Five Star Contractor Spotlight – Cox Tile, Inc.

custom-sponsorCox Tile, Inc.
San Antonio, Texas
Since: 1981
Specialty: High-end residential installations, large, difficult, and demanding jobs. Mudwork is Cox Tile’s forte.
cox_logoEmployees: 13
Social media: Cox Tile Inc. on Facebook and YouTube

As a college student in 1975, pursuing a major with little opportunity, John Cox soon learned how the economy can change one’s goals and dreams. Who would have known that a part-time job would inspire a career filled with creativity, hard work, and perseverance – and would lead to the opportunity to become a business owner and completely fall in love with a trade? The challenges that go along with owning your own business cannot be ignored, but the satisfaction of creating and completing a superior installation that inspires the mind, soothes the soul, or breaks all barriers of beauty can be exhilarating.

cox_installsThe foundation of John’s business from the outset has always been to provide an undeniably quality product and customer service second to none. Cox Tile focuses on high-end residential installations and its employees never shy away from the impossible. The team approach and Cox Tile culture has trademarked the company as an outstanding resource for a quality execution of the most challenging and difficult installations. No amount of advertising can compete with the praises of a truly satisfied customer. John strives to be fundamentally involved with each project from design to completion, always working with his team to exceed customers’ expectations, every time.

As any business owner can tell you, to stay at the top of your game you must continue to hone your expertise and be knowledgeable regarding all materials and tools related to your field, especially as they progress and evolve. You must strive to retain the very best employees and never settle for anything but excellence. Providing superior customer service that instills confidence in your product and your company is paramount. And lastly, it is imperative to seek all avenues to increase your knowledge, skill and expertise so you can rise to the top of your field. These cornerstones have seen John’s company through good times and bad and allowed him the opportunity to work with very best builders, designers, architects, suppliers and other contractors in the business.

In his pursuit of knowledge, an obvious resource was the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) – an organization devoted completely to the professional tile contractor and the tile industry. As a first-generation tile contractor, he had no support system and only the knowledge gleaned from working for several contracting companies early in his career. Each year, as his company grew, it was evident that joining the NTCA was crucial. It has been instrumental in the growth and success of Cox Tile. To this day, John cites it as the best investment he has ever made in his business.

John has been on the NTCA Board of Directors serving as regional director, 2nd vice president, 1st vice president, president, chairman and currently as advisor to the Board. He has been a member of the NTCA Technical Committee since 2004 and co-authored the NTCA Business Reference Manual. Cox Tile is a three-time Grand Prize Installation Winner in the TileLetter Awards competition, and also received an Award of Merit in this competition. In 2013, Cox Tile received the Residential Stone Installation prize in the Coverings Installation and Design Awards. For four years running, Cox Tile has been an active participant in the Installation Design Showcase at Coverings.

John was the 13th member contractor to receive the NTCA Five Star Contractor designation and holds a Certified Tile Installer skills validation from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. He is committed to educating his tile setters so they are all Certified Tile Installers. John was honored by the NTCA as Tile Person of the Year in 2009.

Cox Tile is committed to excellence in every endeavor, always taking to heart the principle that “fulfilling a request or performing a task is commonplace – crafting an ambiance, stimulating awe – that’s creativity.”

Visit  the company at or give John a call if you are ever in the San Antonio area at 210-340-1122 – he would love to meet you.

DCOF Testing Mandated in 2014

eric_DCOFThe requirements for coefficient of friction – a measurement of a tile’s frictional resistance, closely related to traction and slipperiness – for ceramic tile have changed. The measurement is now DYNAMIC coefficient of friction (DCOF), which measures COF when in motion, vs. the old testing standard that measured a static COF. Any individual or firm involved in the manufacture, specification, sales, installation, or maintenance of ceramic tile floors must understand the new requirements for tile.

Many manufacturers continue to report COF numbers from the older method (specifically, SCOF values from the ASTM Intl. C1028 test method) along with newly-required COF numbers prescribed by the new ANSI A137.1-2012 standard for ceramic tile, which mandated this change in test methods.

The new test protocol is found in Section 9.6 of the A137.1 standard and is commonly known as the DCOF AcuTestsm.

Starting early in 2014, the old ASTM C1028 method is headed for obsolescence, so many ceramic tile manufacturers will only report their tile’s COF per the DCOF AcuTest.

In addition to the change in test methods, A137.1 now specifies a required DCOF AcuTest value for level interior tiles that will be walked on when wet; the required value is ≥0.42. Previously, there was no required COF value in A137.1 for wet floors, although a minimum SCOF value of 0.6, measured by the ASTM C1028 test method, was commonly specified for ceramic tiles in commercial project specifications. DCOF AcuTest values cannot be compared to old SCOF values due to the use of different wetting agents. For an accurate measure and assurance that the tile meets the minimum 0.42 AcuTest criterion, tile manufacturers MUST use the DCOF AcuTest method.

