Riding Shotgun: two weeks on the NTCA Workshop trail

An occasional series by Connie Heinlein

This month, we launch a new section: Training & Education. The intent of this section is to let you know about the ongoing efforts in the industry towards bringing the trade to a new generation of tile setters, recaps or announcements of workshops and regional trainings and how some contractors are devising their own apprenticeship programs, often using materials from NTCA. Are you teaching a class or developing a program or supporting the trade in some way with outside-the-box training, education or outreach? Contact me at [email protected] to let me know!


April 2018 was a busy month for the NTCA van that carries Mark and Connie Heinlein along the workshop trail. Here Connie shares her insider view on workshops and regional training that month. – Ed.


Connie Heinlein

We left home in Michigan’s U.P. on April 10th for a 2,300-mile round trip to New York and New Jersey for workshops and regional training. A trip like that brings many challenges: packing all the necessary equipment from trowels to tablecloths, finding comfortable and affordable hotels, eating healthy, performing a great training even when we are road weary, and discovering some fun along the way. On this particular trip the fun involved Broadway tickets and a birthday celebration. 

Another thing that keeps things fun and exciting is that each workshop is different and has its own unique personality and atmosphere. Location, season, attendance, topic, even the dinner menu affect the individuality of an NTCA workshop.

Here is a sampling of just a few of our many amazing NTCA workshop experiences, and a view of a Regional Training Program. 

Daltile, Albany, NY

The first event of this trip was at Daltile in Albany, NY. Manager Tom Drucker and his staff did a tremendous job of planning and putting on an excellent event. Seventy-plus attendees that included representatives of all tile-related professions – architects, designers, general contractors, and of course, tile contractors, project managers, installers, mechanics and finishers – participated in the event, not to mention the Daltile staff and the manufacturer representatives who supported the effort. More than 20 people took advantage of the CEUs available for the two presentations that Mark performed – Failures: Could It Be Me? and Tile Industry Standards.

The workshop was lively and vibrant, fueled by the celebratory atmosphere that comes with a dozen product vendors, a delicious barbecue buffet, enthusiastic learners, a great Daltile support staff, the vision that our host Tom Drucker had for the evening and our tremendous state ambassadors John Mendenhall and Eric Tetreault. 

At the conclusion of the night we celebrated with several new NTCA members, reviewed plenty of standards-based installation questions, and enjoyed the awarding of gift card prizes donated by the manufacturers and vendors. It was amusing to watch Mark run off his barbecue and corn bread calories delivering the prizes to the winners.

Nemo Tile, Red Bank, NJ

Another stop on this trip was Nemo Tile in Red Bank, New Jersey. We had no idea what a tremendous day we had ahead of us as the staff came out to greet us and guide us to our specially reserved parking spot.

The staff at Nemo Tile, led by manager Carrie Bocci and owner Matt Karlin, planned for a full-day event of training for their customers. The early part of the day involved training from manufacturers including Schluter, Bostik LATICRETE, and Alpha Tools. In the comfort and beauty of Nemo’s showroom the attendees learned, networked, and were treated to a delicious breakfast and lunch buffet. They even had a professional technician to make sure that the audio and video ran perfectly, without any glitches.

Mark greatly enjoyed the surprise honor of being introduced by none other than Phil Woodruff of Schluter Systems, who trained Mark as a tile contractor and influenced him to become a Certified Tile Installer and NTCA member contractor.

In attendance were architects, designers, general contractors, distributors, product representatives, and tile installers, including a few true blue NTCA members. Quite a few people were able to earn a CEU for attending an AIA-accredited program. We also had some wise attendees who decided to join the NTCA by the end of the day.

The specifics of the NTCA training for the event included Failures: Could It Be Me?, Introduction to Standards, and the hands-on demonstration segment of the new Tile Matters program. There was genuine excitement for learning how to use ASTM C920 sealant in expansion joints, proper troweling techniques, and the importance of substrate flatness. There were also lively discussion and questions about everything from grout joint sizes to troweling direction for tile set in a herringbone pattern. All in all, many topics were covered, plenty of ideas were shared, and everyone went away with some new learning.

The Tile Shop, Scarsdale and Westbury, NY

And those were only two of the workshops we had on this trip! We also had great workshop events at The Tile Shops in Westbury and Scarsdale, NY with managers Larry Pennica and Krista Van Valkenberg-Green and regional manager Zoe Stewart along with other impressive
professionals.

Daltile Stone Center, Moonachie, NJ

I certainly cannot forget to mention the tremendous member-only regional training at the Daltile Stone Center in Moonachie, NJ. Daltile’s Vinnie Sgro and Rocko Gallotta, along with Jerry Joyce, facilitated an excellent gauged thin porcelain tile training event. The NTCA and its corporate sponsors – Will White and crew of Custom Building Products and tool provider Ben Szell of European Tile Masters – trained 20 NTCA member installers in both classroom theory and practical application that brought together standards-based tile knowledge and this new product that is gauged porcelain tile and slabs.

It was a busy and productive couple of weeks on the road. Stay tuned for more reports from the workshop trail!

Teaching your kids the tile trade: yes or no?

