Tech Talk – April 2017

A tour through NTCA’s “Innovative Tools” Coverings 2017 presentation

An array of tools that make tiling easier, safer and more efficient will be on display

By Lesley Goddin

This year, at Coverings ’17 (taking place as this book is going to press), NTCA technical trainers/presenters Mark Heinlein and Robb Roderick are conducting a Coverings Conference session called “Innovative Tools in the Tile Industry.” In addition, the session will be presented in Spanish by NTCA technical trainer Luis Bautista, and David Allen Company’s Marcos Castillo. NTCA training and education coordinator Becky Serbin will also be on hand at the session.

The session explores a number of tools available in the industry right now and their benefits. For our Tech Talk section this issue, we are presenting a synopsis of the tools that will be presented in this session, along with photos and the URL, so you can research them on their own and see how they might enhance your installation experience or efficiency.

Several of the products selected for the session offer tremendous innovation in the ability to remove dust, especially in light of OSHA’s new requirements for limiting the amount of crystalline silica in the workplace. These new safety standards are to go in to place this summer. These include the iQTS244 dry-saw, and Alpha Tool’s HEPA Dry Vacuum and Ecoguard series of dust collection devices.
The iQTS244 10″ tile saw from iQ Power Tools is a dry-cut saw with a vacuum attached on the bottom. This saw makes precise cuts in a dust-free environment without the use of water. NTCA technical trainer/presenter Robb Roderick said, “Traditional wet saws have a tendency to spray water around the jobsite, which is why they are normally set up outside or in a garage. This saw works great in freezing temperatures where wet saws would have difficulty.”


Alpha Professional Tools offers the Alpha® Hepa Dry Vacuum, with an extra-large capacity HEPA filter system and a power 2-hp motor. The drop-in HEPA filter is individually certified to have a minimum efficiency of 99.97% at .3 microns. Alpha is updating this vacuum, and a new model will be available in the near future.


In addition, Alpha offers the Ecoguard series of dust collection devices (pictured is the Ecoguard EG, an Economy Grinding Dust Collection Cover for larger grinders, fitting most 6” to 8” grinders). When connected to an industrial vacuum the Ecoguard EG moves easily and creates a virtually dust-free grinding experience. Roderick said, “Cutting and grinding creates a lot of dust which can have adverse effects in the user, and require extensive amounts of efforts cleaning up the mess. These products help eliminate those issues.”


When it comes to mixers, the RUBITOOLS’ Rubimix -9 electric mixer offers a configuration that is more comfortable to the user for mixing thin-set and grout than that offered by traditional  drills, Roderick said. It also has adjustable speed setting allowing you to use it to mix multiple types of products with one mixer. The versatile mixer allows mixing adhesives, resins, paints and other materials by changing the mixing paddle. Its double grip with bi-material handles has improved ergonomics and greater user comfort.

RUBI also has developed a rubber graduated RUBI-KANGURO “ITALIANO” bucket, which is easily cleaned and has greater longevity. Roderick noted that traditionally tile installers have used plastic buckets to mix thinset or grout. “To be used again, the buckets must be cleaned daily,” he said. “Because of the rigidity of the plastic after thin-set or grout hardened, the dried materials are nearly impossible to removewithout damaging the bucket. These buckets are rubber and much more easily cleaned when setting materials have dried in them.” The buckets have reinforcing ribs and a base and mouth which are designed to make the bucket very structurally robust.

Gundlach is distributing a new Montolit Masterpiuma P3 cutter– and it’s Montolit’s #1 bestselling cutter. “This cutter has gotten rave review on several tile-related Facebook sites, because  of its ease of use and its ability to cut virtually every type of tile available,” Roderick said. “Many of our members are amazed at how well it works.”

It can cut all types of tile quickly and accurately, ranging from thicknesses of 0-22mm. It even makes cutting on a diagonal safe and simple. It features an accurate, powerful and effective ergonomic push scrib handle, a self-adjustable patented scoring system and easy, fast set-up, transport and storage due to the patented foldable design. Adaptable for large-format tiles as well.

Not every tile line offers bullnose pieces for finished edges. But the Raimondi Bull Dog™ bullnose machines, made by Raimondi and distributed by Donnelly Distribution LLC, allows installers to make custom bullnose pieces of porcelain or stone easy. The pump-cooled machine bullnoses and bevels, offering rough, finished and polished levels of finishing.