The technology on which the DCOF AcuTest is based was not available in the United States until recently. The DCOF AcuTest in particular offers several benefits over other methods of measuring COF: it is highly repeatable, it more accurately measures the COF of very smooth surfaces, it correlates well with European measures of COF, and it is portable.

If you haven’t switched yet to specifying/reporting/using/requiring DCOF Acutest values, make the switch today and don’t get left behind when the January 2014 deadline strikes. For more information, visit:

Tools of the Trade – October 2013


This month we look at systems that safeguard the air quality of the jobsite for you and your crew, and also keep things a little cleaner for your client.


I never believed that “dust containment” was a viable option for the health and safety for myself or my employees. I spent plenty of money on different dry systems, before deciding that any grinding or polishing would be done wet. Even though the dust systems had large CFM capacities and good filtration systems, it always seemed that lots of dust escaped into the work area. We kept dry grinding to an absolute minimum.

I do believe that new innovations are better than the old systems available 10-15 years ago, though. OSHA interest in air quality forced these changes, I believe (since no job can afford to be red tagged). Alpha’s retrofit dust systems seem great, and most manufacturers now seem to have pretty effective dust collection systems. When used in conjunction with a good HEPA-filtered vacuum, I can see my “wet only” philosophy changing if purchasing tools with such better technology.

Michael K. Whistler, NTCA presenter/technical consultant 

We are adamant about keeping our clients’ homes as free of dust as possible. We turn off all HVAC during demo, then cover areas in plastic, including cover vents and intakes. We run vacuums next to grinders, and keep windows open. My favorite piece of equipment is a JET air cleaner meant for wood working shops. It measures 12” x 24” x 30” and uses a disposable per filter and a 1 micron internal filter.

I also find it useful to manage expectations as well. We do our best to contain all the dust, but, we are remodeling. We can’t get it all.

Joe Lenner, Infinite Ceramic & Stone Installations, LLC

While I do not claim to be dust free, I do try to minimize the spreading of dust while working on a project. Since 95% of my work comes from residential remodel, my clients seem to appreciate our OCD cleaning procedures. We follow all Lead RRP requirements for dust containment, regardless of the age of the home. This includes zipper doors, zip walls in large open spaces, and tacky pads as we exit the area of work. I have also been switching as many of my tools over to the vacuum shrouds as possible. I recently purchased a negative-air machine to set up during demo to move as many airborne particles out of the house and through a filtering system as possible. Wet grinding and cutting is hard to do in a residential application. So we try to control the dust as much as possible.

Greg Hiens, Hiens Tile & Stone

There seemed to be many dust vacuums on the market. Initially I thought I’d try an inexpensive attempt by attaching my $100 shop vacuum to my concrete grinder. This provided decent results – for a little over a minute – and after only two minutes the brand new shop vacuum filter was absolutely saturated with concrete dust. There was zero air-flow and consequently plumes of dust pouring from my floor grinders.

I then began to look for a true commercial-grade solution. After a few hours of searching I learned of an award-winning dust vacuum that automatically cleaned its filters every ten seconds while the vacuum was still running. The Pulse-Bac 1250 by CDC Larue automatically reverses the internal airflow for just a fraction of a second, which blasts the filters clean. This machine has paid for itself many, many times over. For instance:

We no longer have to stop production to clean filters.

Due to the high CFM of the vacuum, no dust escapes from the grinders. As a result, we no longer have a need to hang up plastic-sheeting barriers. When the cost of the plastic sheeting and the wages to hang the plastic are combined it is rather costly.

We can now avoid frequently purchasing new filters for the cheap shop vacuums. Filter life has transitioned from hours or days for the cheap ones and is now up to months or years for the Pulse-Bac filters.

I believe the single biggest advantage to having this equipment is the improved air quality for the health of my crews, my customers, and myself.

I believe this new system has helped to set my company apart from my competitors. I have been awarded jobs solely on my company’s ability to control dust at the point of origin. While these machines were no small investment, they do pay for themselves over time. I couldn’t imagine not having our Pulse-Bacs; as far as I’m concerned they are necessary equipment.

