New Products – July 2016

prod-01Antolini’s Black Absolute Gold Design is a fusion of modern and classical worlds. Lavish golden threads run seamlessly through dark polished granite in a captivating fashion. This detailing evokes a regal sense of modernism that both elevates and inspires. The stones of the Natura Collection add timeless exuberance and style to any project.

The Tile Shop introduces a new website for its Pro customers called “Pro My Account,” a go-to source for everything needed to get the job done. Pro My Account enables Pros to keep track of all orders from anywhere via mobile devices, tablet or computer. Pros can register for free at Pros can watch a brief tutorial video at and easily navigate the site, which provides email access, the ability to view and print current and past orders, track open orders, make payments on orders, view credit balances, make payments to credit accounts, view and print statements and download other relevant forms. Visit or phone 888-398-6595 for more information about the benefits of The Tile Shop’s Pro Network and Pro My Account.

John Colaneri of HGTV’s Kitchen Cousin used the Under-Cabinet Lighting System to provide an unobstructed field of on-trend black subway tile in his home kitchen. 

John Colaneri of HGTV’s Kitchen Cousin used the Under-Cabinet Lighting System to provide an unobstructed field of on-trend black subway tile in his home kitchen.

Legrand offers the Adorne™ Under-Cabinet Lighting System (right) to streamline lighting without disrupting a beautiful tile mural or backsplash design. The modular LED Lighting track fits under kitchen cabinets to discreetly deliver light, power and bluetooth music to the space, including mobile charging cradles and USB ports. Its hidden-from-view location enables the tiled backsplash to be clear of outlets, enhancing the style and decluttering cords to free up counter space. Its configuration is easy to update at any time by popping out any module and replacing it with a new insert.

Creative Edge Master Shop has introduced TERRAZZO TEK™, its new line of trademarked luxury terrazzo techniques, a veritable tool kit to enhance artistry, improve efficiency, and expand options in terrazzo installations, both large and small.

TERRAZZO TEK™ is a series of novel techniques:

Intricate designs can be created without metallic joints using the NOFORMZ technique in Creative Edge Master Shop’s TERRAZZO TEK series of terrazzo techniques.

Intricate designs can be created without metallic joints using the NOFORMZ technique in Creative Edge Master Shop’s TERRAZZO TEK series of terrazzo techniques.

JETFORMZ™ uses waterjet technology to cut the metal material dividers from brass, aluminum, and bronze. This method adds to detail, complexity, and accuracy of metal dividing strips.

TRANSFORMZ™ is the layout system that faithfully transfers architect, designer, and artist patterns to the floor to be covered in epoxy terrazzo.

ACCUFORMZ™ is the technique of templating for layout letters, logos and emblems accurately and positioning these elements for the terrazzo pour.

NOFORMZ™ is a technique of fabricating intricate art and pattern with no metallic joints, creating striking and colorful detail in artwork and lobby identity pieces.

Creative Edge Master Shop has developed waterjet techniques that supplement and enhance the decorative potential and artistry of terrazzo. Creative Edge terrazzo projects are custom designed, and a large library of previously designed projects, entries, borders, accents, and medallions are catalogued to provide inspiration for new installations.

prod-05Scodd Industries introduces The PorcelainPlus Speedbit, specifically designed for drilling through hard surfaces such as porcelain tile, granite, marble, quartz and ceramic tile. It features a specially formulated carbide spear tip with Four Point Cross Step Design for greater durability and speed, making installations quicker, easier, and more profitable. The Speedbit has an average of 25 seconds per hole and 5+ holes per bit (based on PEI 4 porcelain tile). Order your risk-free TRIAL PACK today: five Speedbits, pay only delivery. Check out a short video of the Speedbit in action at

NTCA University Update: Incremental Learning in Four Courses

may-beckyby Becky Serbin,
Training and Education Coordinator

As we created more modules for the Apprenticeship Program, we realized it was time to start making the program more usable for our members. Once the two-year Finisher Apprentice Curriculum is complete, there will be four courses available to purchase.

  • AF1-6MT – Finisher Orientation – 0 – 6 Months
  • AF1-6MT1 – Finisher Task – 6 – 12 Months
  • AF1-6MT2 – Finisher Skill – 12 – 18 Months
  • AF1-6MT3 – Finisher Management – 18 – 24 Months

Each of these courses will contain modules. For example, the 0 – 6 months course has the most modules, at over 40 available. These modules can be used to supplement on-the-job learning and classroom/practical learning. While we have set the modules up in a specific order, depending on your company’s focus or type of work, your apprentice can take the modules in an order that makes more sense for your business. The Finisher Orientation – 0 – 6 month course is currently available for purchase on the NTCA store and as we continue to develop new modules, other courses will be added. Access the store at, and click on the NTCA Store link.