One recent Tuesday, Dave Clark, owner of Clark Flooring LLC in Jackson, Miss., posed a question on the Facebook group, Global Tile Posse, about working with young family members – who’s done it and how is it working out?

“Working my son this summer, he’s 12 and never really done anything like work. Mainly just want to spend time with him and teach him a trade and the value of a hard-earned dollar. Any of you guys or gals ever work your youngsters? What would you pay them? Would you let them run a saw?”

This is an interesting question, since one of the main challenges in our industry is the dearth of tile setters and interest in the trade in the next generation. But after reading these responses, there is hope!


Sean Burkhart, Burkhart Construction Management, Richfield, Wis.: My son helps me every now and then. He is 9. I taught him how to run a tile breaker when he was 4. I don’t even have to explain it to him now. Just hand him a cut with a mark and he breaks it then stones the edge! Great help!

Brad Tremain, Tremain’s Top Tile, Winona, Minn.: Run a saw and wipe grout. Simple cuts. I’ve let my 8-year old run straight cuts.

Charles Nolen, Prestige Custom Tile, Logansport, Ind.: I get the awesome privilege of having my son install right along with me every day and I can say it’s truly the best ever watching your kid turn into a mini you. It’s pretty damn rewarding, not to mention the whole being proud thing, so here’s to you, Caleb Nolen. Let them do whatever they feel comfortable with. One of many good things about a wet saw is it’s hard to cut fingers off with it.

Kevin Green, Artistic Marble & Tile, Columbus, Ohio: $10 an hour. I tell him he has to save half of it, and yes I show him how to use the tools.

Cody Laws, Cody Laws Contractors, Wadmalaw Is., S.C.: I started when I was about 6. I got a dollar a day to pick up carpet scraps and blades. I had my own pair of pliers to pick them up with and put in a can.

Clayton Knutson, Final Touch Contracting, Dallas, Texas: I started real work and paying taxes/social security at 8 in a shipyard. My son is 4; works harder than most men.

Joseph Maiuri, Shores Tile Co., Roseville, Mich.: Yes sir. 12. First job I had was removing the paper between the quarry tile base and cutting the cardboard off the top: “Police the area.” I also cleaned my brother’s truck. I think I got $10/hr back then. That’s awesome – teach them young!

Matthew Allcott’s 11-year-old son grouting a floor…

Matthew Allcott, MGA Tiling, Frome, Somerset UK : I’ve let my boy have a go on the dry cuts (subway tile) and grout a small floor; he’s 11. He got 15 pounds for the day.

Dave Morgan, CA Flooring, LLC, Clinton, Miss.: My son helps my brother some throughout the summers. He’s 14 now and has been helping for the past few years.

Nathan N Michelle Mikoski of Batharium, Kannapolis, N.C.: Depends on the kid. My oldest started when he was 9, and around 13 things clicked for him. By 14 he was straight up setting small jobs and tub surrounds on his own. He’s started back today for the summer and will be 16 in a few weeks. He’s paid for his first car (a 1970 Beetle) and his own monster gaming rig. His younger

…and doing dry cuts on subway tile.

brother is 11 and still isn’t ready to handle a power tool, but he has other skills neither I nor his older brother have

Greg Dawson, Greg’s Flooring, Quesnel, B.C.: Pay $15/hr. Make him work, but try to have fun. Every dollar you pay him now is money that you won’t give him later to go out and do stuff. And he will feel like he earned it. It’s coming out of your pocket either way; just let them work for it.

Dennis Pacetti, Pacetti Tile & Remodeling, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.: Pay him what you’d pay an actual helper, and work him like an actual helper.

George Adams, ST Tile, Wellington, Ohio: My son has been on jobs since about 4. I was self-employed for 15 years and a single father, so my son came to work with me as often as possible. When he was 16, he started working for the same company I do. This is his second year here and he earned himself a $3 dollar/hour raise.

Tom Welch, Welch Bros, LLC, Woodland, Wash.: I don’t have a son but I do have two nephews that spent summers working on my tile jobs that are now both licensed full-service tile contractors. They were 14 or 15 when they first started and are now in their mid thirties. They started by just doing housekeeping and cleaning tools and buckets, buffing grout jobs, and just getting acquainted with construction in general by working around other tradesmen. I always made sure they got paid so they understood the value of working. I couldn’t be more proud of both of them and their accomplishments.

Matthew Felton’s stepdaughter Natalie helping on a waterjet mosaic, grinding off knobs where the mosaic broke off from the original stone tile. (In all other work she wore eye protection, Felton said).

Matthew Felton, Mattheworks.com, Milwaukee, Wis.: My dentist was kind enough to give my stepdaughter free braces. She was 10. So when his bathroom project came up in the summer, you should have seen the look on his face when he came home to see her outside in his driveway by herself making cuts for me.

I obviously didn’t just throw her out there. She learned everything – especially safety wise – that she needed to know and was more capable than most hired help I hired after the same amount of training. Pay for your son? As much as you would pay for what you would get out of any other trainee with whatever skill level he performs at. But agree there should be a lesson in saving as well.

Shaun Skeen, Home & Business Renovation Solutions, Okeechobee, Fla.: This is awesome seeing the next generation. I will start my son next year when he turns 4. We all better watch out for DCF showing up at our doors for child labor laws, LOL. Seriously though, let him enjoy just being with his dad then slowly start working him. Trash clean up, getting buckets filled, pulling spacers, cleaning thinset out of joints etc.