Jay Zurn, Precision Surfaces LLC


MK_cubeMK Diamond offers the Ermator A600 Air Scrubber, with a 99.99 at .3 micron HEPA filtration, to constantly recycle the air removing these harmful particles. With a sturdy, lightweight, compact cabinet, the Ermator A600 is quiet, with two airflow speeds of 300 and 600 CFM that only draw 3.2 amps. Three-year warranty.

edco_totEDCO vacuum systems control airborne dust particles and shorten clean-ups while reducing worker’s exposure to dust and debris. These systems work with grinders, scarifiers, scabblers and saws, with optional HEPA filters. Among their many features, EDCO vacuum systems feature state-of-the-art filtration that removes 99% of air-borne dust particles at 0.5 microns.

dewalt_totDeWalt offers the DWV012, a 10-gallon HEPA dust extractor with automatic filter clean, that allows continuous operation without stopping to clean filter. The powerful 15-amp motor delivers 140 CFM of airflow for wet or dry applications, weighs only 33.5 lbs. Packed with a range of features, it also offers variable suction and power tool actuation, which controls on/off operations of the vacuum with a power tool.

casellcel_totCasella Cel introduces the Cel-712 Microdust Pro Monitor, a small, rugged, hand-held instrument that measures concentrations of inhalable powders in real-time for graphical display on its high-contrast color LCD. With a wide detection range (0.001 to 25,000 mg/m3) and full data logging, it can be used independently to measure material processes, to capture release events or to be paired with a cyclone, filter cassette, and sample pump for size-selective or gravimetric monitoring.

cclarue_totCDC Larue offers the Pulse-Bac® 1250, a HEPA vacuum with a filter fractional efficiency rating of 98.0% at .3 micron at a CFM flow rate up to 311. The 1250 model comes standard with Pulse-Bac® technology, cyclonic debris management system, a 20-gallon steel tank, HEPA H-13 filters, and a five-caster steel dolly with non-marking casters. An optional tank capacity sensor and three options for collecting debris are also available. The revolutionary design automatically flushes the filters clear while you work, using only ambient air and vacuum.

waltale_totBeaton Innovations’ states that Waletale is the first tool engineered for the tile setter to address the negative effects of the inhalation of free crystalline silica in the work environment. Waletale clips onto the rim of a five-gallon bucket and connects to a vac to significantly reduce the dust generated by the mixing of mortar and grout powders. Winner of Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New 2010.”

gundlach_totBosch offers the Bosch 3931A-PB Airsweep™ Wet/Dry Vacuum, a 13-gallon wet/dry vacuum cleaner that features enhanced filtration and containment options with four operational modes and an electromagnetic filter cleaning system. The Bosch Hammer Dust collection system reduces airborne dust when chiseling, drilling or during demolition, designed especially for use with Bosch SDS Max® Spline hammers. Bosch also offers a range of dust extraction attachments for work with a range of angle grinders.

bosch_totBeno J. Gundlach features FEIN Turbo Vacuums. All FEIN Turbo Vacuums have extremely powerful two-stage bypass soft-start motors with sealed fans for dust and debris suction, and a second fan to blow cooling air across the motor. They have a 5-micron cloth filter that fits the full circumference of the tank and can be converted to a HEPA vacuum. Three-year warranty.

Tech Talk – October 2013

TEC-sponsorWorking with electric heat under tile floors

By Tom Meehan, Cape Cod Tileworks

About 10 years ago when I wrote an article for Fine Homebuilding magazine about electric heat mats under tile floors, I was going to start the article with a rather funny opening line that went like this:  “Every time you step onto a heated tile floor, your feet say ‘ahhh.’”

As silly as that may sound, I have to say that after 10 years of having heated tile floors in my baths and kitchen, there is not a day in the fall and the winter that I do not notice the warmth every time I step onto the tiles. Living in New England, as I do – or anywhere in the northern part of the country – makes this system a nice bonus to have in a house. It is one of the very few things in construction that is simply not taken for granted.

There are several different companies with radiant heat systems on the market, and more are getting into the game each year. All of the systems work well when properly installed and, as usual, each claims to be a little better than the rest. They all seem to provide an equal amount of  heat.

Most can provide adequate warming for a bathroom and use only as much electricity as three or four 100-watt light bulbs. With large floors, such as a large kitchen, the heated floor mat systems can be made with 220-volt electric feed.

warmlyyours_sidebarWarming the floor, heating the room

At one point, electric heat mats were known just for supplying comfort heat, but now manufacturers are claiming that heat mats can be used as primary heat sources in tiled rooms. The great advantage to this is that you can heat the area you chose without affecting the heating system in the rest of the house. This is great for a three-season room or a basement.

One of the best advantages of these heating systems is that they have their own heat control unit that can be timed to turn the heat on according to your schedule. For instance, you can set it to come on at  5:00 a.m. and to go off four hours later after everyone has gone to work or school. Why pay for the heat when no one is home to use it?

The two most commonly-used electric heat mat systems are the flat mat made of woven polyester fabric in which the heat wires are embedded, and the roll-out mat. Only a couple of companies have the flat-fabric mats (that I know of), but many companies have the roll-out mats. I use both, and they both have their pros and cons.