Each of these four separate courses focuses on different learning levels at each six-month increment. And towards the end of each of these courses there is a lengthy test that will check your apprentice’s knowledge. You can then use the results of the exam to help assess their progress. Unfortunately, there may be times when you and your apprentice have to go separate ways. While you will have invested time and effort, if you are still in the first-course level, you won’t have invested a lot of money in training materials.

Don’t forget, there are other courses available beyond the Apprenticeship Program. We continue to add new Business courses to help small business owners who do not have the training or skills to run a business, gain some knowledge in subjects such as accounting, finance, human resources, or marketing. Also there are Continuing Education courses such as those that are given to architects and designers. And we have added Sales and Installation courses for those who may be new to the industry or need a refresher on a particular topic.

Visit the NTCA store to see courses that are currently available. If there is a course that you would like to see developed, please send me a quick e-mail at [email protected] so that we can prioritize our members’ needs.

By the Book – July 2016

brought_by_CTEFCeramics vs. Porcelain: Examining Performance, Assessing Needs of the Consumer

book-01by Marianne Cox, director of marketing, Interceramic USA

In an industry where we are conditioned to believe that porcelain is far superior to ceramic, we must ask ourselves if this is a true statement. Why? Because it is not.

There is no disputing that any form of tile (ceramic or porcelain) can be manufactured poorly while others are manufactured reputably. There is also no disputing that ceramic and porcelain live on opposite ends of the price spectrum. How do we fairly compare the two? We must discard two trains of thought. First, technically speaking, we eliminate from consideration any tile that does not meet ANSI A137.1. If tile fails to meet these standards, we should never consider it for any installation (Exception: some specialty tiles where the performance parameters are not relevant, such as using Saltillo tile in some residential installations). Second, let’s eliminate the thought that the goal is to make money or upgrade for sake of making money, with no thought to the needs of the homeowner.

Concrete-look Basole from Interceramic is an example of a high-density ceramic that has comparable performance characteristics as porcelain: freeze/thaw resistant, suitable for exterior use, stain and thermal shock resistance, chemical and crazing resistant and suitable for commercial application.

Concrete-look Basole from Interceramic is an example of a high-density ceramic that has comparable performance characteristics as porcelain: freeze/thaw resistant, suitable for exterior use, stain and thermal shock resistance, chemical and crazing resistant and suitable for commercial application.

Before we address what should be the true debate of the ceramic vs. porcelain conundrum, we should address the technical attributes of ceramic tile. ANSI A137.1 clearly defines TILE as “a ceramic surfacing unit, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, having either a glazed or unglazed face and fired above red heat in the course of manufacture to a temperature sufficiently high to produce specific physical properties and characteristics.” Porcelain is defined as a “type” of ceramic tile, and the only differentiation between the two as outlined in ANSI A137.1 states porcelain is “a ceramic tile that has a water absorption of 0.5% or less that is generally made by the pressed or extruded method…”.

That’s it. The only difference. All other technical attributes from breaking strength to abrasion resistance offer clarity to the performance of the tile over a period of time. Therefore, some ceramics may perform as well as or better than some porcelain without meeting the </= 0.5% water absorption criteria that separates the two. It should be clear that ceramic tile, depending on how it is manufactured, will perform at different levels, some better than others. The same can be said for porcelains as well.

Burano has a vein-cut travertine look in four colors of ceramic tile with a Victorian mosaic. The line is enhanced by Lumen FX, which is applied in conjunction with the veining for a shimmer effect.

Burano has a vein-cut travertine look in four colors of ceramic tile with a Victorian mosaic. The line is enhanced by Lumen FX, which is applied in conjunction with the veining for a shimmer effect.

Ceramic performance criteria and the needs of the consumer

Let’s focus on the performance of ceramic tile. Can some ceramic tiles, manufactured by innovative companies, perform at the level of porcelain? Is it possible for some ceramics to test at or higher than porcelain for breaking strength? Yes. Is it possible for some ceramics to test at or higher than porcelain for abrasion resistance? Yes. Can some pass the freeze/thaw test? Yes. Meet or exceed threshold for DCOF? Yes. Can some ceramic tiles be installed outside? Yes! Yes!

Now, going beyond the tech talk, where does that leave us? It means we satisfy the NEEDS of the customer. Even if we break it down into residential vs. commercial, it is still not black and white.

Sure, some commercial installations may require more technologically advanced porcelains, like an unglazed through-body porcelain. However, most commercial projects do not. There are ceramic tiles offered in the U.S. with low water absorption, high breaking strength, superior scratch resistance and that can be installed outside. These ceramics will certainly hold up under the conditions found in many commercial installations.