Dave Clark, Clark Flooring, LLC, Jackson, Miss.: All great responses. Thanks GTP! My kid makes great grades, just finished 6th grade with one B and the rest As. He likes to brag on being one of the smart kids and his achievements. I really just wanna spend time with him and teach him something that we know can be valuable. Kid saves all his money. I give him cash usually twice a year and he puts it wherever he puts it. He’s probably got more stashed away than I do. Lolz. Happy Tuesday, y’all!

Partnering for Success voucher program

One of the benefits of becoming a member of the NTCA is the “Partnering for Success” program. The manufacturing sponsors of this program feel strongly about the value NTCA provides and have agreed to offset your investment by providing these product vouchers. As a paid new or renewing contractor member of the NTCA you will choose $2,000 of FREE product vouchers from four categories of the $6,960 that is available. Each year the program will continue to grow as more sponsors come on board.

NTCA members applaud vouchers

This is a highly heralded benefit. Hear what a few NTCA members have to say:

“Aside from the obvious joy of free stuff, the program has allowed me to try some different products I might not have been able to before,” said Jason Jones, owner of Jones Tile, Columbiana, Ala. “Also, it’s helped to expose me to products I might not have known even existed.”

Matt Byars of Tiling Solutions, LLC, Gaffney, S.C., said, “The voucher program has turned into a rewarding opportunity for me. It allows me to try new products that I normally wouldn’t, as well as get some I am comfortable using. This year I will be able to provide 90% of the materials for a small bathroom remodel to a client who is down on their luck, and could use a helping hand. It’s a win for the client, a win for me, and a win for the industry!”

How to select your vouchers

Receiving your vouchers isn’t automatic – you need to select what you’d like, so you can tailor your selections to what’s best for your business. How does it work? Once you sign up as a contractor member, you’ll receive an email with a custom link to the vouchers. Go to the link, select vouchers from all four categories up to the Section Allowance for each category and submit your selections by November 15. You’ve got to choose all your vouchers at once and remember, vouchers expire December 15 of every year, so joining early in the year gives you the most time to use them. 

Here are the categories and sponsors for 2018: 

Category 1: Tile OptionsSection Allowance $600  –Sponsors include: American Olean, Crossville, Daltile, Emser Tile, Florida Tile, Marazzi, Metropolitan Ceramics, The Tile Shop.

Category 2: Tools/ Heat Systems Section Allowance $350 –Sponsors include: Alpha, ATR, Gundlach, Mark E. Industries, Miracle Sealants, NTCA Tile Tool, Nuheat, Porcelain Plus Speedbit, QEP, Rubi, SunTouch, Warmly Yours, Just Warm It.

Category 3: Sundries Section Allowance $400 – Sponsors include: Aqua Mix, Blanke, Ceramic Tool Co., Compotite, Contractors Direct, Hardiebacker/Home Depot, Hollspa, MAPEI, MD Pro, NAC Products, National Gypsum, Noble Company, NTCA Online Store, NTCA University, Oceancare Enhancer, Oceancare Sealer, Proflex, Schluter Systems, Trimaco, USG, VanHearron, wedi.

Category 4: Setting MaterialsSection Allowance $650 –Sponsors include: ARDEX, Bostik, Custom Building Products, C-Cure, LATICRETE, MAPEI, MERKRETE, TEC, Texrite. 

Here’s a detailed list of what’s available. http://www.tileletter.com/vouchers/. 

Do you have more questions? Call Jim Olson at 601-942-2996 or email [email protected].

Feature Story – June 2018 – Custom Building Products

Irvine, Calif. is a high-tech economic powerhouse sometimes referred to as “Silicon Valley South.” This fast-growing city’s skyline was transformed by a pair of distinctive glass office towers located at Irvine’s Spectrum Center, an open-air retail and dining district. Each 323-foot tower creates a vertical business campus offering impressive 360-degree views of coastal Orange County and showcasing large-format tile and stone on every floor. Both tile contractors on this project used a Build Green® Emerald System™ of products from CUSTOM to prep, set, grout and seal the assemblies and contribute to expected LEED Gold certification. 

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the architecture firm behind the Louvre’s iconic glass pyramid, designed the Spectrum Center’s new glass-walled, 426,000-sq.-ft. towers. Curtain wall construction creates an open, contemporary lobby to welcome employees and visitors to the many corporate offices headquartered here, including Mazda’s North American Operations. This effect is enhanced by the luxurious expanse of oversized natural stone on floors, walls and even inside the elevator cabs. 

Setting large-format tile and stone

Two long-time, family-owned, Southern California firms executed the tile and stone work at the Spectrum Towers. A team from NTCA member company Charles McCandless Tile of Santa Ana set 30,000 sq. ft. of porcelain and Carnevale and Lohr of Bell Gardens installed 20,000 sq. ft. of 3/4” thick quartzite pavers.