Flat or roll-out mats: pros and cons

While I find the flat mats to be the quickest and easiest heating mats to install, there are a couple of drawbacks to keep in mind. The flat mats cost a little more than the other models, and once purchased and on the job site, the one-piece mats cannot be altered. The advantages of the flat mat are that it goes down very quickly, is easy to work with, and does not build up the height of the floor as much as the roll-out mats.

Roll-out mats can be customized to fit any size room. Once you have purchased the correct amount of square footage, they are completely adjustable left to right and back and forth. They also can be easily purchased at most tile stores and big box stores. They do take more of an effort, more time to install, and do in most cases take up more height because it is hard to keep the wires perfectly flat, since the coiled wires have some roll-up memory.

Here are some important tips to always keep in mind. Even though the mats are different in application, almost all rules apply.

Wires can never be cut NO MATTER WHAT. The mats should be ordered to a size smaller than the actual size of the room, and NEVER go under the toilet, vanity, or any other built-in furniture.

Every system has a thermostat probe wire that must be installed in the floor with the mat. The probe must be positioned a couple of feet into the room but must not cross over the heating element wires. So, the probe wire will go down one of the channels in between  the heating wires. Use a glue gun or tape to help hold it in place.

Check the electrical current with a voltage meter or a warning alarm device provided by the manufacturer. This MUST happen before installation, during installation, and when the job is complete. I leave the alarm device hooked up during the entire installation.

Once installed, the heat mats MUST be protected when being worked on. Even though the products are pretty rugged, a sharp knife or chisel will cut through the wires very easily.

Before installation, PLEASE read the manufacturer’s requirements and instructions. Each unit can be different. Proper setting materials must be used or the complete job may fail. For instance, woven mats have to be installed with latex-modified thin-set mortar and the tile being applied to them must be installed with latex-modified thinset as well.

Here is the biggest tip of all. With 95% of the heating mats I put in, I install a stress-, crack-isolation or uncoupling membrane (like Schulter® DITRA) over the heat mat before I install the tile. The membrane strengthens the floor, but more than that, it provides a buffer in case a tile ever has to be changed. Avoiding damaging the wires is a key factor. Also, the heat rising up through an uncoupling membrane provides better distributing of the heat. Using these membranes increases the price of the job and it also increases the height of the floor, but if figured in the early stages, it’s the best way to go to avoid any problems (and allow you to get to sleep at night).

Here are some electric floor warming systems to consider:

easyheatmatEasyHeat’s Warm Tiles Elite Mats™ are designed for fine residential and commercial floors. They are available in both standard rectangular sizes and custom layouts ranging from six to 120 square feet for areas with irregular shapes. Adding to their versatility is that the mats can be ordered in either 120V or 240V with high power output, so floors heat faster and more efficiently.

warmlyyoursmatWarmlyYours Radiant’s TempZone™ Flex Rolls and Custom Mats add luxurious comfort to any room. With an industry-leading 15 watts per square foot, they provide powerful floor heating options. WarmlyYours supports its easy-to install TempZone™ products with planning and design services, unparalleled 24/7 installation and technical support, and a 25-year No Nonsense™ Warranty.

nuheatrollsThe Nuheat Floor Heating System heats tile, stone and laminate/engineered wood floors. Built like an electric blanket, Nuheat manufactures pre-built electric radiant heating mats available in over 60 standard sizes. For oddly-shaped rooms with curves and angles, Nuheat will manufacture a custom mat built to the exact specification of any space in only three days. The pre-built nature of the heating system creates an extremely easy install while still providing a viable heating alternative to electric baseboard heaters.

warmupthermostatWarmup offers the exclusive 3iE™, the world’s first fully interactive, touch-technology and energy monitoring thermostat for heated floors. Temperature can now be regulated with ease and precision, and it can be programmed in under 10 seconds. Visit to learn more about the 3iE™ and The World’s Best-selling Floor Heating brand®! See how to install Warmup floor heating systems by visiting this YouTube at

LAT-floorheatLATICRETE® has expanded its radiant heating offering by introducing Floor HEAT Wire. Floor HEAT Wire is a heating wire that is unattached to a grid mesh mat, offering unprecedented flexibility especially in tight areas or around furniture or fixtures that make it difficult to position a heating mat. Floor HEAT Wire is part of a comprehensive, lifetime warranty system for tile and stone applications, allowing contractors the simplicity of single-source supply. The LATICRETE Lifetime Warranty covers the floor warming system and its components, and thin-set mortar, grout and surface preparation products.


Tom Meehan is a second generation installer with over 30 years experience. He is also a state director for the NTCA. Tom is a long time writer for a number of different magazines and is the author of the book Working with Tile, which combines both design and installation techniques.

