries around the world.

Tim Christopher, owner of Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone

One such world member is Tim Christopher, owner of Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone in Canberra, Australia, who has been a tile contractor for 20 years in Australia. Upon completion of his three-year apprenticeship, Christopher was awarded Apprentice of the Year in his state. 

From there, Christopher formed his own company, Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone, which has completed various types of work including rural, residential and commercial. Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone has been contracted to work on several of national buildings such as Parliament House of Australia, and Australian Treasury.

Attentiveness to new technologies and products keeps Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone on the cutting edge of new products as they have become introduced in our market. “Moisture-sensitive stone would be a good example of this,” Christopher said. “My company was one of the first in my region to successfully install this type of product in a market where many failures were occurring through misunderstanding products such as reconstituted stone.”

Christopher is currently vice president of the Tile and Tiling Industry Association of Australia (TTIAA). “This is a small association set up to benefit the industry here, in an environment where tile is not particularly well supported as far as up-to-date training or establishment of relevant guidelines,” he explained. “I am actively supporting the update of our Australian Standard for tiling, as it is very outdated. Indeed, our standard was written when the iPhone wasn’t even in existence.”

In a quest for better training, standards and guidelines for his company and his country, Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone became a member of the NTCA. “It is evident to me that the USA is probably the most active region for ongoing support of the tile industry across all areas,” Christopher said. “The development in the area of setting tile is second to none. The Gauged Porcelain Tile Standards are an example of this. The guidelines in the USA are established with relevant input from all concerned to produce practical standards. I believe this approach would be of benefit to us here in Australia.”

Currently Christopher is undertaking some consultancy work for tribunals. “There is a certain failure rate of tile installations in Australia as in the USA,” he said. “I hope to help educate our industry through the knowledge I have gained by continuing to be a member of the NTCA.”

Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone Projects

Homegrown tile company

Deen Contracting melds art and problem-solving with great results

In the prairie of the Midwest – Springfield, Ill. – my career started with a broom, and the willingness to clean up construction sites and use a shovel. I was a summer helper for my friend’s father who built elaborate houses in Springfield, and worked on part of their extensive remodel on an old mansion. 

Andy Deen standing in his most recently completed residential shower.

My job was to tear out a custom shower that was installed pre-WWII. I still remember the lath cutting through my young hands as I burned through saw blade after saw blade – everything we had that day. Then I got to the pan, which was a bed in a lead liner base. Instead of a 40 mil or foam liner, this was a lead sheet. Amazingly, it never leaked, and lasted about 60 years. I thought to myself it is awesome how something so beautiful could last so long. That is when I said to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could construct functional beauty that lasted longer than me?”

At the end of the summer, I worked finishing concrete for a year after high school and eventually got in the electrical trade, but it didn’t satisfy me. There was an itch inside me that needed to create. I needed to explore construction and art; I needed to set tile. It was the only thing that would pass the time in an enjoyable way for me. I went to a local box store and picked up some material and tiled a kitchen in 2000, and then a friend’s mom’s backsplash, and then a shower. 

The prep work involved before the shower pans are poured and any tile is set.

Next, I met Rob Yates – a NTCA member – at the supply house. We had not met before, but had mutual friends and started talking. He mentioned that I should check out the TCNA Handbook and go to a NTCA seminar when it was in town. I did – and everything completely changed, again. I was invigorated with new knowledge and access to years and years of previous work the handbook contained. 

A homegrown tile company had been created: Deen Contracting, Inc. (deentile.com), based in Rochester, Ill. In the middle of a cornfield in Central Illinois, I got a job with one of our local farms. I was dying to try tile installation on a 3D-scale and I wanted to do crown molding with a waterfall off it for bathing. I had an idea and the homeowner, Dennis, made the plumbing work – he can probably fix an alien space craft if it crashed in a field! I field-framed the crown ledges from 1”x 4” pine and then I clad it in cement board and membrane. Next, I used foam. I have even used .050-gauge aluminum sheets and bent them into forms to be filled with mortar. My first ledge was in 2006 with a lot more geometric tile installs since. 

There are endless possibilities of which we have only scratched the surface. When I say “we,” I am referring to installers who truly care about their art. I have been on course to manufacture kits, however, funding to change an industry can be hard to obtain, so I have been utilizing my print reading skills from my electrical experience to bid commercial jobs. We have gone from 10% commercial work to 80% in about four years. 

Support through NTCA

Commercial restaurant project, recently completed.

The first time I had real guidance in the industry was in 2012 when Mark Heinlein from NTCA had a seminar in Springfield. His knowledge and approach to explaining setting techniques was top shelf. By attending the meeting and joining the NTCA, I was empowered with a great deal more knowledge. The TCNA Handbook has all of the ANSI ratings for products and installation, so by being aware of this, I was able to cite the proper pages and explain installations on my scope of work for commercial products. When I placed these references in my scope of work, I found that I was getting more jobs. By just attending a NTCA function and utilizing the information they gave me, I have increased my business.

