Business Tip – November 2013

mapei_sponsorFinancial Operations: overhead analysis, accounts receivable and payable and invoicing

In this issue of TileLetter, we continue with the Financial Operations section of the NTCA Business Reference Manual, as found on page 31 in that document. Last month we examined common accounting terms and the labor burden rate. This month, we review overhead analysis, accounts receivable and payable and invoicing. Check upcoming TileLetter issues for more tips and recommendations on running your business efficiently and profitably. To download the entire NTCA Business Reference Manual, visit

c. Overhead analysis
An overhead expense chart will show items like advertising, sales, office expenses, staff, rent, office equipment, telephone, computer, office supplies, job expenses, vehicles, job supervision, tools and equipment, service and warranty, mobile phone, general expenses, owner’s salary, general insurance, interest, taxes, bad debts, licenses and fees, legal fees, education and training, entertainment, association fees. Make sure all these overhead costs are factored into your job estimates.

d. Accounts receivable and payable
Accounts payable are people or companies  you do business with and whom you need to make payments to. Accounts receivable are people from whom you will be receiving money. Set up a system to track payments due to your vendors and subcontractors, as well as weekly accounts receivable reports so your customer accounts don’t get too far in arrears.

e. Invoicing
Typically, residential jobs are billed upon completion, with a “draw” requested to cover the cost of any materials purchased up front.

Commercial jobs are usually billed in stages. For large jobs, you may need to bill a “materials draw” to cover the cash outlay for materials to be used on the job. Commercial jobs are generally paid more slowly (45-60 days), so you need to plan your expenses accordingly. Most commercial contractors will hold a portion of your payment as retainage and require you to submit notarized applications for payment. Each contractor has specific forms for you to complete, and you need to make sure you read them thoroughly.

Many contracts state that you won’t get paid unless the contractor does (pay-if-paid), but this is not legal in some states. Know the laws of your state, and don’t be afraid to edit a contract accordingly.

You should put a payment schedule in your contract to control when you will be paid and the amount. This is new to GCs but if you will start implementing this, it will help your cash flow to know exactly when you will be paid. Poor payment schedules on contracts cause cash flow problems. They should be well defined and followed. If you are unsure, contact your attorney for the proper wording and implementation.

Ask the Experts – November

Our soap dishes fell off the tile tub surround, and were repaired by two different installers (using the term loosely). One was reset by using only grout to place it. The other was reset by punching a 2 1/2” to 3” hole in the green board and filling it with grout (not thinset) only. Are my concerns founded that now that the moisture barrier has been breached, the grout can wick moisture into the wall?

I dislike being the bearer of bad news, but there is probably no good way to re-attach those soap shelves. First, your tile was installed over a paper-covered gypsum product. Although common years ago, this method has not been allowed in wet areas for quite some time.

Second, tile and grout systems are not waterproof, or even water resistant. In fact, the tile system generally pulls water into the substrate (even if it is sealed). Over time, the paper on the gypsum board begins to degrade, and delaminate from the soft gypsum core below. Almost nothing will stick to this raw gypsum for long.

Not seeing the shower in person, I cannot unequivocally say that you are due for a new shower, but soap shelves falling off is usually the first sign of the end for this type of system. What usually follows is grout cracking and tiles falling off.  When these symptoms occur, you will generally find that in removing the old tile and green board there will be much degradation of the board, and likely mold, since the paper and gypsum in a wet, warm environment are perfect food for mold.

Michael K. Whistler, NTCA presenter/technical consultant

(from an architect)
Should I expect wall and floor grout lines to meet as best practice from a tile installer?

It is not a written industry standard that when using the same tile on walls and floors, or a modular tile (where more than one smaller tile plus grout joints equal the size of one large tile), all grout joints should align at vertical to horizontal tiled surfaces. Unless specified in contractual language, it is more a bonus of using a highly-skilled and quality-conscious contractor. This is the art of “layout” and can sometimes take nearly as long as the actual laying of the tile. There are times when it is physically impossible, as in the case where angled walls meet floors, but generally a quality craftsman will have nearly all grout joints aligned.

Michael K. Whistler, NTCA presenter/technical consultant

I was wondering what the best floor backer board is for porcelain and ceramic tile.

All the backer boards are good.  Each has different properties that may be needed for a specific project, such as thickness, dimensions of sheets available, ability to use on exteriors, weight, etc. Also keep in mind that if a cementitious backer board or unit (CBU) is specified for a project, substitutions are usually allowed with other brands of CBUs. But other TYPES of backer board, like foam, water-resistant faced gypsum, fiber cement or others will be difficult to substitute.  Not that any are bad, you just need to follow specifications.