Case Study – Kitchen Transformation


Adept installation and design support beautifies and modernizes 40-year old kitchen

By Gary Kight, Conceptual Tile Solutions

In early July, a customer contacted me about installing a tile backsplash and kitchen floor. I set up an appointment with them to look at the scope of work involved and explained I could help out with some of the design ideas and tile selection.

When I arrived at the customers’ house and looked at the project, I discovered a galley-style kitchen (long and narrow) with an existing 1970s-era, aluminum 4” tile and Formica countertops that the clients wanted to update. I suggested that a 12”– 16” tile set on a 45-degree angle on the floor would look nice and give an illusion that the kitchen was not as long and narrow. They were unsure what they wanted for the backsplash, though they liked the 3” x 6” subway-tile look with some sort of design feature over the cook-top area. We talked about different ideas, and I recommended a couple of tile stores and contacts for them to research some different tiles and layout designs. I also gave them the link to the John Bridge “Tile Your World” forum ( because I have been a member for numerous years and continually learn from the site and professional members.

1kitchenDuring the following three weeks, the clients called me a couple of times for advice and to let me know the countertops were being installed. About three weeks later, the customers called me back and told me they had made their tile selection and were ready for the installation.

Selecting the tile

I met with the clients again to review the design with the tile they selected. They chose a ceramic 13” x 13” Hispania Cerámica tile from the Gobi series in Mojave Sand for the floor; a Daltile 2” x 1” Fantesa Cameo Mosaic subway look for the backsplash and combined with Dune Metallic Gold glass tile and a 6” x 6” tile from Daltile’s Brixton line in Sand for above the cook-top design feature. Originally, a typical bull-nose trim was selected for the backsplash; however, I showed them my Schluter profile sample kit and they immediately opted for a Rondec profile in the Bahama color. After reviewing several design and color options with the new granite countertops, the clients selected the best combinations. I suggested a darker ring with a lighter center to help the feature stand out. A few days later, the client approved the final sketches.

The first day on the job, I had a couple of different variables to deal with. The first thing I looked at was a center reference – both horizontal and vertical – for the cook-top design feature. Based on that, I laid out a rough design for the cook-top feature. I then started laying out the rest of the backsplash area. As I drew reference lines, I realized the original design feature would overpower the regular backsplash area. When I showed this to the homeowner, they agreed, and I modified the design feature.

3kitchenAccommodating thick and thin tile

Once I got a handle on the overall layout design, I had other issues to address. The thickness of the two tiles in the design feature – plus the regular field tile of the backsplash – were all different. To overcome this obstacle I drew out reference lines where the design feature would exactly lay out. Once that was done, I tapered a layer of thin-set mud from about 1/16” to a feather edge about 5” around the design feature area. I then went ahead and laid my 1” x 2” field tile on the opposite wall to allow the mud to set. A couple of hours later it was set up enough to build up my transition. After laying the entire 2” x 1” subway tile, I came in the next day and measured the glass tile border strips and nailed up screen molding, which left me with a 3” perimeter gap where the glass tile would sit. Because the glass tile was the thinnest of the entire tile, I built up that area 3/16” so that after the glass tile was installed, the final design would sit flush. After the thinset was applied and left to dry for the buildup area, I caulked all of the 90-degree corners of tile – and where the tile met the granite countertops – with LATICRETE® LatisilTM caulk in the Latte color(also the grout color), using LATICRETE’s PermaColorTM grout.

The following day I removed the screen molding form boards I had made, set the tile in the design feature and grouted the opposite wall. A day later I grouted the rest of the backsplash area and did a little prep work for the floor installation that I completed the following week.


From linoleum to tile

The next week I began the floor installation. The previous week I had removed the existing 70s-era linoleum, so all I needed to do was figure out a proper layout and start laying tile. With the long and narrow dimensions of the galley kitchen, I wanted to center my tile layout from side to side, and end to end. I wasn’t too concerned about the dishwasher and refrigerator areas, due to the fact the tile would be always hidden underneath them.

After I found my center reference marks and did a dry layout, I showed the clients and got their approval. They actually thought it made the kitchen look wider than it was!

I pre-cut a couple of tiles,  mixed up some LATICRETE® 253 GoldTM thinset, let it slake up and then began spreading it on the floor. My helper back-buttered the tiles as I set them. As I went along, staying true to the reference lines I had popped on the floor, the transformation emerged. The next day I came in and grouted with the same PermaColorTM grout.

I advised the customers they would have one more day of eating out and then the kitchen would be all theirs. Overall the clients were extremely pleased with the outcome of the tile installation and the new look of their kitchen.