Until now, I have been pretty guarded about my creations and patents. However, the February 2019 TileLetter featured RodKat and it inspired me to share as well. I am impressed and always intrigued when a fellow tile mechanic installs in three dimensions. Just because we have a two-dimensional material to work with doesn’t mean we must stay there. Hats off to setters who are pushing the limits and exploring new designs. 

Tile crown molding with waterfall feature.

I have been to the Coverings conference in Tampa, Fla., and had a great time. I plan on attending in Orlando this year as well. The conference is the best way for me to see new products and ideas and it is also the best way to re-charge my creativity.

The key to staying busy in a small town is diversity. My wife Karen, who is a ceramicist, has been an irreplaceable asset and inspiration helping run the business, making payroll and putting bids in on time, as well as executing simple organization that I have botched for years. So, with our small crew of 3-5, we have been remodeling commercial restaurants. We go in and demo all the tile, and then polish the floor with mechanical grinders and install new tile throughout the lobbies, kitchens and bathrooms. 

Waterfall feature in use.

Commercial restaurant tile job.

In the course of doing this work, I have noticed the commercial kitchen is under attack. This is where I got my start at age 21, repairing epoxy grout in commercial restaurants before I landed my first residential builder. Epoxy grout is a must. Incorrect installations and/or poor grout choices have hurt tile’s reputation in the commercial kitchen. Owners are switching to other products when they shouldn’t have to. A properly installed quarry kitchen could and should last 30-40 years with proper cleaning and minor maintenance. 

Residential tile bathroom project.

All in all, I love tile and I love to problem solve. To me, residential tile is art and commercial tile is problem solving and accuracy by the scheduled deadline. They are two different worlds that make both a great challenge and a rewarding career. I have been fortunate enough to have great product suppliers and so many local residential clients who have allowed me to create artistic spaces in their home. In addition, I want to give a big thanks to the people before me who have helped inspire me and continue to do so! 

Merkrete Systems provide installation innovation

It’s hip to be at Santa Clara Square 

After years in the making, Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara Square combines innovative office space, vibrant dining, shopping and modernized living all in one integrated community. Santa Clara Square occupies a strategic location in the heart Silicon Valley, with convenient access to a range of air, road, light rail and public transportation, as well as a variety of dining and retail options at Santa Clara Square Marketplace. One can walk the pathways of this dynamic community and find places to explore, connect and recharge including such amenities as resort-style

Merkrete 820 Merlite mortar used for installing coping and LHT natural stone throughout the pool and exterior patio areas.

pools and spas, and state-of-the-art fitness offerings. The community is designed with innovative social, work and meeting spaces with easy walking to everyday conveniences. 

Silicon Valley is known for being the epicenter of the world’s most forward-thinking companies, attracting a highly skilled, knowledge-based workforce dedicated to helping businesses prosper. This region is home to headquarters of Intel, Applied Materials, NVIDIA, Agilent Technologies, and many other high-tech companies.

Befitting its prestigious location, the Irvine Company created this community to include 1.7 million sq. ft. feet of office space, and 1,800 apartments. The retail’s first phase, Santa Clara Square Marketplace, totals 125,000 sq. ft., including the 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods. The second phase of the retail will total 40,000 sq. ft. and serve as a town center for the complex. 

Showers installed using Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP-1 Waterproofing Membrane and 820 Merlite Mortar.

The community contains LEED®-certified design standards to improve air quality, support conservation efforts and provide a fresh, healthy workplace. It also has electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to respond to the demand for alternative energy vehicles.

Modern high tech and timeless design

The remarkable style combines a refined, inspired design reminiscent of the city’s high-tech culture with a modern perspective. Designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, Inc. Architects, Santa Clara Square sets the standard for the blending of both new and innovative styles. The tile and stone installations throughout the complex perfectly match this modern, high-class, innovative aesthetic, as each piece was carefully chosen and strategically placed for an extra touch of charm and guaranteed functionality.

Contractors Flooring Service of California, based in Santa Ana, is one of the state’s most trusted and respected tile, stone, marble, and granite contractors. So, when Joe Ott, President of Contractors Flooring Service of California, was approached by Hathaway Dinwiddie to supply the cost-efficient, innovative, high-performing materials they desired, Contractors

Showers installed using Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP-1 Waterproofing Membrane and 820 Merlite Mortar.

Flooring Service of California Project Manager David Corona knew they’d need a trusted and top-quality installation system to ensure a job well done. Upon reviewing the scope of the 680,000-sq.-ft. installation project, all answers pointed definitively to Merkrete, a leader in waterproofing, crack-isolation and DUSTLESS setting materials technology.

