President’s Letter – April 2014

dan welch imageAlive 365 Safety Week 2014 ( was a fitting name for a symposium topic offered in western Michigan by Elzinga & Volkers Construction Professionals recently. The concept is to inspire the construction trade to step up its game with regard to safety.

This topic could not have been timelier to us as we have hired our very first, full time safety person. Safety has not always been high on our priority list as a company. Our staff has always been knowledgeable when it comes to quality and production, but some of our work habits need adjusting, and our new hires need to be trained correctly.

When I started in the tile trade one of my first tasks was to mix a solution of sulfamic acid crystals with water. As I poured the crystals into the water bucket a large chunk fell into the water splashing up directly into my eyes. This near miss is just an example of the many things that can happen to your staff working on the job. 2014 is the year that safety becomes one of our priorities.

DanLetter_cons_profSafety is the buzz word around work sites but during this symposium it became increasingly clear that if you don’t get on the bus, you and your staff will be left standing on the curb. E&V Construction did a small skit showing the evolution of safety within the workforce. It started with a 1990s employee wearing a Hard Rock t-shirt with cut-off sleeves, a bandana, tennis shoes, and blue jeans full of holes. Then it showed the employee of the 2000s and on to the 2010 employee, wearing a professional-looking company shirt, hard hat, safety glasses, safety vest, fall protection, and work boots ready for work. I agree with the importance of looking professional, dressing the part, and performing work safely. I want our staff to do the same.

Safety, moving forward, is a necessary part of each and every job we do. Employees becoming aware of the system, buying into the need, and changing the culture of a business safety plan is essential to providing a working system. Documenting and sending the safety data sheets, tool box talks, offering employee training, researching and purchasing new and better equipment, reviewing job hazard analyses, and analyzing the current loss rates to see what you do well and what you don’t do well are all imperative to your success. Remember, the employee into whom you have invested so much is counting on the leadership you provide to keep them safe.


Dan Welch
President, NTCA

Editor’s Letter – April 2014

Lesley psf head shotHere we are, on the cusp of Coverings, about to be filled with knowledge, networking and inspiration.

I don’t know about you, but I love to learn (OK, maybe not math, but everything else). Even more than that, I love to be inspired. My favorite parts of Coverings and Total Solutions Plus conferences are the speakers that spark my imagination, ignite new ideas, provide me with a new perspective and inspire me to tackle a challenge in a way I never dreamed.

I know that business is largely about planning and strategy. You need to project, predict, look ahead and foretell. It’s good to know what’s coming so you can be ready.

But sometimes you can’t. And sometimes the best things come from an inspired choice in the moment, or in a situation that you didn’t see coming.

I’m not always a fan of the risk-taking path. I am a planner extraordinaire (as anyone who knows me well will tell you). I like to plan out a project and then plan for contingencies and then plan for the contingencies of the contingences. But sometimes something vital and alive gets lost in that extreme planning.

I recently drove from Albuquerque to Denver to attend an inspirational conference that gathered together cutting-edge thinkers and speakers in the realm of medicine, spirituality, communication, neurobiology, psychology and health. It was an impulsive thing for me to do, right in the middle of our busiest work cycle of the year. And yet, it felt necessary – I felt a strong pull to break free of my usual nose-to-the-grindstone first six months of the year, and take a weekend to get inspired.

So I did it.

I don’t have enough space here to share with you all I learned. But a few messages stand out – actually variations on a theme.

The first is a quote from Alex Woodard: “You can make your way through life with a compass; you don’t necessarily need a map.” I literally found that to be true, using GPS to navigate my way from Albuquerque to Denver (pretty much a straight shot up I-25, until you get into the city). I needed a general idea of where I was going, with guideposts along the way. And I realized that works best in my life as well – a general direction, with course corrections and updates as I navigate the sometimes bumpy ride that is known as life.

Your business can be like this too. Sure, you are an ace tile and/or stone contractor, and you know you want to do excellent work. But sometimes you need to course-correct. Maybe a recession hits (we all know THAT experience all too well) or you have changes in your staff or suppliers. You’re aiming for a goal, but you might need to take a detour or look for the lighthouse to get you further down the road.