San Giulio ceramic tile offers a striking stone movement in four matte colors and 12” x 12” matching mosaic sheets. Field tile is 16” x 16” and 12” x 24”.

San Giulio ceramic tile offers a striking stone movement in four matte colors and 12” x 12” matching mosaic sheets. Field tile is 16” x 16” and 12” x 24”.

Residentially, the NEEDS of the customer should be the primary goal. Homeowners are typically upgraded from ceramic to porcelain during the selection process. They are told that porcelain is going to outperform and outlast ceramic tiles. That’s not necessarily true. Many ceramics today are produced using similar raw materials, fired at the same temperature, and use the same printing and glazing processes. Many ceramics today will perform as well and last as long as most porcelains. Many ceramics today meet the needs of the homeowner in terms of on-trend designs and durability, yet offered at an affordable price. That means they often have better designs than porcelain, perform like porcelain and last as long as porcelain. Aside from the obvious, why push a homeowner to porcelain?

For example, when choosing windows for your new home, if you are given the choice of the standard durable windows or upgrading to bullet proof glass, realistically, what would you choose for your home?

The takeaway? Find a reputable ceramic tile manufacturer that will provide you with fact-based information to support the obvious…ceramic is an option to porcelain for most of your residential and commercial projects. You’ll have an opportunity to provide your customers with the beautiful product they desire, at a value. If you need advice on where to start your search, feel free to connect with me at [email protected].

Thin Tile – July 2016

mapei_sponsorUpdate on ANSI product installation standards; recent projects featuring gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs

by Lesley Goddin

In our continuing quest to bring you useful information about the surging use of large thin porcelain tile, we bring you some news from the ANSI meeting concerning proposals for ANSI A137.3 (product standards) and ANSI A108.19 (installation standards) that was held during Coverings in Chicago this past April. In addition, we have a collection of projects below that show some of the ways large thin porcelain tile is being used on a range of projects.

The meeting

To start, a very productive ANSI meeting took place during Coverings in Chicago. The proposed draft standard under discussion for ANSI A137.3 has tables providing properties for three tile types: Nominal Thickness 5.0 mm to 6.5 mm (Table 4), Back-Layered with Nominal Thickness 5.0 mm to 6.5 mm (Table 5), and Back-Layered with Nominal Thickness 3.5 mm to 4.9 mm (Table 6). The Committee discussed the properties developed through lab testing and real world applications, but consensus was not reached. The proposed standard also allows for future tables to be included for additional tile types such as thicker tiles for raised flooring (and other) applications.

A proposed draft installation standard was also presented for tiles with properties in Table 4, with further work on the standard in progress.

Discussion turned to how to label, name and describe these tiles in the standard, depending on their thickness, size, and various marketing terms. TCNA explained that the name in a standard should not be conflated or merged with how tiles are labeled, but how the tiles are described should be sufficiently neutral to allow companies to market and label them however they choose to brand their products. Any effort to mix individual company marketing needs with the labels in a standard would be unlikely to achieve true consensus.

To this end, the proposed standard was labeled, “American National Standard Specifications for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs.” The standard is so named because the properties in Tables 4 – 6 are based on a narrow (i.e. gauged) range of thicknesses. Further, it allows manufacturers to choose how to label their products depending on their marketing, i.e. either as panels or slabs.

The next ANSI A108 Committee meeting will be held at Total Solutions Plus, Hyatt Indian Wells Resort near Palm Springs on Friday, October 21, 2016. In the meantime, many groups of stakeholders and interested parties are meeting separately, and with TCNA, to work towards further understanding and consensus.

The projects

Following are a number of recent projects that use gauged porcelain tile panels for interior and exterior application. As was described in the Laminam by Crossville entry, installers trained in the handling and installation of these products were employed on the job. NTCA recommends working with only contractors who have experience, certification or training in installing these products, for the smoothest installation process and best ongoing performance of the tiles themselves.

thin-01Laminam tile was supplied by Stone Tile International for the Sherway Gardens Expansion in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is presently underway and due to finish in fall of 2016. This high-end mall has a total expansion of 100,000 sq. ft. One of the highlights of this project is the installation of some very large 1 m x 3 m porcelain veneer in an exterior setting. Maple Group of Toronto installed 3,000 sq. ft. of large, thin tiles with MAPEI’s Granirapid with Ultracolor Plus grout after MAPEI’s Mapelastic 315 was used to waterproof over concrete. The gauged porcelain panels were installed around the large entryway and two smaller entrances. The tile was also cut into pie-shaped wedges to form large tile circles on the ceiling of the mall’s interior.