A flexible solution 

When it comes to the critical waterproofing under tile in both interior showers, pool areas and surrounding areas, Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP-1 waterproofing membrane system was a key solution. Fast drying, durable and long lasting, this waterproofing membrane system is designed for fast applications, promising zero leaks or cracks, even with severe exposure and high amounts of traffic. 

Merkrete sales and technical team Heather Campiotti and Sergio Flores worked directly with Contractors Flooring Service of California to provide the right products and ensure they were applied correctly to meet the project’s specifications. 

Since the specifications called for crack isolation and waterproofing in nearly all of the exterior parts of installation combined with an aggressive project schedule, work began using Merkrete Hydro Guard SP-1. A liquid-applied, fast-drying product, Hydro Guard SP-1 combines crack isolation up to 1/8” and a waterproof system to enable crews to prepare the substrate for setting tile at a faster pace. Hydro Guard SP-1 contains excellent elongation, adhesion and high strength properties providing a 100% waterproof membrane that prevents the transfer of substrate cracks to the finished ceramic or stone tile surface. 

Interior backsplashes installed with Merkrete’s patented DLT Technology, 705 DUSTLESS Pro Set Plus Mortar.

“Merkrete’s liquid membranes have been a staple in the industry and contractors rely on its performance,” said Flores.

Also used was Merkrete’s Fracture Guard FD, a low-VOC, fast-drying, crack-isolation membrane for same-day tile installations. Fracture Guard FD provides a thin protection layer to inhibit substrate crack transfers up to 1/8” in interior and exterior applications.

Versatile mortar supports large tiles

Because of the size of the tiles for the pool decks and coping – as well as the vast number of exterior patio decks and walkways –Corona needed a versatile product that could address several specific needs at the same time. Merkrete demonstrated the perfect match for a specific challenge again considering the strength of the mortar it called for. 

“We used very large-and-heavy natural stone, which requires a mortar with a super-high bondability that can handle the weight of the stone,” said Corona. Merkrete 820 Merlite is a one-step, polymer-modified, lightweight setting adhesive for installing extra-large-format porcelain, ceramic tile and natural stone for both floors and walls. Merkrete proved it could hold its weight. 

In addition to the exterior installations throughout the complex, Merkrete was the reliable source in providing innovative and high-performance setting materials throughout the interior installations. Interior shower areas and common spaces contained large-and-heavy porcelain tile and planks. These types of materials can present their fair share of installation challenges. Planks in particular demand tighter tolerances to maintain the beauty of the tile and overall aesthetic of the installation.  

Cleaner jobsite with DUSTLESS technology

Porcelain tile in common hallways and walkway areas installed using Fracture Guard FD and 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar.

Selection of the proper setting material is critical, especially when installing large-and-heavy tile (LHT). LHT mortars are not for leveling or truing the substrate; instead they are intended to help fill the irregular space between the tile and the underlayment providing a strong bond. 

Vincente Acosta of Contractors Flooring Service of California immediately preferred MERKRETE’s new and innovative 720 DUSTLESS™ LHT Mortar. Merkrete’s 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar, features new, innovative and patented DUSTLESS™ Technology (DLT) producing approximately 80% less dust than ordinary thinsets and is designed to promote cleaner working conditions and reduce mess. It uses less water and is creamier and easy to spread. 

“Not only does this mortar emit less dust, the smooth and creamy material makes for easy spreading, especially when speed is a factor,” said Acosta. 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar works great for both floors and walls and offers high strength, flexibility and a cleaner work environment.

Interior areas and backsplashes were installed using 705 DUSTLESS Pro Set Mortar. “The DUSTLESS feature is a tremendous advantage especially in interior applications,” said Corona.

As with most installations, timelines are always important, and Santa Clara Square was no different. It was critical that Ott chose a company that would be able to get the products delivered and the job completed on time. Merkrete is a brand of Parex USA, one of the largest companies and a worldwide leader in tile-setting materials, façade finishes and technical mortars, established in 22 countries with 68 manufacturing plants and over 4,100 employees. “Merkrete was perfect for this project’s requirements, because we have plants and distribution centers all over the country, so our turnaround time and ability to get our products to the jobsite on a timely basis were no problem,” said Campiotti. 

Silicon Valley’s unique appeal is further enhanced by the striking Northern California Coast, lush Napa Valley wine country and downtown San Francisco – all within driving distance. With the opening of Santa Clara Square in the Fall 2018, new tenants and guests now enjoy the experience of shopping, fine dining, luxurious pools and resort-like living accommodations, and embrace the modern setting and innovative architecture. Santa Clara Square combines the best elements of a lively cultural center and a sophisticated technology hub – creating a forward-thinking community unlike anywhere else. The Square is the place to be.