The next message was from Dr. Joe Dispenza, who said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it from the unknown – NOT from the comfortable or familiar.” This is akin to Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

What this says to me is that sometimes we need to break out of the box of our own thinking and expertise. This does NOT mean throw knowledge and expertise to the winds or disregard them – it means climb atop them and use them to get a fresh perspective of how you can do what you do. See from a new vista. Don’t ignore the facts of your business, but don’t be weighed down by them either – they are a factor in your success, not the complete predictors of it. Your creative mind – and the creative minds of your co-workers and staff – has what it takes to overcome any problem that comes your way.

What inspires you? Maybe it will be something you learn at Coverings. Maybe it’s something that you’ve learned from your mentor and has been your watchword all your life. I’d like to know it. Inspire me and TileLetter readers! Please share your greatest quote or inspiration with me at [email protected], and I’ll share it with our readers in a future article.

Stay inspired,


Merkrete Systems – April 2014 Feature – Revamping Del Amo Fashion Center


Going face to face with a giant is an awesome task. So you can imagine the size of the challenge when the selected team was assigned with revamping Del Amo Fashion Center, one of the largest shopping malls in the United States.

Owned by Simon Property Group Inc., the massive Torrance, Calif., shopping facility was once the largest mall in the country. Though the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., took over that spot in August, 1992, Del Amo remains a giant in its own right. The center actually evolved out of several retail developments which, in 1961, grew together and fused into what is now referred to by Torrance locals as simply Del Amo Mall.


Famous products at a legendary site

When the request came for Merkrete products to play a role in a renovation at the mall, it was not only the size of the center that presented a unique challenge, but also its almost legendary reputation. Clearly, the standards would be extremely high. And why not? Today’s modern shopping complexes are more than just places to shop for a pair of Levis or back-to-school outfits. In the 21st century, you’re just as apt to head out to your nearest shopping center to see your optometrist, take a training session on the newest high-tech gadget, go to a movie or enjoy a meal, as you are to buy a pair of shoes or a new set of pajamas.

Merkrete_3Considering how much foot traffic malls like this absorb, choosing the right tile setting materials is of the greatest importance for a renovation of this magnitude.

“Knowing all your labor costs and, more importantly, remembering that your reputation is on the line, makes it so vital to select the best products,” stated Eyl Reguev, president of Coastal Tile of Los Angeles, which was instrumental in the flooring part of the renovation. “That’s why we knew that Merkrete was the right choice, and that in its international resource of experts from Parex Group, we would have all the components for success. Knowing that Emser Tile would be there as well with the stock we needed, every time we needed it, also made our tiling decision easy.”

Timely solutions for a sizable challenge

The job at Del Amo Mall called for large-format tiles. When installing 24”x24” and 12”x24” porcelains over Merkrete’s Fracture Guard 7000 isolation membrane in a high-traffic mall situation, time is the enemy. Once the first foot hits the floor at 7 a.m., you better have a thin-set that is cured and ready to perform.

Merkrete’s new 720RS, a rapid-setting, medium-bed mortar was the only solution that could meet our demands,” said Moises Alvarado, general superintendent for Coastal Tile. “With big porcelains over a membrane, other thin-sets might take days before you could walk on them without fracturing bond. Merkrete’s 720RS solved an issue that no one else could!”

“Surface preparation is also a large problem,” noted Reguev. “After demolition of the existing material, we had a concrete surface that looked like the surface of the moon. With areas as deep as two inches up to a light skim coat, Merkrete’s ProPatch Plus performed easily and cured in less than two hours. In fact, Merkrete ProPatch Plus was able to handle all these issues with one product – a real life-saver for the demanding time requirements of an existing mall. Without the innovation of Merkrete’s extensive product line and the knowledge of their field service people, this project could have taken many days longer.”


Unfazed by any phase

Under the veteran eye of Whiting-Turner General Contractors, this behemoth shopping mall is now in the midst of a three-phase renovation. Phase I has begun in the Del Amo food court. Like most households, the food is where the action is, so it offers the most demanding challenges for the tile contractor. Grouting an area of this size with 100% epoxy grout is always an issue. Merkrete’s Pro Epoxy has worked extremely well, with easy cleanup that leaves no troublesome haze.

When it comes to the critical waterproofing under tile, no one has a better system than Merkrete Hydro Guard 2000, with over 30 years of continued success. Once again, Merkrete was the definitive choice, hands down.