Inalco Slimmker – 1,800 sq. ft. of Inalco Slimmker, a Tile of Spain brand, was installed in October 2014 by Belcor Builders of Plainview, N.Y., in a high-end Spanish furniture showroom in Midtown Manhattan. The 6mm Slimmker Foster Blanco Plus Natural tile measures 40” x 40”.

thin-03 thin-02

Laminam by Crossville – LaFayette Junior/Senior High School in LaFayette, N.Y., was renovated by Ashley McGraw Architects in October 2015 with materials engineered to perform long and hard to accommodate the wear and tear of the space, keep maintenance simple, and provide a look that fits with the grander scale of the renovated space. The school auditorium called for wainscoting along the walls, with a monolithic appearance and minimal grout joints. Enter Crossville’s Laminam Travertino Avorio 3+, supplied by Vestal Tile Distributors and installed by Integrated Industrial Services of Syracuse, N.Y., in a vertical orientation above the handrail. The installation team at Integrated Industrial Services had learned the techniques for proper installation of Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels by attending an in-house seminar held by distributor Vestal Tile in January 2016 that included representatives from adhesives manufacturer ARDEX Americas, European Tile Masters, and Vestal Tile.

thin-04 thin-05

Lea Ceramiche – Shinberg.Levinas Architects recently won a Ceramics of Italy Competition Residential Award for the Turnberry Residence in Rosslyn (Arlington), Va. The project features 5,000 sq. ft. of Slimtech Basaltina Stone in Sabbiata and Naturale colors by Confindustria Ceramica manufacturer Lea Ceramiche. Jud Tile from Vienna, Va., installed the 3’ x 9’ tile in a complete interior renovation of the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and exterior balcony in 2013. Flooring and walls for all living spaces were also covered with the Slimtech Basaltina tiles, which are available in 3mm and 3.5 mm, and created a smooth continuous flow from interior to exterior, with minimal joints that almost disappear, reinforcing the idea of an open loft space.

thin-06 thin-07

Florida Tile – On St. Patrick’s Day 2015, the DLR Group’s Chicago office was scheduled for a lunch-and-learn session with Mid-America Tile, who was introducing Florida Tile’s new Thinner large-format thin porcelain tile. As it turned out DLR Group showed a lot of interest in the product, not for a client, but for its own use for the lobby floor, which had suffered a previous failure due to the original tile and gypsum-based underlayment used. DLR Group principals liked how Florida Tile’s Thinner Aventis 19.5” x 39” tile made a seamless transition with existing finishes, and the 3.5mm thickness posed no problem with the minimal clearance of already-installed entry doors. MAPEI technical services and Krez Group came in to review the substrate, which they subsequently shotblasted and leveled with MAPEI M20. Architectural Contracting installed 1,200 sq. ft. of tile with MAPEI Ultraflex LFT mortar, creating full coverage and MAPEI’s stain-resistant, premixed Flexcolor CQ grout. The MLT System was also used to create a flat, lippage-free surface, finished with Blanke stainless steel transition strips. The project won a 2015 Crain’s Coolest Office award.


Tech Talk – July 2016

TEC-sponsorSuccessful glass tile installation for pools

By Tom Domenici, area technical manager, H.B. Fuller Construction Products

tech-01Once you’ve seen a swimming pool finished with glass mosaic tiles, their popularity for both residential and commercial installations is immediately appreciated. Because they reflect natural light, glass mosaic tiles can give swimming pools a lustrous, shimmering appearance. They’re available in almost any color, size and pattern imaginable.

Here are the seven main components of a beautiful and long-lasting glass tile pool installation.

Porcelain or glass tile is the right choice for saline pools. Use a premium mortar that can withstand salt exposure and a chemical-resistant grout.

Porcelain or glass tile is the right choice for saline pools. Use a premium mortar that can withstand salt exposure and a chemical-resistant grout.

1. Choosing tile

Today, mosaic glass tile manufacturers often create sheets of tile by bonding the individual tiles to a paper or plastic facing or by adhering the backs of the tile to an open-weave mesh that allows the mortar to come into contact with the tile backs. Using this type of tile can help save time. However, if a water-soluble adhesive was used to bond the mosaic tiles to the mesh backing, that adhesive could re-emulsify once submerged. To avoid this, confirm with the tile manufacturer that the mosaic glass tile itself, and the sheet mounting method used, are suitable for pool installations in their environment, whether interior or exterior. Or use paper-faced tiles, which provide an unimpeded surface on the tile back for bonding.

2. Cutting tile

If the tile layout requires partial sheets, simply score the plastic sheeting, mesh or paper holding the tiles together with a utility knife as needed. If you need to cut the tiles themselves, use specialized glass mosaic tile cutting tools, as other cutters may shatter the small tiles.