Stone showers shine with preparation and precision

For this month’s Stone section, we take a look at stone showers completed by NTCA members Hawthorne Tile in Portland, Ore., and RMZ Custom Tile and Stone in Avon, Colo. 

Hawthorne Tile
Lake Oswego master bath

Lake Oswego master bathThis gorgeous master bath project for a Lake Oswego, Ore., residence was part of a three-month, full-home remodel, with extensive limestone used throughout, sourced from Artistic Tile. Due to hydronic heating in the home, the Hawthorne team set 150 ft. of 5/8” x 5/8” Whirlwind Smoke limestone floors to RH 141 in the TCNA Handbook.

Shon Parker (now with Schluter) was the project manager on the job, and admitted that widespread leveling was required prior to installation due to the wood substrate. “It gave us a chance to get the floors flat and do a barrier-free shower,” he said. 

In that shower, the crew employed the B442-18 integrated bonding flange method from the TCNA Handbook, with Schluter bonding flange and tileable cover. ARDEX 8+9 was used as waterproofing and crack isolation with Schluter Schiene strip. Wall tile was set over cement backer, also with Ardex 8+9. Another challenge in the shower was managing the incredibly fragile two-color limestone pattern – Artistic’s Smoke Limestone Claridges Stone Water Jet Mosaic. Parker said that Portland Marble Works – the Stone shower in Lake Oswego master bathfabricator who was doing the slab counters – waterjet-cut the inside corners “to keep the fine points of the tile from breaking on a wet saw,” according to the paper templates the crew created for all floor and wall cuts. Parker said Hawthorne Tile opted for the paper templates because the tile pattern was a unique shape. “The templates helped make perfect cuts each time, which helped the waste factor on such an expensive tile,” he explained. For the shower floor, the crew installed 130 feet of Lycian Aperlae Turkish Marble. 

The project, which had ceilings that ranged from 8’ high to 14’ at the high end of the vault, also sported 6” x 8” limestone tile wainscot everywhere in the bath except the shower, to complete the look of the room. 

Lake Oswego master bath with stone showers

RMZ Custom Tile
stone wave mosaic shower

stone wave mosaic shower seatThe design of a stone wave mosaic in a shower install by Miguel Ramirez of RMZ Custom Tile mandated extreme precision on the wall prep. “One of the challenges was to get the wall prep perfectly plumb and flat since on that particular wave tile every corner had to match the return piece perfectly,” he explained. 

“One of the things that we had to do prior to installation was to lay every row for the entire shower flat and mark every wall where the cut was going to be to have accurate piece return and continuation,” he added. “That was the most challenge that we had, since we were using the drop cut as a return.”

The marble mosaic project consisted of about 180 sq. ft. of First Snow Wave Mosaic by Daltile. 

“For leveling I started with the framing, making it as true as possible, then added shims,” Ramirez said. “I also used wedi panels as a substrate.” Afterwards, using a straight edge, he applied a final coat of Custom Building Products’ ProLite mortar where needed to make sure the surfaces stone wave mosaic shower drainwere flat and plumb. He used the same mortar to install the stone, with a coat of StoneTech Impregnator Pro sealer applied before grouting with Custom’s Prism Grout. After the grout cured for a minimum of 72 hours, he applied another coat of sealer, and voila! A beautiful stone shower! 

stone wave mosaic shower stone wave mosaic shower

Customized parking garage completes shopping center makeover

Close up image of EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL beginning work in the La Plaia Shopping Center parking garage. They were allotted less than two weeks to install the SPARTACOTE flooring system throughout the entire space.

On the island of Sardinia, Italy, in the heart of Cagliari, tourists and locals alike are subject to anything one could ever want in a vacation or life of leisure: history, art, views of the Mediterranean, fine cuisine, and of course, shopping. 

While highlights of the city include 13th-century architecture, La Plaia – Centro Commerciale, a prominent shopping center in the middle of town, was seeking restoration to update and modernize, after not having any renovations since the shopping center was built in 1983.

To kick off the nearly two-year construction project, which began in 2016, the eponymous architectural firm Mario Dal Molin and general contractor SIGEF SRL set out to renovate and expand the shopping center by 13,993 sq. ft. (1,300 square meters). The goal behind the changes would be to offer customers a vaster selection of retail options, and provide the community with areas for socialization, such as a new on-site bar. In addition to the interior shopping center updates, 64,583 sq. ft. (6,000 square meters) of parking garage space would need to be reconstructed since the concrete screed in place had been completely destroyed. 

The installing contractor, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL, using measuring tape to ensure straight line work.

“After briefly meeting Mario Dal Molin at an industry event, we were quickly able to convince him that the LATICRETE® SPARTACOTE™ product line was the top choice to repair the garage,” said Antonella Mura, the LATICRETE Sales Area Manager for Sardinia. “We educated his firm on the product lines’ technical features and demonstrated how the resinous flooring could enhance the parking garage experience by extending the overall design of the building to an unlikely place. Ultimately, the parking garage would be a huge part of elevating the entire shopping experience at La Plaia – Centro Commerciale.” 