A giant mall such as Del Amo is certainly a high-profile assignment. But whether it is a huge shopping complex or a small project that is just a fraction of Del Amo’s size, choosing the right tile-setting materials, like Merkrete brand products, is the first step toward ensuring successful results. And that’s a giant step in anyone’s business model.


Benefits Box – March 2014


NTCA offers a huge range of benefits to members, including networking opportunities, Fleet Truck Pricing, the Partnering for Success voucher program that now makes $1,800 vouchers available to new and returning members, the NTCA Membership Directory, Bid Rx Prescription program, freight program, NTCA Contractors Safety Program, property and liability insurance program, professional web page and much, much more. NTCA promotes, advocates for and supports the trade, providing training and education for aspiring and practicing tile setters.

Why is this important? The letters below detail just a few reasons why – growing our trade with new blood and equipping tradespeople with the knowledge and support they need to excel. Visit and find out more about NTCA today!

Where have all the young tile setters gone?

BenefitsBox-greenI recently had the pleasure to attend the Surfaces show in Las Vegas. While standing at the CFI Ceramic Installation Training & Certification area, I saw a variety of men and women doing the hands-on installation requirements to achieve the “certification.” What struck me most was the relatively low amount of “young” installers at that certification. I started installing tile when I was 13 years old. That is now 43 years ago.

I got into tile from my neighbor who was a tile setter as well as his father. He asked the kids in the neighborhood if they wanted to learn a trade. I was the only taker. I went through school and was actually accepted to Purdue to become a mechanical engineer. I had all the advanced math and science classes in high school. But there was something about setting tile that struck a chord with me personally. I loved the idea that I was able to “change the landscape” by setting tile. This trade rewards the installers to actually SEE a difference when we leave the job site.

No offense to the kids going to college to become computer geeks so they can create the next video game. But, don’t look down on the TRADES as anything LESS than a rewarding career.

Remember who you call when your toilet doesn’t flush. I’ll bet you are glad then that somebody decided to get into the trades.

As the “older” tile guys hang up their tools, let’s brainstorm ways we can bring more interest into the TRADES, TILE SPECIFICALLY, to the young generation. Most of the “artists” that set tile have tile in their blood.

I’ve heard it said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” – If that’s true, I haven’t worked for over 40 years!

– Phil Green, Edge Strip Kits

NTCA: a vital resource for our industry

BenefitsBox-CoronaMy father, Joe (president of Corona Marble and Tile), was the one that introduced me to the NTCA a few years ago and made it known from the very beginning, that it was a vital resource to expanding our business and upholding quality in our industry. At 27 years old – with six full years under my belt installing (plus the summer/ winter breaks I spent working throughout college) – I am personally thankful to have an organization like the NTCA behind my company to assist in raising the bar for the work we do. I regularly run into customers who are skeptics of my abilities/knowledge because of my age, which, to them, equates to “lack of experience.” It can be a heavy burden on an installer doing work in somebody’s house and when the client doesn’t have confidence in them. If it weren’t for the NTCA/TileLetter, my confidence and technical knowledge in what I do would not be where it is today. For that, I’m very thankful.

– Mike Corona, Corona Marble & Tile, Woodbine, MD

Tech Talk – Tile industry-recognized certification can make the difference in your business

TEC-sponsorAccept no substitutes – CTI and ACT are the only officially recognized certifications in the tile industry

I just returned from the International Surface West event in Las Vegas. It was clearly evident that all the organizations that represent the floor-covering industry are emphasizing the importance of quality installation as an essential component to the growth of their respective industries. Throughout the show floor, you could find training seminars, live demonstrations, and certification testing taking place. This is a really good thing to see.


By Bart Bettiga, executive director, NTCA and CTEF and member of ACT Taskforce

As a leader in the tile industry, I want to point out something that I think is very important about the word CERTIFICATION. It can be used in a variety of ways, and the tile industry needs to address this word immediately, so that we understand the difference as it relates to who is qualified to do what type of work in commercial and residential installations.

There are training programs currently being offered by some organizations that are entry-level relating to installing tile. At the end of the training session, “certifications” are given that the installer has successfully completed this program. There are also proprietary manufacturer training programs and online, knowledge-based seminars that offer “certification” for completing the course.

I want to be very clear in my point here. These are great things to see happen. Anyone who is offering training and increasing knowledge for the sale or installation of tile and stone is contributing to our industry growth.