The Robert D. Love Downtown YMCA in Wichita, Kan., contains more than 50,000 sq. ft. of mosaic and large-format tile.

The Robert D. Love Downtown YMCA in Wichita, Kan., contains more than 50,000 sq. ft. of mosaic and large-format tile.

3. Waterproofing pools

Over the primary waterproof membrane on the shell of the pool (per TCNA P602-16), you must provide a secondary waterproofing and crack isolation membrane.

Before applying the secondary membrane, smooth the substrate with a deep patch and patch additive that’s fast-setting, or a bonded mortar bed. Then clean the substrate of all contaminants, residues and dirt. Pre-fill all concrete cracks up to 1/8” wide. Treat all control joints, substrate joints, field seams and corners; anywhere vertical surfaces meet horizontal surfaces, such as curbs, bench seats and columns; anywhere dissimilar materials meet, such as drains and expansion/control joints.

Then, apply the waterproofing membrane. Install it just below the tile to help prevent water from leaking into the mortar bed and to help prevent problems associated with saturation and moisture expansion. For an efficient installation, use a membrane that allows for the direct bonding of tile. After the membrane is properly cured, test for leaks.


NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile of St. Marys, Kan., turned to TEC® products to aid with fast-paced tile installation in a variety of challenging environments.

NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile of St. Marys, Kan., turned to TEC® products to aid with fast-paced tile installation in a variety of challenging environments.

4. Setting tiles


Glass mosaic pool tile applications require polymer-modified mortars that are suitable for submerged installations. Keep in mind the mortar’s color can affect the appearance of clear or translucent glass mosaics. White mortars typically produce the most pleasing and consistent appearance – allowing glass tile to maintain its natural luminosity. Similarly, mortar ridges may be visible through clear or translucent tiles. Therefore, after troweling the mortar, use the flat side of the trowel to flatten mortar ridges before setting tile. Back-butter the tile to achieve a uniform appearance and proper coverage.

5. Grouting tile

Only certain grouts are appropriate for submerged areas. Consider a high-performance, ready-to-use grout or an advanced-performance cementitious grout, that can be used in submerged areas for glass tile installation. Saltwater pools require a grout that can be fully submersible and has chemical resistance, such as an epoxy grout. Proper pool water chemistry is essential for the future condition of the tile and grout. Use an appropriate flexible caulk joint, in place of grout, for predetermined movement joints in the tile installation.

The 110,000 sq. ft. LEED®-Certified facility features large -format porcelain tile on its lobby floor, ceramic and porcelain tiles throughout the building, and porcelain mosaics in its pools, whirlpool and steam room. 

The 110,000 sq. ft. LEED®-Certified facility features large -format porcelain tile on its lobby floor, ceramic and porcelain tiles throughout the building, and porcelain mosaics in its pools, whirlpool and steam room.

6. Wait time

Advise your customer to refer to the grout and mortar manufacturer wait time before filling the pool with water to allow the tile grout and mortar to fully cure before use in submerged areas.

7. Maintaining tile

In general, glass mosaic tile is very low maintenance. It is naturally stain resistant, and the use of a high-quality grout will help the installation maintain its appearance. However, tile in even the cleanest pools will eventually accumulate calcium deposits and other residue.

Cleaning techniques will vary depending on the tile system and condition, but always do a small sample test area to determine the best procedure.

Regardless of the type of tile used, fun in the swimming pool begins with a successful tile installation. If you follow these simple steps and manufacturer instructions, your tile glass project will make a splash for a long time after your work is completed.


For this job, installer Fox Ceramic Tile used TEC® products to address each space’s unique demands, including time constraints and exposure to heat and harsh chemicals.

For this job, installer Fox Ceramic Tile used TEC® products to address each space’s unique demands, including time constraints and exposure to heat and harsh chemicals.

The TEC® brand is offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. – a leading provider of technologically advanced construction materials and solutions to the commercial, industrial and residential construction industry. Headquartered in Aurora, Illinois, the company’s recognized and trusted brands – TEC®, CHAPCO®, Grout Boost®, Foster®, ProSpec® and others – are available through an extensive network of distributors and dealers, as well as home improvement retailers. For more information, visit


Qualified Labor – July 2016

ql-01Mike McLawhorn: CTI credentials are confirmation of tile setter knowledge that money can’t buy

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

In 2009, during Mike McLawhorn’s 12 years as a self-employed tile setter, he became a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) in Charleston, SC. “I wanted to do everything I could to set myself apart from the thundering herd of setters,” McLawhorn said. And “I wanted to support our industry’s efforts to legitimize the tile setters that truly care about doing things right. I saw it as an opportunity to market my company as a company that was trustworthy and to possibly increase my profitability.”