Utilizing resinous flooring in projects is increasing in popularity with tile contractors, due to the ease of install and variety this type of floor coating offers to customers as an alternative to large-format or more traditional tile or stone floors.

The Challenges 

White lines of SPARTACOTE FLEX SB to guide traffic.

Customized design: In the past, aesthetics were often not considered when selecting floor coatings for parking areas. However, studies show that floors can elevate the overall shopping experience and boost morale. To liven up the space more than a standard concrete floor could, the design team was able to customize the look and finish of the floors with a pop of color using the LATICRETE products – allowing them to pull the shopping center’s desired experience through the entire development, from arrival to departure. 

Tight time frame: Although the shopping center would undergo a multi-year renovation process, the installing contractor EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL was allotted less than two weeks to install the SPARTACOTE flooring system throughout the entire parking garage before the grand re-opening. To ensure a successful installation within the desired time frame, the execution needed to be exceptional and the product performance needed to hold up the first time around. 

A LATICRETE solution 

To maintain the desired appearance of the yellow safety lines and deter any color fading or peeling, SPARTACOTE FLEX SB was used.

To maintain the desired appearance of the yellow safety lines and deter any color fading or peeling, SPARTACOTE FLEX SB was used.

One of the unique benefits that piqued the architect’s interest in installing resinous flooring in the parking garage is the product’s ability to customize the look and finish of any environment. The SPARTACOTE line of resinous flooring also offers reduced floor maintenance, which is beneficial in high-traffic areas, and superior chemical and stain resistance, making this system an excellent choice to uphold a fresh-looking appearance. 

With a team of six, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL used LATAPOXY® 309, a two-component epoxy adhesive, to close several joints throughout the parking garage. LATAPOXY 309 is solvent-free and possesses high adhesion and anti-slip agents, ideal for this type of environment. Additionally, this product can cure in difficult conditions, such as those with a high presence of moisture, which can be typical for garages. 

To coat the floors, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL applied SPARTACOTE FLEX SB™ across the entire 64,583-sq.-ft. (6,000-square meter) garage in a light blue finish. On top of the coating, the team also applied white lane dividers and yellow safety lines to guide traffic. To maintain the desired appearance, SPARTACOTE FLEX SB is UV-resistant, which will help to deter any color fading or peeling in the sunlight. 

Thanks to the products’ rapid cure rates and user-friendly working times, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL’s team of six efficiently finished nearly 4,305 sq. ft. (400-square meters) per hour – allowing the garage surface to be completed in only 11 days! 


La Plaia - Centro Commerciale opened its doors for a grand re-opening celebration in March of 2018.

La Plaia – Centro Commerciale opened its doors for a grand re-opening celebration in March of 2018.

“Everyone involved in the La Plaia – Centro Commerciale renovation was pleased with the high-quality result of the LATICRETE products used in the parking garage,” said Roberta Marchi, LATICRETE Regional Director Europe Assistant. “The new garage floor is a showstopper, and something memorable for visitors to see when they first visit. Our team received many thanks for the support provided on the jobsite. Whether it was outlining product features or providing installation tips, LATICRETE was there to lend a helping hand every step of the way.” 

Completed in 2018, La Plaia – Centro Commerciale opened its doors for a grand re-opening celebration on March 27 and to the public on March 28. 

The completed La Plaia Shopping Center parking garage.

The completed La Plaia Shopping Center parking garage.


With Daltile’s StepWise™ technology, Emerson Wood™ offers increased safety and slip resistance for floor applications — while also delivering elevated design. To find out more about all our products with StepWise™, visit us online here.

Creating excellence for Northern California Tile & Stone

Custom logoNorthern California Tile & Stone, with offices in Sacramento, Calif., and Reno, Nevada, has been in business for about 20 years, with a tradition of excellence and high compensation. 

“Like a professional sports team, everyone is highly compensated and expected

Roger Leasure, NCTS President


to perform well,” said Roger Leasure, NCTS President. “It’s not uncommon for the office to be open and people working at 5:30 a.m., or for staff to be answering or sending emails on the weekends. The field operations on jobs are getting things done over weekends because of the size and scope of our jobs. We authorize overtime almost weekly, and the aggressive installers eat it up.”

Northern California Tile & Stone logoThis high-paying company had several tile setters break the six-figure mark on their paychecks in 2018, excluding benefits. “We work to identify our top players and make sure they are happy and content while identifying our bottom players and replacing them,” Leasure added. “We are constantly looking for energetic, well-qualified individuals to add to the team; we like to look at it in terms of building a ‘Super Bowl team’ around here,” he said. 