All “certifications” are not created equally

But – and this is a big but – if these programs are marketed in the incorrect way, then all the good they have done is quickly swept away. This is, in fact, dangerous for our industry.

This is why the tile industry has taken a strong stance on the word CERTIFICATION. This is why we have written clear language related to qualified labor in the TCNA Handbook and in Master Specifications. We have to differentiate the installers that are truly qualified from those who are not.

TT-1The ONLY OFFICIAL certification currently being recognized by the tile industry – in accordance with standards set out by the tile industry – are the CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certification and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) Program. The language is clear. In addition to these two certifications, we recognize Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship programs as a way to qualify installers as well.

Why is tile so different and why are we so serious about this? For one thing, tile installations are often designed to be permanent, often installed in wet areas, and at times with other living space underneath the installation. It is very expensive to replace, and other products have to be moved and can be damaged when replacement has to take place.

Tile and stone comes in different sizes, shapes, and formats, is extremely challenging, and not forgiving in regard to installation. It needs to be looked at differently than other floor coverings when considering who is qualified to perform the work.

Our own industry recognized that even a rigorous certification test like the CTI exam the CTEF offers was not enough. That is why we partnered with all the leading tile industry trade associations to develop the ACT program – so that we go further into specific skills such as shower pans, mudwork, waterproofing and crack isolation, and large-format tile. We will be adding grouting applications and thin-tile installation very soon.

Invest in industry-recognized certifications: CTI and ACT

To every tile installation contractor who reads TileLetter regularly I am telling you today: contact the CTEF or your local union representatives to discuss the official, tile-industry-recognized CTI or ACT programs. If you are already a CTI, you need to make plans to become ACT-certified. You need to differentiate yourself from the competition. And you definitely need to understand the difference between these certifications and others that are being offered and rewarded out there.

I can’t think of anything more damaging in our industry than a beginning tile installer getting hired instead of a more qualified tile contractor because they have a piece of paper that says they are “certified” in a program that the tile industry doesn’t recognize. How would a consumer or builder know the difference? They wouldn’t! You need to get officially certified in a program our industry supports and recognizes, and you need to understand how to explain that to your customer.

Certification is here to stay. The specifications are starting to call for it. Our industry needs it; the quality tile contractors need it as well. Contact us immediately to discuss how we can help you set yourself apart from the competition.

[email protected]

Coverings: a look back

coverings_lookbackBy Joe Tarver, NTCA executive director emeritus, and Bart Bettiga, NTCA executive director


tile_expoThe first International Tile Exposition in Anaheim, Calif., in 1990 marked the beginning of the coming together of the players in the domestic and foreign tile industries. Over the years it has successfully weathered a shaky and contentious start to set new records of tile and stone usage in the United States, far beyond anyone’s expectations.

In the early years there existed an environment of tense and strained negotiations and meetings among the players – National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Italian and Spanish tile manufacturer associations – compounded by language and cultural differences that made it difficult at times to fully and clearly understand exactly what each of the joint venture partners needed or expected. The challenge was how to slice the pie so that each partner could exist and financially continue its programs and activities to grow the industry. Ultimately people got to know each other, friends were made, trust was gained and the mere logic that everyone had to work together to reach goals was realized. Technology improved communications and language barriers lessened.

Coverings history-the early years

Cvgs_lookback-1From the rain-flooded tents of the first International Tile Exposition (ITE) to the present time, the evolution of the show has been quite an accomplishment. Early on, NTCA provided tile setting contests on the show floor to appeal to contractor attendance. It had a good foundation to do so – its annual Convention and Exposition was the largest available to the tile, stone and allied products industries, including an international audience – for 39 years prior to the mergers that heralded the existence of Coverings.

Negotiations with CTDA, beginning in 1986, resulted in a merger known as “Tile Expo.” The Association of Tile, Terrazzo, Marble Contractors and Affiliates (ATTMCA) – as NTCA was then known – insisted on the inclusion of Tile Council of America (TCA) in the negotiations and they became an owner of Tile Expo when the new entity was formed.

The first Tile Expo was held in November 1987 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. ATTMCA already had planned, confirmed and scheduled a show at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando in April 1987 – attendance at both shows was exceptional. Two additional Tile Expos were held, one in 1988 in San Francisco and one in 1989 in Dallas.