1_CTI_20x20McLawhorn was certified as number 188 in the early days of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) CTI program. “In my opinion, [the test] must have been designed to fail the student that didn’t have time in the field and to reward the student that was experienced,” McLawhorn said. “If one didn’t think ahead, the hands-on tasks would lead to a dead end, and then there was no time to finish it, which would lead to failure.” The most valuable part of being a CTI, McLawhorn said, “is that no one can buy into [it]. Money or the absence thereof, simply is not a factor. Certification is a confirmation of a tile setter’s industry knowledge, hands-on expertise, and more importantly, time in the field with a trowel in one’s hand.”

McLawhorn described why certification is so important. “Decades ago, technology changes in the tile trade happened more slowly,” he said. “In today’s tile world, there are multiple tile companies and multiple setting material companies pumping out new technology nearly every quarter! In order to be considered a knowledgeable service provider, we must maintain a familiarity with the new technologies as they become available.”
Every year certification is becoming more valuable, he continued. Twenty years ago project specifications were generic and tile installers used techniques passed down over the years. Now, McLawhorn said, “officials are clearly stating techniques and methods to accommodate the newer tile trends, which call for more sophisticated installation systems. And finally, they are mandating/specifying the use of CTI tile crews to provide a better chance of a successful installation of their project.”

Certification has proved invaluable for McLawhorn. “I’ve been given the opportunity to utilize my CTI certification on multiple fronts,” McLawhorn said. “Obviously, I used the certification to promote my own business in the past. And, I continue to use my CTI certification in the corporate world for HB Fuller as a professional rep of TEC tile setting products. Nearly every day, my discussions with customers and other tile contractors are supported and validated by my certification.”

In addition to these opportunities, McLawhorn was also given the opportunity to help CTEF. “After my certification and due to my prior corporate experience, I was asked by Scott Carothers of CTEF to proctor a few examinations when he was unable to do so. It was an incredible opportunity to proctor an industry-accepted exam. Through the different fronts I’ve utilized my CTI, the certification has been the common denominator and continues to pay dividends for me, both tangible and intangible.”

Now, in his role at HB Fuller, McLawhorn said he still uses his certification. “There is no doubt that my CTI certification is an integral part of my reputation as a source of knowledge to my customer base. There is absolutely no level of corporate savvy that can replace the credibility that the certification gives me in the market place. The certification absolutely trumps any brand or corporate influence regarding my abilities as a rep.”

Certification is paramount to the industry. “We live in a world that allows mediocrity to self-destruct those who accept mediocrity,” McLawhorn said. But beyond the personal benefits of certification, McLawhorn said, “Our industry is changing annually and only the professional, progressive-minded applicators will benefit and grow.”

Member Spotlight – July 2016

This project entailed a curbless shower, with 6”x36” wood-look plank tile walls and floor with mirrored features on end walls. Electric floor warming was installed in the main floor, with a linear drain in the shower. Video

This project entailed a curbless shower, with 6”x36” wood-look plank tile walls and floor with mirrored features on end walls. Electric floor warming was installed in the main floor, with a linear drain in the shower. Video:

Elite Tile Company

Medford, Mass.
By Lesley Goddin


Sal DiBlasi of Elite Tile Company in Medford, Mass., is a one man show – no employees, no shop. DiBlasi said, “I worked for a couple of companies at the beginning. In 1989, I decided to start my own business and have been at it ever since. I can’t imagine working for anyone but myself.”

Though DiBlasi has a website, his real focus is his impressive YouTube channel: That’s where he uploads at least one video a week with varying themes. These include: how-tos, quick tips, product demonstrations and time lapse videos.

This bathroom featured Walker Zanger tile throughout, with linear drain. View one of several videos of this bathroom:

This bathroom featured Walker Zanger tile throughout, with linear drain. View one of several videos of this bathroom:

Di Blasi started uploading videos in 2006 but got serious with it a few years ago. “That is when I really started to see rapid growth of my channel,” he said. “I currently have over 550 videos online. Every video I make is linked to Facebook and Twitter.”


The bulk of DiBlasi’s work has evolved from commercial projects and a lot of new construction to tile in residential bathrooms, backsplashes, and floors. DiBlasi executes all the prep work with state-of-the-art materials or traditional shower systems when the situation calls for it, staying with a job until it is done.

“I will not rush to finish, and always concentrate on quality,” he said. “I no longer do rip outs; I am almost 59 years old and my shoulders are not in the best shape, so I have to be careful not to make them worse.”