The company specializes in large, complex, fast-paced commercial projects – mostly mall renovations and expansions, casinos, hotels and resorts, multi-family, government courthouses, spas and high-end commercial workout facilities. NCTS also focuses on thin-brick veneers, thin-panel porcelain, cut-to-fit solid surfaces, and honeycomb slab stone veneers. 

NCTS became a NTCA member five years ago, with a desire to up its game during a period of explosive growth. “We realized we don’t get paid for estimates or how much paper we push,” Leasure explained. “We emphasize that we only get paid by how much tile and stone gets installed on a monthly basis. We use this idea as a mantra inside the company to keep people focused on where we are putting our energies on a daily basis. In that regard I try to put the field workers above other aspects in the company hierarchy because they are your business. If they are not installing a quality product consistently, you are not in business.”

Benefits of NTCA and CTEF

Leasure said The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) are doing a great job of educating owners on the importance of properly training their installers, and of providing the necessary schooling. 

“We saw enough of an impact from the CTEF and NTCA education that we decided to start our own in-house school,” he said. “We tailored our concept based on what we saw in the CTEF courses because one thing is true — when your installers know how to do a quality job and perform well on projects for your clients, your work begins to sell itself.”

In 2018, NCTS joined the ranks of the best of the best, the NTCA Five-Star Contractor community, calling the continuing education that NTCA Five-Star Contractors are privy to, “priceless.” The education offered in Nashville during the 2018 NTCA Five-Star Contractor Summit provided a big boon to business.

“The class ‘How to Put Yourself in a Better Position Contractually’ opened my eyes to how we were leaving beneficial items on the table and not pushing risk off our plate,” Leasure said. “Prior to this class I was resigned to the fact I should just blanket sign every contract a general contractor gave me, and if we performed fast and clean, they would treat us fairly. Since the class I have developed a list of 35 items and clarifications on our proposal that gets incorporated into our contracts as an attachment. We have had great success in crafting beneficial deals, which can take months of negotiation. Although it’s sometimes tough and contentious work, it gives us leverage on the critical items that come up on all jobs like labor rates, change order processing, reasonable billing times on change orders, payment terms, and jobsite scheduling/coordination.”

Leasure added, “It’s easy to get caught up working IN your company instead of ON your company and the time with the NTCA Five-Star team and other business owners allows you to work ON your business. It’s also easy to think you have it all figured out…and that the way you manage your logistics, prep and plan your projects, or even float your decks is the only way. When you talk to other business owners and if you have an open mind you will find they have some slick ideas and tools that you never thought of.”

Increasing excellence

The recently completed renovation of the Cache Creek Spa.

The recently completed renovation of the Cache Creek Spa.

NCTS employs CTEF Certified Installers (CTI) with a goal of identifying 5-10 installers annually, and encouraging them to get certified.  “We started the process a few years ago and we believe that this is a critical part of any tile company that wants to consider themselves as quality,” Leasure said. “This process has benefited our company by setting an example to other installers of what it means to be quality. It sets a standard that others want to aspire to, as long as you focus on weeding out the low performers and adding new blood to the ranks on a yearly basis. Our clients see the quality of expertise and knowledge of the installers. When it comes time to recommend a tile contractor for their high-end or difficult projects, they want you to be that contractor.”

NCTS takes tremendous pride and receives great joy in the art of the finished product. Leasure said, “I just took the wife and kids to dinner at a big casino and was showing them the 1” x 1” glass mosaic, stone counters, and large format floors, with pride. The entire casino was covered in our products. We just finished a large spa in another casino that was highlighted on a local news report. It was fun to see all the emails flying around with links to the story. Everyone gets excited when their work gets recognized, especially when they put in so much hard work in an effort to complete a high-end project with over 30 different types of tile and stone.  

“The fact that we completed a million-dollar scope of work in 35 days and to see the level of quality of the finish product, fills me with pride and confidence that our installers can tackle projects that give the GC and the office staff concern,” he added. “There was a lot of project management and pre-planning before we even started, so we knew we had a challenge with the install on our hands. We love a good challenge!”

Cache Creek Casino Resort Spa

This recently completed renovation of the Cache Creek Casino Resort Spa saw the space expand from 5,000 sq. ft. to over 12,000 sq. ft. NCTS installed over 50 different tiles and stone, including a 12.5 ft. high pink Himalayan salt block wall. Many of the materials had to be shipped from overseas, which was one of the major difficulties.

Cache Creek Spa Cache Creek Spa

Latest tile design and installation innovations from TCNA

Tile Council of North America (TCNA) is an international trade association representing North American manufacturers of ceramic tile, installation materials, glazes and raw materials, tools, and related products. This year, over 120 TCNA members will showcase their latest offerings at Coverings in Orlando. In addition to the latest tile designs and installation innovations, you’ll discover what’s new in the world of tools, machinery, and installation materials, all in the TCNA North American Pavilion. 