Discussions with the Europeans for a possible merger of Tile Expo with World Exposition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings began in November 1987 in Orlando. The first full meeting was held at Assopiastrelle (the Italian tile manufacturers’ association) in Italy, on July 1, 1988.

cvgs-2“I attended that meeting with David Knox, president of CTDA,” said Joe Tarver, executive director emeritus of NTCA, who was secretariat to the joint venture for five years as well as chairman in 1992 and 2000. “After a contentious beginning, enough progress was made for a second meeting at Tile Expo in July 1988. A third meeting in New York, September 26-27, 1988 resulted in a signed contract.”

The fourth and final meeting of the principals of the industry’s five major trade associations, Assopiastrelle, ASCER (Association of Tile Manufacturers of Spain), NTCA, CTDA and TCA, was held in Atlanta on August 1, 1989, and the agreement signed in New York was ratified.

The first International Tile Exposition was held June 7-9,1990 in Anaheim, but because the convention center was not completed on time, show management had to erect huge tents to accommodate the overwhelming numbers of exhibitors. Unseasonable rain flooded the tents and made conditions generally miserable for exhibitors and attendees, yet the show was considered a huge success.

The annual meetings continued under the name of International Tile Exposition until 1993. Subsequent meetings were called International Tile And Stone Expositions (ITSE) until 1997 when the current name of Coverings was adopted.

Because of cultural differences and tile and stone installation differences in Europe (there were virtually no contractors there) and the United States, our contractor association was hardly recognized as an entity and held in low esteem during the early negotiations.

“Through the ATTMCA’s negotiating skills and persistent interjection of the importance of tile contractors to the U.S tile industry, we persevered and convinced our European partners that we belonged at the table and would play a major role in the success of our joint venture,” Tarver said. “The importance of our association and its contributions to the success of Coverings is readily recognized and acknowledged among all of the partners today. I’m proud to count a great number of people from Italy, Spain and other European countries among my good friends.”

Coverings today

cvgs-4Now celebrating its 25th year, Coverings continues to be the driving force for tile and stone sales in North America. Perhaps equally as important have been the free educational programs offered at the show since its inception. This remains a core strategy for the Coverings Board of Directors, and has positively impacted the industry in many ways.

Bart Bettiga has been the executive director of the NTCA since 2002, and has served as show chairman in 2005 and 2010. He cites increased activity on the show floor as one of the most positive developments in recent years to the show.

cvgs-3“We followed up the early tile-setting contests with an installation stage, with TCNA (formerly TCA) members and NTCA trainers educating attendees on the latest products and installation techniques. Following on that line, we developed new programs like the Installation Design Showcase and Contractor Days to offer more show-floor excitement. I truly believe these programs have been instrumental in creating a more valuable experience, resulting in repeat attendance to the show.”


Five Star Contractor Spotlight – Performance Tile and Marble Co., Inc.

custom-sponsorPerformance Tile and Marble Co., Inc.

LaPlace, La.

Since: 1989

Specialty: Custom residential, light commercial, high-risk waterproofing projects (i.e. decks, balconies, showers, steam showers), ADA-compliant projects.

five starWebsite:

Performance Tile and Marble Company was founded in 1989, located in LaPlace, La., near New Orleans, and services all of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. With vast technical knowledge of the tile industry, Performance Tile is sought out by contractors, designers and architects throughout the Southeast as problem solvers. As one of the original NTCA Five Star Contractors – and the only one in the state of Louisiana – it has always been committed to excellence.

Performance Tile supplies and installs all types of tile and stone – using only premium setting materials – and not only meets, but exceeds industry standards.

Todd Duhe is the president of Performance Tile and Marble Company. His wife, Gina, runs the office and the showroom. They are both committed to advancement of the tile trade. Todd is one of the NTCA Recognized Industry Consultants (InspecTile Consulting), and mitigated over $9,000,000 in damages due to poor installations in one year.

Todd Duhe is certified in mold remediation, mold inspection, and asbestos-abatement projects to manage hazardous work situations that involve mold and existing asbestos floor coverings, and to protect their customers and employees from any health or safety risks.

Other industry involvements include the National Association of Home Builders, American Concrete Institute, Construction Specification Institute, International Code Council, Southeastern Mold Institute, Forensic Expert Witness Association, The Ceramic Tile Institute of America, NTCA Technical Committee, and the NTCA State Director of Louisiana.