The Lowell project involved all large-format tile with a linear drain, electric floor warming on the main floor and bench seat. One of several videos of this bathroom can be viewed at:

DiBlasi is one of the NTCA’s newest members. “To be frank, the main reason is because your people hounded me to join at Coverings this year,” he said. “I refused to join while I was there because I wanted to think about it and not be pressured into it. Once I returned home I gave it some serious thought and decided that it really is an organization worth being a part of. I still need to discover all the things you have to offer, but so far my interactions with all the people that make up the NTCA have been very positive.”

DiBlasi has 32 years of experience. Though he holds no industry-recognized certifications, he says, “I have always tried to learn the proper installation methods. Even after all these years of installing tile I still get an enormous satisfaction when I stand back and see the final result of my labors, especially the more difficult ones.”

Business Tip – July 2016

al_batesHarpooning the Whale, Part II: Changing the Profit Relationship by Working Customers Systematically

by Dr. Albert D. Bates, Profit Planning Group


Each year, Dr. Albert D. Bates, the president of the Profit Planning Group, prepares a Profit Improvement Report for CTDA.

What follows is part two of this report, which Bates has entitled “Harpooning the Whale.” In this section, Bates examines Changing the Profit Relationship – a discussion of how profitability can be enhanced by working with customers. Part one, which focused on Economics of Customers – an analysis of how customers break out into widely-varying profitability groupings – appeared in the January 2016 TileLetter Business Tip section. This installment picks up with the first chart, which illustrates the profit profile of tile distributors. The two-part series is provided by CTDA.

The typical CTDA member generates $500,000 in profit. For that firm, the customers fall into four categories based upon the profit they generate for the distributor. The A customers are the most profitable and the D customers are the least profitable – the money losers.

The relationship for customers and profit tends to be a little more dramatic when put into tabular form:

bus-01The fact that the typical firm loses $225,000 on slightly more than one-third of their customers is not an inconsequential issue. Potentially, dollar profit could be increased by 45% through concerted effort.

The immediate, knee-jerk, reaction is to just fire the D customers. In point of fact, this is an approach that some analysts support. It is an approach that should be avoided. Instead, it is essential to break the customer base into three target groups and work with them systematically.

Group One – A Customers: In the rush to focus on the money losers, there is a tendency to overlook the most profitable customers in the mix. It is actually more important to support the A accounts than it is to worry about the D ones.

No customer set buys all of their needs from one supplier. Anything that can be done to encourage A customers to purchase more has a direct and immediate impact on profitability. It is also a positive set of actions that everybody supports.

Group Two – The Down and Dirty Two Percent: Anecdotal evidence suggests that somewhere around 2% of all customers are not just unprofitable for the distributor, they are highly unprofitable. Even worse, they probably enjoy being unprofitable. These customers really should be fired.

Care must be exercised in the firing. Today’s fired customer may become tomorrow’s acquirer of one of the best A customers. The simplest approach is to simply let them fire themselves. This involves systematically moving them to a different, higher, category on the pricing schedule.

Group Three – The Mass of D Accounts: After the members of Group Two have been eliminated, there remains a massive number of accounts that still produce a gross margin that does not cover the cost to serve them. It is a lot of customers and requires a lot of work to correct the situation.

There may be some opportunity on the pricing side with these accounts. However, most of the effort must be devoted to the issue of the cost to serve. This inevitably gets back to the reality of too many small orders, too many emergency orders and too many returns.
The key is to get customers to plan ahead and ultimately place fewer orders. Alas, customers place the number of orders they want to place. Time and effort must be spent to educate customers about the cost savings on their side of the profitability equation if they were to order less frequently. It requires both an analytical effort and a sales effort. The profit impact, though, justifies the effort.

Moving Forward

A lot of firms are aware that some customers are unprofitable to them. What is needed is a more precise analysis of the nature of the challenge. Once the analysis is conducted that analysis must lead to action.

Dr. Albert D. Bates is founder and president of Profit Planning Group. His recent book, Breaking Down the Profit Barriers in Distribution is the basis for this report. It is a book every manager and key operating employee should read. It is available in trade-paper format from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

© 2015 Profit Planning Group. CTDA has unlimited duplication rights for this manuscript. Further, members may duplicate this report for their internal use in any way desired. Duplication by any other organization in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Ask the Experts – July 2016


I am trying to find out if tile can be installed over tile. I have a ranch house in Florida built in the late ’70s with an original slab floor and terrazzo. Ten or so years ago the then-owner installed 12” x 12” tiles over the terrazzo. We want a new tile floor but do not want to remove the current tile. I know it’s “all about that base,” and our current tile floors are solid as a ROCK, level, not a single hollow or loose spot anywhere. As a matter of fact, it is almost impossible to get this tile off! No contractor will lay tile over tile, but I have read many, many articles online – from contractors – that say it can be done. What do you say? Thank you!!!