TCNA logoBooth #3219

The TCNA booth (#3219) is in the center of it all as your information and hospitality hub throughout the week. TCNA will offer complimentary lunch (no wristband required) and afternoon happy hour (cash, credit, and drink tickets accepted). So stop by, refuel, and network with the leading industry associations co-exhibiting with TCNA: the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), the International Masonry Institute

TCNA booth

Complimentary lunch is served daily, with happy hours each afternoon.

(IMI), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), and the Tile Heritage Foundation (THF). Discounts on TCNA literature will be available for those of you looking to round out your technical library. Additionally, TCNA’s Lab Services team will be on hand to discuss the research and testing offered at TCNA’s state-of-the-art Product Performance Testing Laboratory – North America’s largest tile-and-stone-specific facility for independent testing and research. To get a glimpse of “a day in the life” of the TCNA Lab, catch the session “Tile Testing 101: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at How Products are Tested for Quality and Performance” (Thursday, 8:00 -9:00 am). 

Leading associations are co-located with TCNA in booth

Leading associations are co-located with TCNA in booth

“Why Tile” Quickfire Sessions

Eric of TCNA

20-minute mini-sessions are packed with information on the benefits offered by tile.

Put these 20-minute mini-sessions on your agenda! Running Tuesday through Friday, these bite-sized sessions are packed with information on the inherent benefits tile has to offer: “Healthy, WELL, and Wise with Tile,” “Tile’s Greenhouse Wheelhouse,” “Tile’s Unrivaled Time-Tested Durability,” “Peace of Mind Under Your Feet,” and “How Smart Phones are Changing the Way We Think and Approach Design.” Check the Coverings app or Show Directory for times and locations.

Building green

TCNA and TCNA members are synonymous with leadership in building green with tile. For example, the UL-certified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for North American tile, tile mortars and tile grouts provide unrivaled transparency on the environmental impact of a full tile installation. These EPDs make it easier for green builders, designers and specifiers to make informed decisions that satisfy the requirements in top green building rating systems including LEED, Green Globes, 2018 IgCC-ASHREA 189.1, and ICC 700. Additionally, those seeking LEED building certification can also look to Green Squared Certified products, which contribute toward the LEED Pilot Credit for “Certified Multi-Attribute Products and Materials.” For the latest on tile sustainability, be sure to catch TCNA’s Director of Standards Development and Sustainability Initiatives, Bill Griese, in the session “Transparency Trilogy Part I: Transparency in Materials” where he’ll review ongoing industry initiatives to provide transparency and health-related information to satisfy supply chain demands (Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.). 

Installation Demonstration Stage, #3138

The Coverings Installation Demonstration stage #3138 shows products and methods in action, from the pros.

The Coverings Installation Demonstration stage shows products and methods in action.

The North American Pavilion offers you a first look at the newest installation materials, technologies and tools. Throughout the show, TCNA exhibitors and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) will provide live product demos at the Coverings Installation Demonstration Stage (#3138). Get an up-close look at the latest products in action and tips from pros on how to navigate common challenges. While you’re there, enter to win one of the many drawings between demonstrations.

Installation & Design Experience, #3538

New in 2019 is the Installation & Design Experience (#3538), which is sure to be a main attraction. This multi-faceted feature will include a lounge as well as hospitality vignettes by top designers. Also included is an area focused on installation and education, with the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) onsite providing information for installers looking to advance their careers. Additionally, guided tours of the Installation Materials District will leave from the lounge at 11:00 am (Tuesday – Thursday) with lunch to follow at noon, and happy hour in the lounge beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Canine creations featured in the Art Tile Village

One-of-a-kind tiled doghouses will be displayed in the courtyard of the Art Tile Village in the North American Pavilion.

One-of-a-kind tiled doghouses will be displayed in the courtyard of the Art Tile Village in the North American Pavilion.

The Art Tile Village – the largest assembly of decorative tile artisans under one roof – has become a favorite destination for show-goers. Beautiful and unique offerings from boutique tile makers across the continent are on display. In the courtyard (#4209), you’ll also see one-of-a-kind tiled dog houses created by TCNA members. These artful abodes will be donated to an Orlando-area pet charity, which will be onsite during the show with some furry, four-legged companions. Be sure to stop by – you may just make a new friend! 

Whether your main objective at Coverings is to network with colleagues, find design inspiration from the newest trends, or learn about the latest advancements in tile technology, exciting discoveries await you in the TCNA North American Pavilion.

Ceramics of Italy celebrates the legacy of tile at Coverings 2019

Ceramics of Italy logoFor the 2019 edition of Coverings, the Italian Pavilion will showcase a vast array of cutting-edge tile and installation products in over 75 booths from Ceramics of Italy member companies, while offering a delicious respite for attendees in Ceramics of Italy’s central stand. Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the show, the Italian Association of Ceramics will also introduce a new two-volume book, Mater Ceramica, that delves into the history of ceramics and Italian tile design over the past 70 years, which will serve as an invaluable resource to the industry.