Another product from Raimondi is the Raimondi Maxititina Multi-Functional Floor Machine with Grouting Paddle. While this is not a NEW machine, it is innovative in that it allows contractors to grout a floor without kneeling, clean a floor, or grind/scarify or prepare subfloors to improve the bond. It allows installers to level out high spots on concrete, and power grout a job at 55 rpm, spreading the grout and packing the joints full. It also can seal floors in a jiffy, and polish them to a desired level of shine, at 110 rpm.


Also useful is the Berta by Raimondi which has a large replaceable sponge drum which rotates to clean freshly-grouted floors, which is a major time saver on large floor installations.

Finally, with dimensions of tile growing larger and larger, the ETM Grip by European Tile Masters facilitates handling and back-buttering of gauged porcelain panels. It has 12 fully-adjustable suction cups and four adjustable handles, can be configured to multiple lengths (up to 10’) and multiple shapes (including U and Z shapes), and can be tilted from 90 to 15-degree angles. The ETM Grip allows two people to move and manage today’s larger format tiles with ease.

Mapei Mapeguard UM

MAPEI recently introduced Mapeguard® UM. This crack-suppression, waterproofing and vapor-pressure-equalizing underlayment membrane has been approved for use with latex-modified mortars as part of a warranted system for installation of ceramic tile and natural stone. Mapeguard UM equalizes vapor pressure, so it can be applied over young concrete in fast-track construction or concrete with high relative humidity. The lightweight membrane can also be applied over single-layer plywood floors. The uniquely engineered tri-layered design of Mapeguard UM absorbs lateral stress from the substrate without transferring this force to the tile or stone, which maintains exceptional bonds.

The engineered cavity design – including the mesh-fabric top layer – allows easy single-pass filling of the surface core with less mortar, reducing the amount of mortar needed and making the installer’s job easier.

American Olean Introduces Six New Collections

American Olean® introduces six new collections, expanding its array of outstanding tile and stone offerings to include stylish products inspired by textiles, marble and watercolor, all enhanced with Reveal Imaging.

The new product offerings include:

  • Elemental Canvas, an organic, woven fabric look with rich colors and graphics in six neutral shades in 24” x 24” and 12” x 24” formats with 1” x 3” mosaics. This ColorBody porcelain features TruEdge technology, and includes a linear mosaic option.
  • Theoretical Bold, a bright and colorful ColorBody complement to the Theoretical series with a light graphic variation for visual depth and richness. In 24” x 24” and 12” x 24” formats in six eye-popping colors.
  • Abound glazed veramic floor, wall and mosaic tile evokes polished marble aesthetic in five neutral shades. Abound offers a full package of sizes, with mosaic and decorative wall accents.
  • Horizon glazed ceramic is an elegant wall tile with a watercolor graphic in four neutral hues and a large format linear design – 6” x 16” format with 1/2″ x 12” coordinating jolly trim
  • Harvest Grove is a rustic wood look in glazed porcelain floor tile in 6” x 24” formats and a glazed ceramic 2” x 2” mosaic
  • Serentina, a striking glass- and-stone mosaic available in three geometric designs and six color blends.

Visit for details.

Peronda Harmony Collection LINS by YONOH

Peronda adds to its designer-sourced Harmony Collection with LINS by YONOH which plays with light, using crisscrossing lines to generate visual effects perfect for transforming wall surfaces into huge murals. LINS by YONOH takes advantage of the subtlety of lines as opposed to differing levels, so that shadow play and volumes are generated by the actual delicacy of the lines. The collection’s choice of neutral Mediterranean colors reflects its restful spirit.

SecuraTrac mPERS Mobile Defender Model S

SecuraTrac has introduced its mPERS mobile emergency pendant, the MobileDefender™ Model S (MD-S). The model S (MD-S) is developed on the same platform as the powerful MobileDefender™ and introduces new capabilities that will help to ensure the safety of those who use the MD-S and the SecuraTrac® platform.  Companies that dispatch employees into unknown environments and situations can rely on the MD-S to relay information about employee locations while providing them with an instant connection to help if an emergency occurs. From real estate agents and home healthcare workers meeting with clients to construction workers and engineers alone in the field, the MD-S has a variety of useful applications. It also offers a built-in Fall Advisory to detect if an employee falls or is knocked over on the job, which automatically triggers a help alert. A Wake-on SOS feature allows the unit to operate over 30 days on a single charge.