Featury Story: LATICRETE International, Inc.

High-level clients demand high-performance luxury bath

NTCA Five Star Contractor Collins Tile and Stone creates a lavish setting with Daltile and LATICRETE materials

1LatNorthern Virginia is the highest income region in its state, having seven of the 20 highest personal income counties in the entire United States – including the top three as of 2009. In this well-heeled part of our country, there is a population base of 2.6 million, which includes a huge percentage of high-ranking government and military officials. These are powerful people, many of whom are decision-makers of the highest degree. It’s not out of context, therefore, that when homeowners residing in this region decide to have a bathroom remodeled, they set out to learn as much as possible about the process, and then contract an incredibly professional team with very strong credentials to handle this work, expecting nothing less than total excellence.

Such was the case for a major remodeling project of a 350-square-foot master bath, where the homeowners wanted to transform the original space built in 1999 into a more spa-like environment with very special appointments. The bathroom’s well-thought-out overall design plans called for having a steam shower with a vertical wall spa and separate handheld shower, an exhilarating air tub, a beautifully detailed tray ceiling, Roman Corinthian columns and special LED lighting.


2LATLet your project be impeccable

From a performance standpoint, porcelain tile was the best choice for the steam shower; the material chosen combined impeccably with the originally-selected stone floor and decorative wainscoting. And, for the room’s floor, the owners were very focused upon having the best possible electric floor warming system installed, as well.

It was not surprising, therefore, that they contracted with Collins Tile and Stone, a quality-driven firm that has built a solid reputation throughout Northern Virginia, based upon refusing to work at any grade level less than optimal.

“It’s not every day you’re awarded the contract to build a six-figure bathroom,” stated Buck Collins, president of Collins Tile and Stone ( “The owners knew of our commitment to quality; they knew that we would not sacrifice one iota of anything to cut corners. So this project started out on the right foot. We understood each other.”

The stately house itself was only 13 years old, so conventional wisdom would ostensibly state this remodeling project shouldn’t have any of the major obstacles that surface when a dignified older home is about to be remodeled. Not so.

“Before we started any work whatsoever, we had to make sure that we had the right plan of attack,” stated Collins. “This house was built with floor joists that were 24 inches (on center) apart from each other. That size is almost unheard of, so we decided to get some expert advice prior to installing the flooring. Fortunately, we have some of the finest technical representatives servicing our company. Perhaps the best is Kurt Weber, our LATICRETE technical representative.

3ALTSage counsel

“So, it was collectively decided that initially, we would both glue and screw-in an additional layer of plywood underlayment to the existing 3/4” subfloor to mitigate any deflection whatsoever,” Collins continued. “From there, we took Kurt’s sage counsel relative to using the LATICRETE® System. Before we installed the first piece of tile,” continued Collins, “we primed the plywood with LATICRETE Admix & Primer, as we wanted this substrate to be in ideal condition for the next step, which was the installation of LATICRETE® Floor HEAT, a product we consider to be the crème de la crème of its genre.”

Collins, whose company installs electric floor heating in 80% of its residential projects, went on to state that Collins Tile and Stone uses LATICRETE Floor HEAT exclusively, not only because it is the “easiest system to install,” but also because “unlike a 12-watt system, at 15 watts it heats up a floor much more rapidly.”

4LATOnce the LATICRETE Floor HEAT was put in place, Collins’ skilled craftsmen covered it with LATICRETE 86 LatiLevel™, a cementitious powder that is mixed with water to produce a free-flowing, self-leveling underlayment mortar for rapid leveling of interior subfloors.

Another installation challenge arose with the bathroom floor’s stone “rug.” Its border and inside marble tiles were of different thicknesses; the basket-weave design inside the border consisted of material that was 1/8” thinner than the material which made up the border. To best meet this challenge, the installers flash-backed the inside stone using LATICRETE 4-XLT for optimal performance, assuring that both materials were perfectly level with each other, eliminating any possible lippage. LATICRETE 4-XLT is a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar built on the new LATICRETE Water Dispersion Technology™ (WDT) platform. WDT provides for the complete dispersion of water within the mix, allowing users to achieve the desired application consistency.

The new steam shower was constructed with Daltile 13” x 13” porcelain tiles set diagonally on the walls and ceiling with LATICRETE 4-XLT. Proper accommodation/movement joints were installed using LATICRETE LataSil™, which matched the LATICRETE PermaColor® Grout that was used throughout the entire project.

LATICRETE LataSil is a high-performance silicone sealant designed for use in coves, corners, changes in plane and expansion joints in exterior and interior applications of tile and stone. LATICRETE PermaColor Grout is a fast-setting and color-consistent material providing a grout joint that is extraordinarily dense and hard.