Prior to beginning work, samples of the very dense natural stone were submitted to CUSTOM’s laboratory for product testing. Based on their findings, the technicians recommended using ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar, which was then selected to install all tile and stone materials throughout the project. ProLite is a versatile, polymer-modified, dry-set mortar for large-and-heavy tiles that provides excellent bond strength. This mortar exceeds ANSI A118.15 TE and will not slump on floors or sag on walls. ProLite is formulated with lightweight, recycled aggregate, so it weighs 40% less than other mortars. Environmentally sustainable content delivers superior handling characteristics and also makes ProLite easier to carry and mix on the jobsite. A 30 lb. bag of ProLite typically covers the same area as 50 lbs. of traditional mortar. 

“ProLite is a game changer,” said Mark McCandless, president of Charles McCandless Tile. “The guys really like the way it comes out of the bucket on the trowel. It spreads easy, the non-sag is extremely good and its consistency is light and fluffy with very good workability. ProLite pays for itself in increased production,” he offered. 

Craftsmen from Carnevale and Lohr fabricated and set 30” x 30” Taj Mahal quartzite pavers in the ground floor lobby using a dry-pack method including ProLite® as the bonding mortar. Matching material measuring 2.5’ x 5’ was mechanically anchored on lobby walls and 20 stories of tower lobby floors were set with the quartzite in a 24” x 24” format. 

“ProLite is our number one choice,” said Jim Lunn, foreman at Carnevale and Lohr. “The guys in the field really like using it, especially for walls. The workability without sag is phenomenal. The pot life of ProLite is great and being lightweight is also a big plus,” he added. 

Protecting the tile assemblies

Core restrooms on all floors and the parking garage were treated with RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane. A ready-to-use elastomeric membrane that creates a continuous waterproof barrier, RedGard has outstanding adhesion and bonds directly to a variety of drain assemblies. RedGard exceeds both ANSI A118.10 and A118.12 for dual protection against moisture intrusion and in-plane crack transmission. Third-party laboratory testing has shown that RedGard outperforms other liquid-applied membranes for key performance attributes as well as actual coverage rate. 

After application of RedGard, bathroom floors were set with 12” x 12” Spec Ceramics Space Taupe matte tile. The porcelain tile installed on the walls was 12” x 24” Pure White matte supplied by Emser. Soft joints at changes of plane were filled with PolyBlend® Ceramic Tile Caulk which is suitable for use in interior, intermittently wet areas like these commercial buildings’ restrooms.

All porcelain and natural stone tile throughout both towers was grouted with Prism® Ultimate Performance Grout in shades to complement the materials for a modern, monolithic look. Fast-setting, lightweight Prism sets a new standard in grout technology. This calcium aluminate-based formula meets ANSI A118.17 high performance standards and will not contribute to efflorescence.  Prism demonstrates uniform, consistent color without mottling or shading, regardless of tile type or variable weather conditions such as humidity. These reliable results were important based on fluctuating environmental conditions at the jobsite due to the height of the towers and the effect of all-glass walls. Recycled aggregate content makes Prism 30% lighter than other grouts and delivers superior, smooth handling in grout joints as narrow as 1/16”. 

“Prism is more colorfast than other cement grouts and we do not see any mottling, which makes everyone happy,” said McCandless.

Aqua Mix® Sealer’s Choice® Gold was applied to protect both tile and grout from staining during and after installation. Premium quality Sealer’s Choice Gold is a water-based formula with low VOCs. This is important for enclosed installation areas like restrooms as well as compliance with California’s environmental regulations. This no-sheen, natural-look sealer maintains the color and character of stone while allowing moisture vapor transmission.

“We like to use Sealer’s Choice to prevent damage by other trades during construction. It’s used as a protectant on about 90% of our jobs and those have fewer callbacks,” offered McCandless. “Sealing per the contract documents is a big benefit.” 

Sustainable building with the Emerald System™

Custom Building Products is committed to environmental responsibility in both product development and manufacturing practices. Over 100 CUSTOM Build Green® products contribute to LEED certification with low VOCs, recycled content and regionally sourced materials. CUSTOM’s Emerald System™ goes a step further, with products that are guaranteed to comply with environmental agency regulations. The Emerald System is also the first line of tile installation products to include Carbon Offset Credits that help reduce greenhouse gas
emissions. 

ProLite mortar and Prism grout are cornerstones of the Emerald System™ and met the environmental standards of the Spectrum Towers’ builders with contributions to LEED® certification and Carbon Offset Credits. In addition, all of the CUSTOM products that were installed – plus the help of the Technical Services team – exceeded the performance expectations of the tile contractors. 

Construction Wages: skilled workers command higher pay

Business Tip – June 2018

In the TileLetter Weekly digital enewsletter disseminated on March 7, 2018, a recent study of wage data from the American Community Survey (ACS), analyzed by author Sasha David and published on BuildZoom (buildzoom.com) caused quite a stir. The analysis of the study was to determine which jobs pay the most – and the least – and why. The full story, with supporting charts and tables, can be found at http://tileletter.com/2018/02/construction-wages-who-makes-the-most-and-where/ or at http://bit.ly/2oqMLeO or at BuildZoom at http://bit.ly/2osxF8B.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) charts annual mean wage by area.