So find a type you like, familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions and go to town!!

Michael K. Whistler, NTCA presenter/technical consultant

President’s Letter – November 2013

dan welch imageIn my articles, I try to offer a value to members by using my experiences (good or bad) to dig deeper into business practices, challenges or opportunities. This month is no different.

I believe our single biggest investment opportunity is training and retaining staff. As 2013 winds down and summer work slows, this is a great time to reflect on what we can do differently to provide our customers with better value while eliminating problems that can erode the bottom line.

Welch Tile offers apprentice training to our new hires, but when we are busy it is tough to take the time to do the training. In lieu of formal training, we found offering best practices on subjects like grouting, sealing, mixing, cutting, fitting, installing and troweling keeps the team fresh. Have your key people spend time with the newer group, teaching them the proper way to perform a task, and explain what could happen if it’s done wrong.  Most of our mistakes have resulted from a lack of knowledge, and it’s our own fault if employees simply don’t know what they could be doing wrong.

This year we are adding best practices when working with specialized products.  We like higher-risk, higher-profit specialty installs, which require mechanics with advanced knowledge of complicated processes.  Their training must go well beyond the newer employees, yet most specialized projects require manpower in excess of our highly-trained installers. So how do we find enough mechanics?  We must field-train, communicate, and adhere to best practices.  Eventually, our new mechanics become our veterans, and the next generation learns from them.

However, we can’t expect even our best mechanics to jump from a luxury stone hotel install to an epoxy-set-waxed-FVT-vinyl-ester-acid-proof dairy install without a little memory refresher, right? So, rather than relying on memory recall, for each job:

• Keep a library of best practices, or a checklist for each type of install/product.
• Make sure you, or your most qualified mechanic, start the job.
• Have a preconstruction meeting to run through the best practices checklist.
• As you dig into your training programs and build efficiencies within your company, look closely at processes and how you can make them simple to repeat. Training may stick by day three of a project, but throw six months and 10 projects between the next time you use that product again, and you may forget the small and seemingly insignificant tricks. Then your checkbook begins to whimper.

This month, I am allocating time to provide a step-by-step process to one of our largest revenue sources (and the riskiest segment): fully-vitrified tile. In addition, we are creating white papers for our staff to remind them of the “gotchas.”  These white papers are simple, one-picture, and one-paragraph documents focusing on failure points.

Taking time to work “on” your business is equally important as working “in” your business. Take time (between visits to your deer stand) this fall, and review the year.  Fix problem areas with repeatable procedures. Your checkbook will thank you. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy family and be safe.

Dan Welch
Welch Tile & Marble
President NTCA

Nippers and cutters


Nippers and cutters are some of the most essential tools to perfect and customize a tile job. Contractors share their favorite nipper and cutter brands and models, and we have some for you to peruse in the product section following the comments.


The cutter of choice for us is the Sigma tile cutter. We have four different sizes that we use as needed.

It is an Italian-made cutting board that scores and snaps a hard porcelain tile like butter. I myself used them in Ireland before I came to the USA, and after a few years of using different cutters here I discovered that they were available here also. My opinion is that the Sigma cutter is the Rolls Royce of cutting boards.

Steve Maloney, Maloney Tile & Marble, Inc. 

Most of our guys use the Troxell carbide tile nippers. They last forever and do a great job with all different types of materials.

When it comes to tile cutters our guys are split between Sigma and Rubi. Both are excellent tile cutters and we cut on average about 10,000 square feet on a single blade. We have purchased some of the new Sigmas that cut up to 30” tiles and the job that they do is amazing! Even cutting large format on a diagonal is a breeze, and the labor we save from not having to set up the wet saw pays for the cutter!

Buck Collins, Collins Tile & Stone.

I use cutting boards from Sigma, great for cutting porcelain tiles both straight and on a diagonal. They have very good rip guides on them to set up for several cuts of the same size! I first started using a Sigma cutting board after I won it as a prize for coming in second place at Coverings doing the CTEF Certified Tile Installer hands-on test back in 2010. I’ve bought a couple more since then!