The market in which Performance Tile serves has over the last several years been struck with several hurricanes. Along with the devastation came large numbers of less-knowledgeable contractors. Cheap pricing and unskilled labor have resulted in a large number of projects that needed to be totally torn out and redone. This is where most of Performance Tile’s efforts are centered. Unfortunately, it takes a failure and a substantial amount of money for some customers to realize that “cheap” costs plenty. According to Todd, “Price is your initial investment on a project. Cost is the total cash outlay of your original price plus the thousands of additional dollars to correct failures.”

Performance Tile is committed to never cutting corners or standards just to get a job. Over 60% of its work load is re-doing water-related damaged tile installations caused by unskilled contractors. The company’s motto is “It costs less to do it right, than to do it over.”

Dedicated to supporting the industry, Todd is always willing to help anyone who asks. He has an overwhelming drive to educate anyone in the industry, including competitors. “Good competition among skilled labor and friends will eventually drive our industry forward, leaving the less qualified behind,” he said.

Featured Project

performance_tile-5star-1This 8,000-sq.-ft. home in New Orleans is owned by a large commercial roofing contractor. The homeowner had several custom showers and a flagstone balcony. Since he roofs commercial skyscrapers for a living, he has first-class experiences of the importance of proper waterproofing techniques.

Another obstacle was installing 3,000 sq. ft. of Crossville polished porcelain tile over a post-tensioned slab. Performance Tile and Marble used an uncoupling membrane over the post-tensioned concrete and mudded and waterproofed the showers. The project also included an exterior balcony.



The project included an exterior flagstone balcony.

Thin Tile


Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a state-of-the-art medical campus serving families in South Florida. Regarded as “one of the best places in Broward County to give birth” for over 55 years, Holy Cross is renowned as the first hospital in the county to not separate newborns from their mothers – an approach that raises the bar for early mother-child bonding.


The bath facilities were outfitted in 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” glossy glaze, talc-body wall tile, original from the 1960 construction.

In 2013, Holy Cross initiated the Blessed Beginnings remodeling project to raise the bar once more for quality care and comfort in the Holy Cross Maternity Unit, originally built in 1960. Facility renovations were divided into three separate phases for ease of project management and execution, with the first phase scheduled to complete at the end of January 2014. The end result of the entire endeavor is a fully-remodeled, beautiful, and sophisticated environment that offers both aesthetic improvements and the latest technology in obstetrics.

The Hollywood, Fla., office of architectural firm Gresham Smith and Partners led the project, and tile contractor PFC was awarded the contract for renovation of 18 facility bathrooms and showers in the individual maternity ward units. The bath facilities were outfitted in 4-1/4” x 4-1/4” glossy glaze, talc-body wall tile, original from the 1960 construction. In order to bring the facilities to modern standards and style, all bath/shower walls required approximately 190 square feet of surface area be updated.


In order to bring the facilities to modern standards and style, all bath/shower walls required approximately 190 square feet of surface area be updated.

Rather than demolish the existing tile surfaces of the bathroom and shower walls, the project team opted to find a surfacing solution that would install over previous materials. Designers wanted a large, modern porcelain tile that would exude elegance and tranquility in the maternity unit while offering optimal performance. PFC’s installers prioritized the selection of a material that would be easy to handle, maneuver, and apply to a preexisting work space.

Enter Laminam® by Crossville®

The PFC team was familiar with Laminam by Crossville’s large-format, lean profile porcelain tile panels. These innovative panels are durable, versatile, and ideal for installing over existing tile. With overall dimensions of 1M x 3M yet just 3mm in thickness, these panels can be easily trimmed and installed over a range of substrates – just what was in order for this renovation project.


Rather than demolish the existing tile surfaces of the bathroom and shower walls, the project team opted to find a surfacing solution that would install over previous materials.

The design team selected the Laminam 3+ I Naturali in Ossidiana Vena Chiara to create a clean, fresh palette for the renovated showers.

A week prior to the installation at Holy Cross, PFC installers attended a Laminam by Crossville workshop that proved extraordinarily useful in understanding how to handle, cut, and install the panels. As a result of this training, the installation crews experienced no breakage and substantially less scrap than anticipated. These efficiencies helped to keep the Blessed Beginnings project on time and in budget.