The controversy centered around the statistics that show concrete and terrazzo workers in this study make $35,000/year and brick masons, block masons and stone masons – as well as carpet, floor and tile installers and finishers make $30,000/year – which are said to be a far cry from elevator installers and repairers at $80,000 annually, or construction and building inspectors at $55,000. 

The upshot of the story was that location (workers in urban centers generally command higher wages than those in rural settings) and the skill/training level of the workers are the two main factors in higher paying positions, which David attributed to roles like supervisors, engineers and inspectors. 

The BLS statistics paint a different picture of tile and marble setter wages.

However, some TileLetter Weekly readers took umbrage at how tile setters were characterized and how figures may have been obtained including small sample sizes (15 for cement, concrete and terrazzo workers, 19 each for brick masons, block masons and stonemasons and carpet, floor and tile finishers and installers).

Rod Owen

“I dislike this occupational study and the way they group tile setters in with carpet/flooring. It requires greater skill to be a hard tile setter than it does to be a resilient/carpet installer,” said Rod Owen, of NTCA Five Star Contractor C.C. Owen in Jonesboro, Ga. “In fact, the word ‘installer’ irritates me because it associates a tile setter with a less-skilled trade of simply installing products rather than having to perform precision work with less forgiving materials like tile and stone…If all I had to offer was a median of $30k after achieving tile setter status I might as well quit trying to find long-term stable employees.”

Skill makes a difference

David did make the point that skilled “blue collar” positions also can bring in more robust salaries, but she did not identify tile setters as part of that elite group. 

“People tend to associate white-collar or office jobs with higher salaries compared to blue-collar or manual labor, but the rankings show that this is not necessarily the case,” she said. “Working with elevators or boilers requires physical work, but these are among the highest paid jobs in the industry.”

David pointed out, “The highest-paying occupations often require specialized apprenticeships, licenses or certifications that demonstrate an understanding of the trade and command a premium in the market, such as a grounding in mechanics for elevator technicians, circuitry for electricians, or water systems for boilermakers. Of course, licensing can also serve as a means for controlling the number of people practicing and by reducing the supply of those tradesmen, increase their wages.

“Towards the bottom of the list are trades that generally have lower barriers to entry,” she said, adding fuel to the fire. “Floor installers, construction laborers, drywall installers, painters and roofers are listed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics as having ‘no formal education credentials’ required, while professions with average pay including pipelayers, sheet metal workers, glaziers, insulation workers, and carpenters typically require ‘a high school diploma or equivalent.’”

Woody Sanders

Woody Sanders, founder of D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga., a fellow NTCA Five Star Contractor, took exception to the way tile contractors were characterized, saying, “We should highlight and make the case for what the professional ‘TILE’ contractors are paying and doing. I would agree with Rod, we have to detach our trade from carpet, vinyl, LVT. I understand that some of our members are in the floor covering business, but that is neither our charter nor our trade. Our message should be clear that we are a highly skilled trade that offers a career path.

“Interesting enough, as I got [the digital enewsletter], I was entering the pay rate for a new hire,” he added. “Having no experience, knowing nothing about the tile, I started him in the high $20Ks, with a chance to go even higher once he makes it out of his probationary period.” 

Varying statistics

In fact, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) page of the U.S. Department of Labor states the median pay for flooring installers and tile and marble setters in May 2017 was $40,250 per year and $19.35 per hour, quite a difference than the BuildZoom study. These figures, from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey, exceed $37,690 – the median pay for all workers in that time period.

Further analysis of the BLS data paints a different picture from the BuildZoom story. In May 2017, the BLS said tile and marble setters brought in a median wage of $41,680, compared to carpet installers at $38,830, floor layers (except carpet, wood and hard tiles) at $40,040 and floor sanders and finishers at $36,950. The lowest 10% of earners in the flooring installers and tile and marble setters category (which the government does lump together) made less than $23,590 and the highest 10% earned more than $73,990. 

Training

As part of its occupational analysis, the BLS includes a section called “How to Become a Flooring Installer or Tile and Marble Setter” at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/tile-and-marble-setters.htm#tab-4 or https://bit.ly/2rf5RoM. In terms of education – as David pointed out – the BLS states, “There are no specific education requirements for someone to become a flooring installer or tile and marble setter. A high school diploma or equivalent is preferred for those entering an apprenticeship program. High school art, math, and vocational courses are considered helpful for flooring installers and tile and marble setters.” 

However, the BLS continues in its training section with information about on-the-job training for flooring installers and tile and marble setters, adding that some flooring installers and tile and marble setters learn their trade via a two-to –four year apprenticeship. 

“This instruction may include mathematics, building code requirements, safety and first-aid practices, and blueprint reading,” the section states. “After completing an apprenticeship program, flooring installers and tile and marble setters are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own.”

And certification programs figure prominently in the BLS’s Certification section, which names industry programs that test installer and setter skills and offer certification credentials. At the top of the list is the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certification, and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program and requirements for taking the exam:

“Certification requirements include passing both an exam and a field test,” the site states. “Workers must also have either completed a qualified apprenticeship program or earned the CTI Certification to qualify for testing.” The program offers certifications in seven specific areas of tile installation:

  • Grouts
  • Large-format tile and substrate preparation
  • Membranes
  • Mortar (mud) floors
  • Mortar (mud) walls
  • Shower receptors
  • Thin porcelain tile.