– Greg Michael, CTI  Michael’s Custom Tile, Inc.


pactoolPacTool International offers Snapper Shear SS424 Backer Board Shear, a contractor-grade backer board shear designed specifically for cutting 1/4” and 1/2” Hardibacker® fiber-cement underlayment. Faster and easier than score-and-snap, dust -free operation enables installers to do all the cutting indoors thereby saving considerable time and effort. The blades are reversible and will perform at least 12,000 feet of cutting before they need to be replaced. The power plant is a 1/2” drive Makita made 6.5 amp motor.

qep_cutterQEP supplies the durable QEP 10600 24” Tile Cutter, a multi-purpose cutter with a  large, high-leverage bicycle grip handle that makes cutting easier and reduces fatigue, while the side arm extension supports large format tiles.  It comes complete with a replaceable 7/8” tungsten carbide ball bearing cutting wheel and an adjustable measuring guide for accurate, repeat cuts. The QEP 32010Q Glass Tile Nipper easily cuts glass tile without the use of conventional glass cutters. These nippers also quickly cut small mosaic pieces of glass and remove tiny points from glass tile.  The QEP 32035Q Compound Tile Nipper offers up to three times the power of conventional nippers for making irregular cuts in ceramic and porcelain tile.  Carbide tips provide easy and fast cutting. Crafted of very durable forged steel, with comfort-grip handles. Visit YouTube for videos on QEP’s tile cutters and nippers.

RTC_cutterRTC’s Razor Push Tile Cutter is the result of long-term research for the world’s best tile cutters. The new Razor series push tile cutters are made in Italy, and designed with the most demanding users in mind. Research revealed that push-style cutters offer a more accurate and consistent cut, while being more user friendly. The latest in scoring wheel technology gives you a better score line, enabling you to cut the hardest of materials with ease. (Cases available for 22” and 26” models.)

barwalt_nipperBarwalt introduces its new Ultrabite Tile Nippers. With porcelain tile getting harder all the time, Barwalt designed a new nipper that independent testing proved only requires one-third the compressive force to cut porcelain, which is more accurate and comfortable to use. The molded body absorbs shock and the diamond carbide tips are replaceable! Available in original, No. 70316 and radius No. 70318 tips.

sigma_keracutEuropean Tile Masters offers the SIGMA Kera-Cut tile cutters, designed to cut large-format laminated tile, pressed tile and large sheets of glass as well as many other types of materials up to 1/2” in thickness. They are made out of aluminum and stainless steel and have a triple ball bearing system, which makes scoring the tile smooth and accurate. Even after years of use, maintenance is eliminated. Massive tiles are held in place with either suction cups or the lateral turning supports. The 8E model cuts 120” straight and 84” on the diagonal and the 8C model cuts a 60” straight and 42” on the diagonal.

seperator_ETMThe 41D SEPERATOR is designed to break thin panel, large format tiles after the incision is made by the SIGMA Kera-Cut.

First Installers Pass ACT Certification at Coverings

by Bart Bettiga

CTI_cvgs13ACT Certification has been given to the first eight professional installers. Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers – ACT– addresses four technically-challenging installation areas of current importance:  Large Format Tile Installation and Substrate Preparation, Mudwork, Shower Pans and Membranes. A specific certification demonstrates the installer’s skill and knowledge in each of these four segments.

The eight professional installers passed all four certifications under the watchful eye of thousands of attendees at Coverings, the leading tile and stone show in the United States. Because the program was in the developmental phase when the show was held in Atlanta in April, they just recently completed the online written test that comprises 25% of the certification score.

The eight installers with this special honor are:
Brent Monroe – Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Company: Mesa, Arizona
Tyler Nequist – Welch Marble &Tile: Kent City, Michigan
Keith Tavshanjian – KT Marble & Tile: Oceanside, California
Dan Welch – Welch Marble &Tile: Kent City, Michigan
Gavin Collier – Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co.: Palos Heights, Illinois
Bill Dumas – Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Trainer: Livermore, California
Eric Manzaroli – Artisan Tile, Inc.: Sterling Heights, Michigan
Terrance Trame – Trendell Consulting, LLC: Clayton, Michigan

Partners in the development initiative are: Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF); Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), representing IUBAC signatory tile contractors; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC); International Masonry Institute (IMI), which provides professional and technical training for union masonry contractors; and National Tile Contractors Association, with membership open to all tile contracting companies. Tile Council of North America (TCNA) manufacturer members companies are contributing to development of the modules and tests.