Schluter-Systems All New Thin-Set Mortars

Schluter-Systems has developed three new thin-set mortars for ceramic and stone tile installation. Schluter SET™ unmodified thin-set mortar, Schluter ALL-SET™ modified thin-set mortar, and Schluter FAST-SET™ rapid-setting modified thin-set mortar are all specifically formulated for Schluter® membranes and boards to provide a single source for their tile installation systems, with guaranteed product compatibility. The Schluter ALL-SET modified thin-set is engineered for use both under and over all DITRA® and KERDI® products. The Schluter FAST-SET rapid-setting modified thin-set is ready to grout in four hours for fast-track projects. All three products, including the Schluter SET, are approved to set porcelain tile over Schluter boards and membranes. The modified mortars have been specifically formulated to set and gain strength in a timeframe that fits typical installation practice, even when sandwiched between Schluter membranes or boards and porcelain tile; extended dry-times not required.  Performance has been validated through both laboratory and practical testing.  When Schluter-Systems’ new thin-set mortars are used within certain Schluter applications, an extended lifetime limited warranty is available.  Schluter-Systems will continue to warrant its systems when other manufacturers’ unmodified thin-set mortars meeting ANSI A118.1 are used to install tile.

Ege Seramik The ROAD Collection

Ege Seramik introduces The ROAD Collection, a matte-finish, glazed porcelain tile created specifically for the North American Market. Taking two tile trends and combining them into one, the ROAD Collection offers a balanced mixture of both textile and cement looks. Ege worked with design partners to replicate a piece of gauze embedded in cement, with a matte finish and digital printing accents that reinforce its textile theme. Available in grey, ivory and taupe and available in 12”x24” and 18”x36”  formats, the ROAD Collection is ideal for both residential and commercial applications, indoors and out for floors and walls.

Ergodyne Chill-Its 6690 Cooling Arm Sleeves

Ergodyne has introduced another cooling item to its Chill-Its® Line, the Chill-Its 6690 Cooling Arm Sleeves which activate instantly when wet, using evaporation for extended cooling and protection from the sun’s UV rays. Saturate the sleeve with water and expose it to air to wick away moisture from the body and create an evaporative cooling effect. Machine-washable and reusable, the sleeves also cool key pulse points, shield skin from the sun with UPF 50+ protection, and even guard against light levels of abrasion. Even when dry, they absorb sweat and wick away moisture.

Tile Competition Comes to CEFGA SkillsUSA Competition

CEFGA has record-breaking participation with over 7,000 attendees

NTCA took part in an important set of career events in Georgia last month – the CEFGA Career Expo and SkillsUSA, both held at the Georgia International Convention Center March 23 and 24, 2017.

The Career Expo, hosted by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA), links students directly to professionals in the areas of construction, utility contracting, highway contracting, electrical contracting, mechanical contracting, energy, tile setting mining and more. The Career Expo consists of hands-on displays that allow students to engage with industry leaders, equipment and materials in order to tap into their unique skills and interests.

Rod Owen, Jr., of C.C. Owen Tile Co., Jonesboro, Ga., — a NTCA Five Star Tile Contractor, and Technical Chair for CEFGA – has involved NTCA in this event for the last several years, and this year was able to get a tile test included. One the test was established, Owen placed CEFGA in the very capable hands of Woody Sanders, D.W. Sanders Tile and Stone.  Sanders, along with the help of many local manufacturers and tile reps were present to explain to prospective tile installers what their jobs could entail.  Thanks to donations from Interceramic, Dal-Tile, and Schluter, Sanders arranged a hands-on area for attendees to lay out their own mosaic tile and adhere it to a board that they could take home.  Sanders also incorporated some ideas into the exhibit, such as a TV display with photos of the tile installation process, finished tile projects, and an art tile display with CEFGA spelled out.  Once the CEFGA piece was complete Friday afternoon, it was given to CEFGA for future use. Becky Serbin, NTCA training and education coordinator, was also assisted at the events.