For the installation, four crews, each with one installer and one helper, were assigned to renovate the baths and shower stalls. The crews cleaned the existing substrate (the previously-installed wall tile) and applied MAPEI® ECO-Prim Grip™ bond-promoting primer. Next, they applied MAPEI Ultraflex™ LFT™ thin-set mortar to both the prepared substrate and the Laminam panels with the appropriate trowels to achieve 100% coverage. Edge levels were used for spacing and flatness, and an orbital sander flattened trowel ridges and drove out any remaining air. The team used Schluter® aluminum profiles for edge protection and aesthetics, as well as LATICRETE® SpectraLOCK® grout for a quality, finished installation.

Designers wanted a large, modern porcelain tile that would exude elegance and tranquility in the maternity unit while offering optimal performance: Laminam by Crossville to the rescue.

Designers wanted a large, modern porcelain tile that would exude elegance and tranquility in the maternity unit while offering optimal performance: Laminam by Crossville to the rescue.

The installed Laminam 3+ panels provide an attractive, smooth surface that is easier to clean due to minimal grout joints. This creates not only a sophisticated design with seamless lines and contemporary appeal, but it also enhances the cleanliness and ease of maintenance of the maternity unit – an all-important factor when creating a safe environment for newborns and postpartum mothers.

The speed of installation, lack of demolition, and reduced construction residue made Laminam by Crossville an excellent choice for this project. From start to completion, the renovation of all bathrooms took only 14 days. For a remodeling project 50 years in the making, that speed, quality, and efficiency are unparalleled.


Owner: Holy Cross Hospital

Architectural Firm: Gresham Smith and Partners – Hollywood, Fla., office

Tile Contractor: PFC

Distributor: D&B Tile Distributors

Tile Product: Laminam by Crossville

Material: Laminam 3+ I Naturali Ossidiana Vena Chiara | 3,400 square feet

Trim: Schluter® – Rondec for edge bullnose finish

Setting materials: MAPEI® ECO-Prim Grip™ Primer, MAPEI Ultraflex™ LFT ™Thin-set Mortar, LATICRETE® SpectraLOCK® Grout

Qualified Labor – Education and certification helps the tile industry flourish

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

When LT Chong of T and C Tile walks into a client meeting, he carries the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation in his briefcase. Having been around the tile industry his entire life, Chong knows the value of certified industry standards. “Homeowners are impressed with having a detailed book, instead of me drawing something on the wall,” he said. After going through the salient details of the Handbook that pertain to the client’s project, he points out where his name is listed as a Certified Tile Installer. “I have a great market in East Texas due to all the people who aren’t very knowledgeable here,” Chong said.


Being certified is “a great way to separate me from the competition and show customers that I am up to par with today’s standards,” said LT Chong.

Chong grew up in Hawaii around tile, since his father was a union foreman and subcontractor. He learned top standards through the union apprenticeship program. When he came to Texas in the mid-’90s, he noted that though his training in Hawaii helped him have a strong foundation to do excellent work, there was no license required to install tile.

So, Chong chose to set himself apart from the competition with Certified Tile Installer credentials in 2009. At the time, he was the only person in his Point, Texas area code to have done so. It gives him a distinct advantage in his business.

“I work for one of the largest luxury home builders in East Texas,“ he said. “Builders want to say they have qualified professionals in every profession,” Chong pointed out. The official, industry-recognized and sanctioned CTI credentials allow builders to “show in black and white they have a qualified tile professional.”

Chong remains skeptical of others who claim they are “certified.” “A lot of flooring stores say they have qualified, certified installers, but they don’t want to take the CTI test. So, I’m not sure about their qualifications.”

Road to failure paved with inadequate training

Chong said that one of the biggest reasons the tile business isn’t flourishing “the way it should be” is because people aren’t educated about tile and they aren’t installing products the way manufacturers and industry standards recommend.

“I’ve seen people take backer board and install it without mortar beneath it – believing that if you put a billion nails in it, it will be fine,” Chong said. He doesn’t believe it’s malicious, but rather these are bad habits that some installers learned and believe are correct. “The more people who are educated about tile helps our industry as a whole,” Chong said. “Even if they are my competitors – the better job they do, the more it helps my business.”

The process of preparing for the written test onsite was a confirmation of what Chong learned from his foundational training. “It was good to see what I’ve been doing in black and white,” in the study guide, he said. “The process of taking the test was a refresher about knowledge and techniques that aren’t used every day. It brought past knowledge to the forefront,” Chong said.