For more information on this developing program visit our new website at

wedi Building Panels

wedipanel-1013wedi Building Panels, manufactured with Extruded Polystyrene Foam (XPS) cores offer internal waterproofing, zero capillary action, ease of use, light weight and cement-based resin surface backerboards. They also are excellent for use with radiant heating systems since the R Value for 1” wedi panels is 4.3, and they offer low conductivity so heat is forced up into the tile, more efficiently warming the floor than with other substrates like wood or concrete slab. Electrical underfloor heating systems are easy to mount on wedi Building Panels, which eliminates loss of downward heat. For warm-water systems, ducts can be cut into panels quickly and easily using a router to receive water tubes. Warmup, a radiant heating manufacturer, has been using 1/4” wedi panels as insulation boards for their systems. In addition to the stated benefits, the panels allow a 78% faster heating time than over concrete alone, reaching 84 degrees Fahrenheit  from a 59 degree concrete slab in 64 minutes with the wedi-made Warmup Insulation Boards; traditional systems took five hours to reach 77 degrees. In practical use, wedi claims rooms will warm to desired temperatures in 10-15 minutes using wedi Building Panels vs. other traditional methods.

Emac introduces Joint Covers

emac-1013Emac introduces Joint Covers that are clipped into expansion joints to bring beauty to walls, facades, ceilings and light-traffic floors. The Emac Joint Cover Solutions come in matte silver anodized aluminum or white, gray and beige pvc. They easily clip in without tools, screws or adhesives and work for a range of joint sizes indoors or outdoors, in commercial or residential settings.

RedGard Waterproofing Fabric Membrane system

CBP-redgard-1013Custom Building Products extends its RedGard® waterproofing brand product line with the introduction of the RedGard Waterproofing Fabric Membrane system, a waterproof membrane for walls and floors. The easy-to-cut, hang and adjust fabric membrane installs over cement backerboards or gypsum wall boards using either modified or non-modified thin-set mortar to create a continuous impervious barrier for walls and shower floors in preparation for tiling. The advantage of being able to use a wider variety of thin-set mortars gives the product greater versatility. RedGard Waterproofing Fabric Membrane is available in 1M (3’ 3”) wide rolls in either 54 sq. ft. or 323 sq. ft. in total coverage, pre-printed with grid lines to simplify cutting. Accessories include RedGard Waterproofing Strip for edges and changes of plane, pre-formed RedGard Inside and Outside Corners, and RedGard Mixer and Pipe Seal. All components are part of the CUSTOM Shower Installation Systems offering that includes sealant, shower bases, curbs, benches and niches and are eligible for up to a lifetime warranty.

Suhner hand grinders/polishers offered by MK Diamond Products

suhner-mkdiamondMK Diamond Products now offers these Suhner hand grinders/polishers for the stone and tile industry.

The two electric grinders polish, shape and grind. The UXJ 2 Right Angle Grinder is a 2 horsepower, 2,300 RPM, weighing 5.4 pounds; the UXF 4-R Right Angle Grinder is a 1-1/4 horsepower, 1,600-3,500 RPM grinder. They use 4” flexible diamond pads with backer pad for polishing materials and have carbon brushes with automatic cut-out to protect the armature, inline GFCI, adjustable water valve, soft-start technology for smooth starts, and a lock-button for fast wheel changes.

The three pneumatic grinders are quiet with low vibration. The LXB-10, a powerful angled grinder with 10,000 RPM, weighs only .9 pounds. The LXC 2, which offers lower RPM, at 2,000, is designed for engineered stone. Both are compact and have a 2” maximum pad diameter for use in small spaces. The LXE 3 grinder has 3,000 RPM, and a 4” pad diameter. This grinder/polisher is perfect for use on stone, marble, limestone and granite.

Imagine Tile – Manhattan Collection

imagine-tile-103Imagine Tile is introducing its first ever New York City-inspired product line. The Manhattan Collection features six striking geometric patterns, ranging from Old World Moroccan to Sixties Mod, which are named after – and reflect the personality of – a distinct neighborhood: SoHo, Chelsea, Gramercy, Flatiron, NoMad, and Nolita. For example, the Gramercy pattern was influenced by the flooring found at Gramercy Park Hotel, known for its geometric flooring and contrasting, colorful decor. The Manhattan Collection was also inspired by the graphic prints traditionally used in cement tile, and renders these trending geometric flooring patterns in tile that is low-maintenance and easier to ship and install. For commercial, hospitality, or residential floor and wall use, the Manhattan Collection is available in 8” x 8” formats as well as customized in any color combination in 12” x 12”, 16” x 16” and 24” x 24“ sizes.

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