CTI-style test for

SkillsUSA participants

For the test, Owen worked with several local contractors, manufacturers, and Scott Carothers of CTEF to develop a study guide, tile layouts, written/open-book, and hands-on tests.  The hands-on test was based on a simplified version Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam.

Since this was the inaugural event, it was unknown how many students would take the test, how well it would be received by those attending CEFGA, or how well participants would do.  Sanders developed the plans, Carothers developed the study guide and written test, and Steve Young of nearby Steve Young & Associates (and NTCA’s 2016 Tile Person of the Year), was in charge of working with manufacturers to donate supplies for the test, which included Dal-Tile, Schluter, Johns-Manville, LATICRETE and Barwalt..  The hands-on test started Thursday afternoon with three participants and finished Friday afternoon with five participants.  Even though two students missed the first day, they were still able to finish their work with the allotted time.  Participants were: Martin Sanchez, Griffin High School; Timothy Crawford, Statesboro High School; Logan Conyers, Lee County High School; Trebeon Sales, Northside High School; and Cristian Mendoza, Kennesaw Mountain High School.  None of these students had extensive knowledge of setting tile.  Some of these students had been setting tile for two weeks while others started at the beginning of the semester, but none had ever been on a job before where they set tile.

Three local people with tile-installation experience were asked to judge the practical portion of the competition.  Judges were Phil Canto, LATICRETE International, Inc., Eric Shaddix, Specialty Tile Products, Inc., and Stephen Key, Key Tile, Inc.  Judges also mixed thin-set mortar for participants as they worked to allow students to focus on the actual setting of tile itself.

Once the written and hands-on scores were tabulated, first place went to Conyers who received $150, second place went to Mendoza who received $75, and third place went to Crawford who received $50.  The awards were presented Saturday morning, March 25.

Based on all of the questions from teachers about the test, at least 10 kids are expected to participate next year.  Owen, along with NTCA plans to continue to the growth of the program and work with contractors in other states to get tile into the national SkillsUSA test.


Attendees create their own mosaic design. Many female students gravitated to the tile section of the Career Expo.

DW Sanders employees Janice Hill (l.) and Woody Sanders (r.) showing off CEFGA art piece that was given to CEFGA. Not pictured is Omar Trujillo who was still working with the students.

NTCA’s Rod Owen (second from left) with day one competitors (l. to r.) Martin Sanchez of Griffen High School, Timothy Crawford of Statesboro High School and Logan Conyers of Leesburg County High School.

Judge Stephen Key (l.) of Key Tile answers a question from participant Timothy Crawford. The test modules were derived from the Certified Tile Installer exam modules used by CTEF.

The tile-setting competition was sponsored by C.C. Owen Tile Company, D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting, and The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation.

Left to right: Conyers, Mendoza, Stephen Key, judge, Rod, Eric, Phil, Sales, Crawford, Sanchez

Awards were given to top three finishers in the test during a ceremony on Saturday, March 25. Woody Sanders (c.l.) and Rod Owen (c.r.) were present to recognize recipients with prizes and medals.

NTCA Benefits Box – April 2017

NTCA’s State Ambassador program – 132 strong at last count – has evolved over the last few years from its State Director program.

These “ambassadors” represent the NTCA and assist trainers at local NTCA Tile & Stone Workshops, recruit and recommend contractors for membership, work with local distributors in circulating NTCA brochures, applications and posters in their locations, and welcome and support new members. They also provide current industry news from their local area, which is often covered in TileLetter magazine or at online.

The intent of this group is to form a strong, supportive web of NTCA members that support the tile trade and all NTCA members in the local area. They also positively promote qualified labor, certification, the NTCA, and the tile industry as a whole.

Many of the State Ambassadors are installers themselves, but some are manufacturer reps who cover more than one state. Active in this program are: Ardex Americas, Bostik, Daltile, HB Fuller, MAPEI and wedi.

State Ambassadors are also NTCA’s eyes and ears in the local market, and gather information and ideas that can help NTCA better serve local contractors.

Visit NTCA at and search for “2017 State Ambassadors” or use this shortened link to take you directly to the list of State Ambassadors:

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