The site also names voluntary certification programs for floor finishers and sanders by the NWFA, CFI’s certification for flooring and tile installers and the INSTALL comprehensive flooring certification program for flooring and tile installers. 

Important qualities that flooring installers and tile and marble setters need to exhibit are also listed, which include: color vision, customer-service skills, detail oriented, math skills, physical stamina and physical strength. 

So while it is true that anyone can enter the field without formal training, there is more than a nod given to certification programs, skill credentialing for skills of installers and setters and specialized qualities that enable them to execute their jobs. 

Bart Bettiga

“These products are not meant to be put in by an untrained workforce,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “Tile and stone are most often selected because they are considered to be a permanent finish. For this to be the case, we need to have a highly trained and highly compensated workforce.

“For the past several years, the NTCA has been developing its online apprenticeship curriculum,” he added. “We have worked with several of our members to help them use this educational tool to recruit new people into the trade and to train their current staff. It is our hope that this program can be integrated with supervised and field-related training.

“The reason this is so important is that we believe that tile installation is a highly skilled craft that takes several years to master,” Bettiga continued. “Why is this important? Because we have a big job to do, and it is perfectly illustrated in this paper. We must raise the wages of our trained tile installers if we are going to recruit talented young people into our trade. We cannot continue to be grouped with other flooring trades that quite frankly are not as complex, nor do they take as long to master. Tile installers should be making wages like other trades that are considered to be highly skilled.”

Clearly, CTIs, ACT-certified tile setters and NTCA Five Star Contractors exhibit “the specialized apprenticeships, licenses or certifications that demonstrate an understanding of the trade and command a premium in the market” that David indicated is a prerequisite for higher wages. Getting the word out to end users to look for those craftspeople with credentialed skills is an ongoing initiative in this industry.

Ask the Experts – June 2018

Ask the Experts Q&As are culled from member inquiries to NTCA’s Technical Support staff. To become a member and make use of personal, targeted answers from Technical Support staff to your installation questions, contact Jim Olson at [email protected].


QUESTION

I’ve got a new question for you all. What about homes with subfloors consisting of T&G boards, not plywood? They run diagonally. In this one specific case, there is actually 3/4” solid wood installed over the top of it. My thought is that it would require double 3/4” plywood, and I can’t find a single method in the book that identifies such a subfloor. 

ANSWER

Attached are pictures of different installed tile work examples incorporating movement accommodation joints. The first is a residential installation with porcelain plank tile where a change of pattern is in a doorway to allow for a nearly unnoticeable movement accommodation joint. The other two are from commercial jobs where large areas of tile happen quite frequently. 

In the TCNA Handbook from page 430 to 437 is section EJ171. It states under location and frequency of joints:

  • Interior – maximum of 25’ each direction; Exterior – 8’ to 12’ in each direction. 
  • Interior tile work exposed to direct sunlight (heat) or moisture – maximum of 12’ each direction. 
  • Above ground concrete slabs – maximum of 12’ each direction. 
  • Perimeter joints – movement joints are required where tilework abuts restraining surfaces such as perimeter walls.
  • Change of plane, exterior – movement joints are required in all inside and outside corners.
  • Change of plane interior – movement joint required at all inside corners.

Others and I believe this is the least used, most often misunderstood, and most important listing in our Handbook. Lack of correctly installed expansion joints is thought to be – by many – the leading cause of failures in tile industry.

With plank installations, special considerations to layout should be considered. Installing expansion joints on the long side is easier, and less noticeable.

For example, if you have an installation that is 20’ x 80’ you would need a minimum of at least three joints perpendicular to the long wall creating four separate sections. Running the long edge of the plank perpendicular to the long wall would help hide these expansion joints, and would appear similar to a grout joint. Borders and change of pattern can also help you succeed in installing less-noticeable expansion joints.

Whether they are noticeable or not, they are required by our standards. If you look closely, you can find expansion joints in almost every airport, shopping mall, car lot, etc. There are great installers implementing the standards found in EJ 171 all across the country. 

The TCNA Handbook says, “The design professional or engineer shall show the specific location and details of movement joints.” If they don’t, reach out to them for information. If it’s just you and a homeowner, show them what the industry says in our standard and create a plan for a successful installation. 

Robb Roderick,
NTCA Trainer/Presenter

Coverings 2018 – NTCA shines

President’s Letter – June 2018

Coverings is behind us, summer is upon us and I’m sure you are in the middle of your busy season. We need to take a moment and give thanks for our improving economy and the amount of work in the marketplace. I am also thankful for the tremendous growth our great association has experienced in recent years and even more grateful for the excitement and enthusiasm generated by many of our newer members. 

Have you ever walked into a crowded room or event where you didn’t know anyone personally and felt a little uncomfortable? If you attended Coverings this year and stepped anywhere close to one of the NTCA venues, you probably had more than one excited member greet you. Thanks to the efforts of many – our trainers, our State Ambassadors, our workshop hosts and sponsors, our staff – the number of NTCA members attending Coverings this year was up significantly and the buzz and atmosphere around our booth, the Installation Design Showcase, the Installation Experience and the Installation Demonstration Stage was very positive with lots of networking. I’d like to thank all our members for being outstanding ambassadors and reaching out to those who wandered into any of these areas – meeting people, sharing ideas, asking questions and providing answers about installation products and methods and ultimately building relationships and friendships. This is just one of the reasons we have seen membership exploding to new heights. And at Coverings, we added another 18 members to the fold. It’s energizing and very exciting to be a part of such a dynamic and diverse group that’s brimming with enthusiasm and passion.