The hands-on test was a different story. “I remember thinking that the hands-on test was the hardest I’d ever worked for free,” Chong said. Chong is a part of the John Bridge Ceramic Tile Forum and took pictures throughout the test to post online.

“It wasn’t easy,” Chong said. “If it was easy, more people would be doing it.” But in a state where no tile setter’s license is required, being certified is “a great way to separate me from the competition and show customers that I am up to par with today’s standards,” Chong said. “Not everyone passes,” he said, but, “even if you are doing it wrong, then you know you are doing it wrong.”

The next step for Chong this year? “I want to take the ACT certification,” he said.

Business Tip – March 2014

SponsoredbyMAPEIGetting your employees to commit to customer service

By Bill Sims, Jr., president
The Bill Sims Company, Inc.

SimsIt’s a business no-brainer that happy employees make happy customers. But how do you get happy employees that deliver the best possible customer service?

It requires employees to move beyond simple compliance of workplace rules and becoming truly committed to the jobs they do. And moving people to commitment requires positive reinforcement in the leadership system.

Employee engagement has been identified by as a key driver of your company’s profitability and human performance. Sadly, only 15 percent of employees say they are “actively engaged” at work.

So, how precisely do you shift your workplace culture from “I have to do it or I’ll be in trouble” to “I want to do it because I believe in it”? And how do you get more positive reinforcement in your management system?

If you are a leader, your success in business will depend on your ability to deliver positive reinforcement, something that is rarely used by today’s managers and leaders. And, let’s be clear: we’re not talking about steak dinners and handing out gift cards and t-shirts for lagging indicators.

That’s not an example of positive reinforcement. In fact, those types of “one size fits all” reinforcement actually erode commitment and encourage non-compliance. In short, they breed mediocrity.

When we reward everyone the same, regardless of their level of effort, we are introducing a system that says it doesn’t matter how hard we all work, we’re all going to get the same thing.

Positive reinforcement: individualized and timely

True positive reinforcement needs to be individualized and delivered immediately after an employee does something right. That way, the employee will be more likely to repeat those behaviors in the future. If an employee demonstrates stellar customer service work, or goes above and beyond to make a guest or client happy, they should be recognized for that. Yes, they are doing their job and that’s what they’re paid to do, but studies show that a paycheck is not as big a motivator as feeling like you are making a difference at work.

Bosses who think they don’t need to tell their employees they are doing a good job are not fully engaging them.

When it comes to engagement, every company has just three kinds of workers: Non-Compliant, Compliant, and Committed. Here’s what each looks like:

Non-Compliant: “I will not follow your rules because I am convinced the only way to get high production is to take risks and shortcuts.”

Compliant: “I will follow your rules as long as someone (a manager, a supervisor, or a peer observer) is standing there watching me. But when that person leaves, I’ll take more risks and shortcuts.”

Committed: “I will follow the rules, when nobody is watching. This is who I am…”

That ultimate level of employee engagement is commitment. And yet, not many employees are truly committed to the job. Why? Because the management method most bosses use is the classic “Leave Alone/Zap.”

“Leave Alone/Zap” technique of management

Simply put, it means that we leave employees alone and say nothing when they do something right (giving no positive feedback), but we are quick to “zap” (punish and negatively reinforce them) when they make a mistake. The problem with “Leave Alone/Zap” management is that it doesn’t get you to the highest level of performance, engagement and commitment. It only gets you a temporary change in behavior which lasts as long as it takes you and your big stick to leave the room.

Without positive reinforcement, you are getting less performance from your team than you could be and your workplace culture will suffer. But if you use positive reinforcement to cultivate engaged, committed employees, all aspects of their work, including customer service, will improve.


Bill Sims, Jr. is president of The Bill Sims Company, Inc. For nearly 30 years, Sims has created behavior-based recognition programs that have helped large and small firms to deliver positive reinforcement to inspire better performance from employees and increase bottom line profits. A sought-after speaker, he has delivered leadership workshops and keynote speeches around the globe, and has built more than 1,000 positive reinforcement systems at firms including DuPont, Siemens VDO, Coca-Cola, and Disney.


green_bean_bookGreen Beans & Ice Cream: The Remarkable Power of Positive Reinforcement can be purchased from, and through all major booksellers.

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