Strada Dinamica

The Italian Pavilion will showcase a vast array of cutting-edge tile and installation products.

The Italian Pavilion will showcase a vast array of cutting-edge tile and installation products.

The Italian Association of Ceramics will introduce a new two-volume book, Mater Ceramica, that delves into the history of ceramics and Italian tile design over the past 70 years.

The Italian Association of Ceramics will introduce a new two-volume book, Mater Ceramica.

In the middle of the Italian Pavilion, attendees will find the Ceramics of Italy booth “Strada Dinamica” situated like an open piazza. In fact, the designers at e+i studio modeled the exhibit after a lively Italian streetscape with standing communal tables, landscaped benches, and a coffee bar and café, all clad in tile to demonstrate the versatility and durability of Italian products. The floor, set on a raised system by Newfloor, is constructed from grey, large-format porcelain tile from Lea Ceramiche while the curvilinear furnishings are custom cut from Florim’s Magnum Oversize tiles. The space serves as the perfect meeting point for attendees to network over coffee or take a break from the tradeshow floor. It also houses an information kiosk where visitors can learn more about exhibitors in the Italian pavilion and initiatives the Italian industry is supporting to promote the benefits and use of ceramic and porcelain tiles, grouts and more.

Trends and innovations

New products will be on display at the pavilion’s exhibitors, including Ariana Storm for outdoors Visitors will find the Italian Pavilion full of inspiration and innovation this year, with a multitude of new products spurred by technological advancements and shifting cultural trends. As Italian companies continue to invest in new production equipment, their product lines are evolving into a whole suite of surfacing tools with a variety of sizes, thicknesses and finishes developed around a single design. At this year’s show, visitors can expect to find tiles ranging from 3-30mm thick, including a new 12mm thick tile specifically designed for kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities, tables and outdoor kitchens. 


Fondovalle My Top

New products will be on display at the pavilion’s exhibitors, including and Fondovalle My Top.

Meanwhile, gauged porcelain tiles continue to grow in popularity with designs ranging from hyper-realistic natural looks to dark florals and geometric patterns on wallpaper-like panels. Of course, tile is also a natural fit for outdoor environments with its low water absorption rate and high breakage loads, and companies are continuously expanding their systems of porcelain pavers, which are starting to replace stone in museums and residences around the country.

Last year, Ceramics of Italy participated in the Installation Design Showcase tiny house project. This year, Glenda Wright of HHCP will work with NTCA Five-Star Contractor Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., to create a hidden oasis vignette using Italian tile products.

Installation & Design Experience

Ceramics of Italy is proud to support the Coverings Showcase for the eighth year in a row, which will be situated inside the new Installation & Design Experience. Demonstrating the synergy among innovative products, creative design and expert installation, Glenda Wright of the Orlando-based architecture firm HHCP will work with a team from NTCA Five-Star Contractor Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., to create a hidden oasis vignette using Italian tile products. Attendees are invited to visit the space throughout the show to see the vignette come to life and meet the design and installation teams to learn about their inspiration, process, challenges and best practices.

Events and sessions

Off the show floor, representatives from Ceramics of Italy will participate in a number of talks and educational sessions on important topics for all industry professionals, from the latest tile trends to changes in the marketplace and transparency in materials and shipping. 

“The Changing Market for Ceramic Tile in the U.S.”
Tuesday, April 9, 3:00 p.m. 

Donato Grosser, President of Grosser Consulting, along with Santo Torcivia, President of Marketing Insights, will offer updates on the current state of the ceramic tile marketplace during their annual presentation 

“Transparency in Materials”
Wednesday, April 10, 1:30 p.m.

Ceramics of Italy will participate in the first of a three-part series in the Coverings Conference Program that addresses the issue of material transparency across product categories. 

“Transparency in Handling and Shipping”
Wednesday, April 10, 3:00 p.m.

This second session series in the Coverings Conference Program – co-presented by Confindustria Ceramica and CTDA – will explore the journey of products from the factory to point of sale, and how it should be traceable and safe for people and the environment. 

“Global Tile Trends”
Thursday, April 11, 2:00 p.m.

Cristina Faedi, Manager of Promotional Activities for Ceramics of Italy, will discuss the latest tile trends, material innovations and creative applications with other tile industry experts during the annual session. Immediately afterwards, Coverings Ambassador Alena Capra will guide visitors on a walking tour to see the trends in person.

Follow the “Made in Italy” trademark throughout the show to find products defined by high aesthetic quality, durability, and environmental responsibility. For those unable to attend the show, follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information about the Italian tile industry, visit www.ceramica.info.

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