We all owe our outstanding staff a huge thank you for all the extra time and effort they put into this year’s show. A special shout-out goes to our training team that works so hard all year, traversing the country teaching and demonstrating our craft to all who are interested. On top of all that, this year they recruited many members to volunteer and join them in working very long hours in advance of the show to prepare the venues so that we could enjoy the experience, learn and engage with new friends.

The NTCA Board of Directors is working hard to keep our members on the cutting edge by finding more ways to put education and training in your hands so you can continue to grow and build your business. The Installation Experience and the CTI Challenge were new this year and offered interactive learning opportunities.

Every time I attend an event and have the chance to network with other tile contractors and industry professionals, it’s a learning experience. This year’s Coverings show was no exception! I hope to see many more of you at Total Solutions Plus at the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, October 27th – 30th.

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA president

Committee member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

NTCA takes training opportunities to the next level

Editor’s Letter – June 2018

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


Well, you’ve made it to the halfway point of the year. Congratulate yourself that you are still above ground and hopefully making a good living in a profession you enjoy. So many are not, including a much-beloved icon of our industry, Armen Tavy, the irrepressible inventor and founder of Tavy Enterprises LLC. Read a bit about his impact on the industry and his legacy in this issue.

Last month, there was SO much to see at the Coverings show. We at TileLetter and NTCA were posting from the show on Facebook and Twitter with #ntcaatcoverings18, so if you frequent these social media outlets, see what was hopping in Atlanta. For the rest of you, we’ve provided an overview of many of the happenings at Coverings and a smattering of the kaleidoscope of products we saw there. By the way, it was wonderful to meet with so many of you in Atlanta! It made my heart sing! Remember to add Coverings to your 2019 schedule – April 9-13, in Orlando, and let’s visit again, among the rest of the excitement and education the show offers!

Though training and education has always been part of NTCA’s charter, NTCA is taking these opportunities to the next level with the Members Only Regional Training Program instituted this year, and the ongoing network of free workshops that crisscross the country. Get a bird’s eye view of these offerings in both our new Training & Education section with Connie Heinlein’s “Riding Shotgun,” and the NTCA University Update story that details our Members Only Regional Training opportunities. 

The respirable crystalline silica issue is not going away, and compliance with OSHA’s recently established regulation safeguards workers’ health – and keeps your operations legal. Learn more about this issue in our Tech Talk section where we view some of the information presented by iQ Power Tools’ Joel Guth during a Coverings conference session.

How lucrative is tile setting anyway, and how does it compare with other trades? Take a look at our Wage Study story in Business Tip. Input and feedback are welcome! 

Finally, our Hot Topics section addresses the next generation of tile setters. Thanks to Dave Clark over at the Global Tile Posse Facebook Group, an interesting discussion recently ensued about teaching offspring the trade – how early do you start, what kinds of tools do you let them use, and the like. Drop in and see how knowledge of our trade is being passed on to the next generation. 

We’re right on the cusp of summer. What major projects do you have on the roster? We’re always looking for great case studies with before/after photography, so if you’ve got something you’d like to crow about, send it to me at the email below!

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

NTCAU – Regional Training Event mid-year wrap up

Members are always asking me about training opportunities. Well, this month I wanted to promote regional training. 

At the start of the year, NTCA announced that it would offer regional day-long events in each of its 12 regions throughout 2018. As we close in on the midway point of the year, NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein has been traveling the country training NTCA members on one of two topics. Depending on location, he could be leading a day-long training in Industry Standards/Substrate Prep/Large-Format Tile or Gauged Porcelain Tile/Panels. 

Industry Standards/Surface Prep Large-Format Tile

The Industry Standards/Surface Prep/Large-Format Tile session starts with classroom lessons on tile industry methods and standards using ANSI resources. From there, class members learn how to use and navigate the TCNA Handbook. The attendees spend the rest of the day in a physical, hands-on working setting. Heinlein works with the class to check substrate flatness on floors and walls, general examination of framing systems, and proper installation of cementitious backer units. He then reviews various surface prep methods before releasing the attendees to work with the prep materials. 

Attendees are teamed into small groups to explore proper materials and tools for patching and rendering a vertical substrate to meet industry tolerance for large-format tile. The small groups then experiment with and pour self-leveling underlayment (SLU). 

When all substrates have been properly prepared and flattened, the class advances to proper mortar selection, mixing, trowel selection, mortar coverage, and installation techniques for large-format tile. When this event was held in Portland, Ore., Dirk Sullivan, owner of Hawthorne Tile, sent 10 installers with various levels of knowledge. Sullivan stated, “Training and education are key to the success of my company, and more importantly, the industry as a whole. The regional training event that was held here in Portland this past March was a fantastic opportunity for our installers as well as community here in Portland to see firsthand the hands-on [demonstrations], standards, techniques and materials used for successful, by-the-book installations. More please!” 

Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels

The Gauged Porcelain Tile/Panels (GPTP) course begins with streamlined overview of industry standards, then delves into ANSI A137.3 and ANSI A108.19, which have recently been approved and are specific to this new product.

After the classroom work, attendees relocate to the work area to learn about the tools that they will use during the day. Every attendee will join a small team to set a full-sized panel on either on a floor or wall substrate. As the teams work through the process, Heinlein offers tips and tricks to lead to a successful installation.

Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc., was one of the first locations to hold the GPTP course. Sam Bruce, president, stated, “As a company, a handful of our crews have installed GPTP, but this training gave us the opportunity to have every tile setter get a high level of education and instruction of what GPTP is and how different the installation can be. The training put Visalia Ceramic Tile in a position to confidently send any tile setter to a project where GPTPs would be installed.”

Testimonials

Still not convinced that you should consider attending or sending your team? Well, here is some feedback from others who have attended:

Woody Sanders, Owner, D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting: “The regional event was a tremendous opportunity that we took full advantage of. The efforts and preparation of the NTCA, along with the workshop sponsors could not go without being noticed and applauded. With the popularity of GPTP growing and the recent completed standards being published, this training focused on GPTP from start to finish. Furthermore, the event focused on proper techniques with hands-on training. This is why a few of my apprentice setters and I attended. Looking back, I should have brought my entire staff, but coming out of Coverings’ Tiny House [Installation Design Showcase] last week, we needed to get back to work.”

Rod Owen, Owner, C.C. Owen Tile, stated: “We had the opportunity to send a diverse group of our men for the Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels training. They ranged from master journeymen to first-year students in our Apprentice Training Program here at C.C. Owen Tile Co.

“The training gave the opportunity to discover new, exciting materials and methods of installation while emphasizing the absolute necessity for a strong core foundation of time proven methods,” Owen continued. “While our veterans were realizing the importance of staying in the know of their ever-changing industry, the apprentices were digesting the many aspects of an industry they have just begun a career in. 

“It’s great to see these guys the several days after the training session because there is a synergy that comes from these sessions: the guys learning something new, and the guys realizing the company cares about their professional growth and development as well,” Owen said. “It’s also intriguing when we tell the general contractor we are pulling guys off their jobsite for the day. As a specialty contractor, logic would tell you that the GC will have a fit but to our disbelief most are in support when you tell them it’s a training session.

“More importantly, the NTCA regional event was an opportunity for our tile setters to experience the tile industry in a different way than they are used to,” Owen concluded. “Meeting Mark, Robb and David Gillespie of Crossville and other superstars in the industry who have a passion for tile was a little astonishing. Receiving the high level of training and event type atmosphere was in a way a version of Total Solutions Plus or Coverings. Our tile setters left this event motivated, refreshed and eager to enhance their skills in the trade, the same way that the national events do for me.”

Due to the magnitude of hands-on work and training by Heinlein, class sizes are limited to the first 20 registrants. In many cases, we are also unable to accept attendees without a registration and don’t have room in the training area to allow people to just stay and watch. If you decide to register, no matter which training event you attend, you are going to learn something even if you think you are an expert already. The next regional training event is in Elk Grove, Ill., on July 13th. To learn more about regional events available in your area, visit  https://bit.ly/2Lccbq6.

Thin Tile – June 2018: Ponder prep before predicting price

By now, hopefully much of the tile industry has been hearing about gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) and realize that their installation requires specialized expertise and training as compared to typical large-format tile like 12” x 24” formats. But what’s really involved? 

Recently NTCA Training Director/Trainer/Presenter Mark Heinlein fielded a question about pricing for a 48” x 96” GPTP. While he couldn’t give a figure for such an installation, he did detail what’s involved in the installation and what’s needed as compared to traditional tile. Following is his response:

Installation of GPTP requires specific training on substrate prep, setting material selection and usage, specialty tool usage, material handling, teamwork and timing for successful installations. ANSI A118.19 is the installation standard for this material. It is the standard for every aspect of a successful installation.

Many manufacturers of GPTP team with setting material and tool companies to provide this specific training. NTCA is currently conducting GPTP training for our members in regional locations throughout the U.S. Our next program is coming up in the Chicago area in July. (Visit page 8 of this issue or this link for a calendar of upcoming regional training programs and workshops: https://bit.ly/2JjtEjr)

I strongly encourage any installers looking to work with GPTP to receive training based on ANSI A118.19 before attempting to perform an installation.

As far as pricing a job, items such as: substrate prep; proper mortar selection and use; appropriate specialty tool sets; lippage tuning systems and a well-trained, highly functioning team are required to set these tiles/panels. There is money to be made on these installations, but it takes some significant understanding of the process to determine appropriate pricing. Each job should be approached individually as each one will require very specific substrate preparation, etc.

NTCA’s day-long, member benefit regional training programs are currently training on GPTP, and Substrate Preparation and Large-Format Tile. They always incorporate Tile Industry Standards. In addition to installers, I have had project managers and designers attend these extensive training programs. The information and experience they gain has helped them better understand what their company is getting into on these projects. If you’d like to know more about these programs, contact me at
[email protected].