Thank you for contacting the National Tile Contractors Association.

Cementitious terrazzo is really just a type of mortar bed that has been ground very smooth. The only problem with going over it is the terrazzo is usually highly finished or waxed, with multiple layers. This finish must be completely removed and the terrazzo re-ground to open up its pores before tile installation. When properly prepared with the right materials, it becomes an excellent substrate for a new tile surface.

A qualified tile contractor is the best person to determine whether your existing tile installation is well bonded to the terrazzo.


Twin City Tile Co. Ltd., of Kitchener, Ontario, was responsible for restoring the Registry Office of the Waterloo Region, which was constructed in 1938 and designated as a Heritage Landmark by the Historical Society. This included the original terrazzo floors, many of which consisted of nine cement colors and eight different colors of terrazzo chips of various sizes, with intricate geometric patterns and three different thicknesses of zinc and solid brass strips. Although you wouldn’t want to tile over a terrazzo floor of this quality and beauty, terrazzo CAN be an excellent substrate for tile, given the proper preparation by a qualified tile contractor.

Tile-over-tile is a method in the Tile Council of North America’s TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, providing the bottom layer of tile is well bonded and properly prepared to accept the bonding materials for the new layer of tile. This can be done by scarifying or grinding the surface of the existing tile and/or by applying an appropriate primer that will allow the new setting material to achieve a proper bond. Grinding the surface of existing tile can create a lot of dust and may release potentially hazardous particles into the air from the materials used in the glaze. It is best to have this work performed by a certified, experienced professional installer. Such an installer will also be familiar with the primers and setting materials that will work best for this type of installation.

A well-experienced, qualified, certified tile installer/contractor will know and understand the methods detailed in the TCNA Handbook and will be able to examine your existing installation and determine the best approach for the new tile. Look for a contractor who is a CTEF Certified Tile Installer and a member of the National Tile Contractors Association. I have included links below to help you find one near you. A contractor who is a member of the NTCA has a direct connection to us for any technical advice and support if needed.

If this is an above-ground construction or on a wood frame subfloor, consideration must be made to support the weight of the new tile installation. A qualified tile contractor can assist with this, but an additional contractor or engineering assessment may be required. Floor-height transitions to other areas must also be considered. The contractor you eventually hire should discuss this with you.

To locate an NTCA member contractor:

To locate a Certified Tile Installer:

I hope this helps!

Mark Heinlein
NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter

President’s Letter – July 2016

JWoelfel_headshotWhat is wrong with our thinking?

A few months ago, I wrote a letter about saying no. I received a lot of positive feedback. Since then I have been getting a lot of communications that deal with tile installers accepting a job and then when their scope review is being done, realizing they have a problem or that the job is a lot more complicated than they previously thought. Or they visited the job site and the existing conditions prevent them from installing the tile either by industry standards or by manufacturer proprietary systems.

This becomes the moment of truth. We all have egos and the belief that our abilities can solve problems, but I am telling you right now: our abilities can only go so far. Our egos must be kept in check by reality. I have fallen into this trap more than once, and usually I have lost money on that particular job. After the job was completed I stepped back and thought to myself, “What was I thinking?” Obviously, I was NOT thinking.

In the past six months we have turned down work, some even when the owner said “Money is no object.” Wow, does that hurt – or does it? We, as installers, seem to have a mindset that if we turn a job down we just passed up a huge payday, or we will be labeled as hard to get along with or to stubborn to work with.

Buck Collins, a Five Star Contractor out of Northern Virginia, said it the best. He asked me, “Do you know how long it took me to get my reputation as the tile guy that does great work? A long time. Do you know how fast I can lose that reputation? One bad job.”

That reality smacks you in the face. We have to learn a new mindset, one that says it’s OK to turn down work, especially if the thought of a failure enters our heads. Sure, it’s easy for me to say it’s a business decision. I say this all the time, even though I understand that no work doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table. But I also have been around long enough to know that there will always be a new job to bid that does not put my livelihood at risk.

Tile installers/contractors need to think with a little less ego and a lot more common sense. Our intuition is usually right. If you get in that room or on that job site before you sign that contract, empower yourself to be able to say, “I don’t think we can do this job the way it sits right now.” You need the proper substrate and materials to do the job correctly and you need to be able to express this in an intelligent way. If you can’t, then you need to have the ability to say this isn’t the job you want, or that you’ll take.

I know I am rehashing the point I made a few months ago, but based on the calls and emails I am receiving, it needs to be addressed again.

James Woelfel,
President NTCA,

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