5LAT“Collins Tile and Stone is a member of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Five Star Program, which was created by the association’s board of directors as a way to recognize a select number of  companies with a proven track record of excellence in our trade,” Collins said – and the company has been a contractor participant in the Installation Design Showcase at Coverings over the last several years.

Trusted partners

“Our installation team consists of individuals who have become Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) by successfully completing the very demanding testing program administered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF),” Collins added. “We want to do the job right, and our people have the highest credentials to do just that,” added Collins. “But, because every tile project is unique, we don’t have all the answers for every installation. Because of that, we have to turn to trusted business partners. That’s why so often over  the years, I’ve called on Kurt Weber of LATICRETE to bounce around ideas, and ultimately, come up with the best possible solutions. We are fortunate to have such a great relationship with our suppliers.

“And for a job such as this,” concluded Collins, “the synergy of working with professional, world-class companies such as Daltile and LATICRETE was just incredible. Ultimately, this project will speak for itself for many, many years.”

Kurt Weber added, “Good business is built upon good relationships, and we at LATICRETE certainly have one with Collins Tile and Stone. Whenever we partner with people with a similar mindset that is based upon working at the highest levels of professionalism and using only the finest materials, it continually will be a win-win for all involved.”


Business Tip – October 2013

mapei_sponsorFinancial Operations: running your tile business the right way

In this issue of TileLetter, we move to the Financial Operations section of the NTCA Business Reference Manual, as found on page 31 in that document. Part A familiarizes you with common accounting terms related to your business, and part B explains the labor burden rate. 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

Financial operations

The relationship with an accountant is vital to running your business smoothly and profitably. Your accountant can advise you on the complexities of federal and state taxes and benefit you with good and proper record keeping. Your accountant can help you decide what type of business classification is best for you, and can be a valuable resource for future decision making.

a. Common accounting terms

BOOKKEEPING – the recording of monetary transactions related to your business.

ACCOUNTING – the financial structure of a company. An accountant helps design financial systems, conduct audits, develop forecasts, prepare tax reports, and analyze and interpret financial data for business decisions. Your accounting should be set up on cost accounting, not tax accounting. Tile contracting is a cost-based business.

CHART OF ACCOUNTS – When you set up your accounting program, the chart of accounts shows a specific numbered category which will be associated with each expense and type of income. A basic bookkeeping program will have a sample chart of accounts, or your accounting professional will have an outline for you to use. Setting up the Chart of Accounts correctly will make all your accounting work run more smoothly.

INCOME STATEMENT – Also referred to as the Profit and Loss statement, the Income Statement indicates how a company’s sales and expenses tally for a specific period of time. The difference between revenue (goods and services sold) and expenses (cost of goods and services provided) for a particular time is net income.

BALANCE SHEET – a “snapshot of a company’s financial condition” – a balance sheet shows assets (what you own), liabilities (what you owe), and ownership equity. The net worth of your business equals assets minus liabilities.

CASH FLOW STATEMENT – The flow of cash into and out of the business is reflected in its cash flow statement. This report is useful in determining the short-term viability of a company, particularly its ability to pay bills. It is useful to managers, accountants, potential lenders and investors, as well as the business owners.

PROFIT AND LOSS (P&L) STATEMENT – A regularly-produced report that shows the overall financial health of an organization by documenting income versus expenses. A well set-up P& L allows you to make good daily business decisions. Note: make sure depreciation is not included in this statement. First, you cannot use it; second, you cannot spend it, and if it is under expenses it pushes up your markup.

b. Labor burden rate 

“Burden rate is the total indirect cost, calculated as a percentage of the construction company’s direct labor. In other words, for every dollar of direct labor allocated to a contract, burden is applied as a percentage of the direct labor. But before a contractor can accurately calculate burden rate, all contract costs assumed by the company must be fully accounted for and factored into the final burden rate equation.

“Contract costs are broken into two classifications-direct and indirect. Examples of direct costs include direct labor, materials and supplies, equipment rentals, etc. These costs are obvious inclusions for estimators preparing bids for a potential contract. What may not be as obvious are the indirect contract costs.

“Indirect contract costs that should be part of the final burden rate calculation include:

  • Workers’ compensation
  • General liability and automobile insurances
  • Vehicle and equipment repairs and maintenance
  • Depreciation
  • Field communications expenses
  • Employee benefits such as health, life, disability
  • Payroll taxes

“All costs associated with paying employees, including FICA, unemployment and Social Security, should be calculated as part of labor, as should vacation time, holidays, sick days, warehouse personnel, training, safety, hand tools, and clothing.

“Variable overhead should also be factored into the overall mix. This category includes all costs directly related to employees that cannot be divided accurately between jobs, such as fuel and cell phones.

“All too often, these overhead expenses are overlooked by contractors and therefore not included when calculating a project’s burden rate. Depending on the benefit package involved, employee-related costs will typically account for 24% to 33% for a non-union contractor. For a union contractor, the burden rate for employee-related costs will range from 60% to 70%.”

– From

Ask the Experts – October 2013


I have a question about a new home constructed in 2012. We have porcelain tile over cement backer board over LP 3/4 floor decking. The backer board was installed with thinset to the OSB and screwed down. Tile was then thin set to the cement backer.

AtE-OctI have issues with loose tiles in two areas: kitchen and master bath. An engineer has assessed the I-joists and beams and found no movement or deflection. The contractor wants to blame the radiant floor heating, but I have hundreds of square feet of tile unaffected by the radiant heating. Any thoughts? Attached are a couple of interesting pictures.


Thank you for including the pictures. They make this an easy diagnosis. Your tile installer did not include movement accommodation joints (or insufficiently-sized joints) in your tile job.

Tile expands and contracts, and at a different rate from the substrate below. Every method shown in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation requires movement accommodation joints. Interior dry areas need joints no more than 20’-25’ in each direction; exteriors, wet areas and interiors exposed to sunlight (i.e. where south-facing windows occur) 8’-12’ maximum. Glass tile and any radiant-heated tile need reduced distances, and in all areas, perimeter joints (where tile meets walls, cabinets or any dissimilar plane or surface) must be left open or filled with a flexible sealant. Even if the field distances are not exceeded, not including perimeter joints can cause this failure.

Many tile installers do not know the industry standards or have never experienced this failure, because it does not ALWAYS occur, but unfortunately for you, this is part of the learning curve for your installer. It generally does not take but one or two of these failures for an installer to learn the importance of including movement accommodation and spending the time up front to educate his clients (because there is generally an additional fee to perform this step within a tile project).

And please note that the thinset type is not a factor as long as it is suitable to tile and substrate. Even if there was a thinset that was 50 times stronger, the forces exerted by expansion cycling would still overcome it. Typically the thinset itself shears, but if it were stronger thinset, it would likely change the shear point to the substrate surface or the thinset/substrate interface.

The requirement to include movement accommodation joints is included in each installation method within the TCNA Handbook, and the specifics on placement and construction of joints is in section EJ-171. The TCNA Handbook is available on our website at for sale. It is really a standard that every tile installer should own.

Michael K. Whistler, NTCA presenter/
technical consultant

President’s Letter – October 2013

dan welch imageOctober is the time of year that you find out if all of the year’s activities have a chance of paying off. It’s the start of the last quarter – the time to ask, “Do we have the fuel (a.k.a. work) in the company tank to finish with profit?”

This month I want to talk about the effect volume has on a company. Riding the tile roller coaster for the past five years, I have learned a few things. One is that you can recover gross profit on every job but that doesn’t ensure you will make net profit at the end of the year. If you do not forecast and follow a tight budget, the overhead can kill your gross profit and leave you scratching your head.

Net profit is our business goal and needs to be realized if you intend to be in business for very long. Remember, a tile business has many moving parts that can wear just like a car. If you do not change the oil and rotate the tires you end up with a blown engine and a flat tire, standing on the side of the road praying for a ride. 2013 has been a year of recovery for many businesses, and a year that the car needs some attention if you plan on running it another year.

For example:

  • Budget $1,000,000 in sales with$180,000 in overhead costs = 18% overhead
  • Actual sales come in short at $800,000 with the same $180,000 in overhead costs = 22.5 % overhead

This scenario lowers your net income by 4.5%. If you planned for a 3% net income you just lost 1.5% ($15,000) because you didn’t have the work to cover your overhead.

This year the opportunities are out there to put some extra work on the books, if you can get it done. We decided to go outside of our comfort level and take on a project out of state that we would not have been able to do without a partner to offer additional labor.

Focusing on business segments that require a quality, highly-knowledgeable, experienced workforce and teaming with others that share your same mantra, is a key to success. The NTCA has helped me team with this like-minded group of individual companies to help grow our business and help them prosper as well.

We are working with Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile on two projects out west. Artcraft’s James Woelfel and I have learned that this process can be a win/win. It allows us to take on large, complex projects with the support of two teams of industry leaders. This process can pay dividends to both companies. It has increased our volume and allowed Artcraft to fill a hole in its schedule.

Traveling across the country with staff can be very expensive and sometimes leaves employees unhappy. However, everyone is unhappy when the year rolls the other direction and work opportunities dry up, triggering a net loss for the employee and the business. Volume needs to be managed to control cost. Strategic planning and taking risks can pay off.

Dan Welch , Welch Tile & Marble
President NTCA

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