NTCA enjoys great success at TISE West

President’s Letter – March 2017

I’ve just returned from TISE West/ Surfaces West in Las Vegas where the NTCA experienced its most productive and successful attendance at this conference to date.

What made it so special, you ask?

This is the fourth year NTCA has been responsible for the tile contactor education track and with the help of the NTCA State Ambassadors, we created quite a buzz around the conference hall. The NTCA booth was much larger, and featured lounge areas for networking and impromptu contractor roundtable discussions. The State Ambassadors worked the booth for the most part and signed up several new members. The Ambassador Reception and Dinner was very well attended by contractors who were excited to be there and exchange ideas and information.

The Board of Directors meeting started out with an update of the NTCA Strategic Plan by executive director Bart Bettiga.

The great news here is that the two-year Finisher program will be completed and available on-line at the NTCA University website by Coverings this year. The two-year Installer program is on track to be complete by the end of 2018. If you haven’t seen this tremendous learning tool, I encourage you to contact Becky Serbin, Training and Education Coordinator for a preview (see NTCA University Update on page 84 of this issue).

Another major initiative that started at the end of 2016 is the hiring of Kevin Insalato, of California Flooring in Manteno, Ill., to work with Scott Carothers and CTEF. His major responsibility is to train and certify Regional Evaluators who will administer the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) examination. Kevin has nearly tripled the number of evaluators across the country and is seeking more qualified individuals. Our goal is to see the current number of 1,300 CTIs grow well into the thousands by the end of 2018.

Next up, the subcommittee reports

The Training and Education committee, chaired by Dave Rogers, of Welch Tile & Marble, Kent City, Michigan, now has five subcommittees as follows:

Safety – Chaired by Robert Showers. This committee is working on documents to be made available to all NTCA members as a resource for safety training, OSHA-approved safety programs and up-to-date changes in regulations and how they might impact our trade.

Promotion – Chaired by Paige Smith. This committee is working on initiatives to promote CTI and specific hot topics in distributor showrooms, along with talking points for workshops.

Certification – Chaired by Sam Bruce. This group is working hard to write scripts and study aids for those preparing to take the CTI exam. Its goal is to see those who possess the skills and knowledge increase their success rate by being properly prepared for the exam.

CEU Programs for Management – Chaired by Dirk Sullivan. This group is working to provide pro- grams and educational study guides for advancement in all areas of management.

CEU Technical – Chaired by Rod Owen. This group is developing scripts for educational videos to be used in training field foremen and superintendents.

These committees have now held two in-person meetings – at Total Solutions Plus (TSP) and TISE West – along with many conference calls and video conferences showing their commitment to grow the value of membership in the NTCA. There were nearly 100 industry professionals in attendance at the Board of Directors meeting, and it is very exciting to see so many new faces taking leadership roles within the association.

The Technical Committee, Membership Committee, Methods and Standards Committee and Convention Planning Committee also gave reports along with an update on the NTCA Five Star program from new Five Star Program director, Amber Fox.

As always, I invite your involvement and feedback and I look forward to seeing you at Coverings in April.

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA President Committee member, ANSI A108 [email protected]

Member Spotlight: Gudbrandsson Tile & Stone

NTCA is an international association, and as such, in this issue, we present to you a member from Manitoba, Canada – Gudbrandsson Tile & Stone (www.facebook.com/gdtileflooring), which installs tile and stone in mostly residential renovations and new homes, with occasional commercial hand-crafted specialty projects.

Brandur Gudbrandsson was working as a trucker until the discovery that he would soon be dad to a daughter helped bring his passion into laser-like focus. At the time, he learned his best friend for 17 years was also having a child. That became the impetus to start in the tile and ooring industry, with Gudbrandsson’s only knowledge stemming from “being in and out of the trade for 10 years.”

Gudbrandsson drove from Manitoba to Chicago in 2016 to attend Coverings; Dave Karp gave him a warm welcome.

Gudbrandsson quit driving and began buying tiling tools until he hit a bump in the road. “Ironically, my buddy of 17 years did not want to continue after one month of work and we found out our sixth-great-grandfathers were half brothers,” he said. “He became a professional trucker; I became a professional tilesetter.”

Gudbrandsson’s grandfather said, “Stand still, nothing accomplished.” Standing still wasn’t good enough for Gudbrandsson. “ When I had to take the leap of being a dad, I told myself follow my passion and I will succeed,” he said. “I thank my daughter for where I am today – and my grandfather’s hard working roots. Everything I do – on a job or in the industry – has my family name on it. It signifies quality.”

Brandur Gudbrandsson joined NTCA in 2016 due to the influence of fellow Tile Geeks tilesetters he admired.

Gudbrandsson joined NTCA in 2016 due to the influence of fellow Tile Geeks tilesetters he admired. “I believe the industry is being re-pioneered today, and I came into the industry at the best time,” he said, adding that he wants to “be involved with the industry as deeply I can get.”

Gudbrandsson said, “The greatest aspect of becoming a NTCA member is the support and net- working from so many GUD people. I had the pleasure of meeting many in Chicago at Coverings 2016. It was a GUD drive; Dave Karp, owner of Tile Fusion, was the first to greet me on the journey from Manitoba.”

He continued, saying, “It is a GUD satisfaction to be a part of an ancient art. It gives me great joy to see more people involved every day. The networking is very GUD locally and abroad. Becoming a Tile Geeks member led me to create Tilesetter Canada Facebook group for more regional connections. I see now setters from Canada helping each other nding work, becoming friends and helping troubleshoot problems, or connecting with a tile company representative.

Brandur Gudbrandsson (far left) and a group of NTCA members and Tile Geeks at the NTCA booth during Coverings 2016 in Chicago.

“Seeing the tile community through social media using the word GUD is also attering,” he added. “Perseverance, consistency, details – meeting anyone with the same passion is always a pleasure.”






Gudbrandsson Tile & Stone projects


Qualified Labor: The Benefits of Certification

The Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program run by the Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) encourages installers to test their skills against industry standards. It offers industry members the chance to establish their place among the best and brightest installers. During Total Solutions Plus in Palm Desert last October, Becky Serbin interviewed several NTCA members about the benefits of certification.


“It really is a way for me to categorize my installers as well as let them know where they stand,” said Dirk Sullivan, NTCA state ambassador for Oregon and owner of Hawthorne Tile, and State Ambassador. “It helps them want to move forward in the industry and to know what they have to do to get there.” The CTI program leads to bet- ter installations and increased wages across the industry.


Martin Brookes, with Heritage Marble and Tile in Mill Valley, Calif., and NTCA 2nd vice president, said, “We’ve had great Brookes success using the program to elevate workmanship, to elevate the confidence of our guys to do higher-end installations, and higher commitment to the standard of quality of work. It’s been really advantageous to Heritage Marble and Tile.”


As the industry rises in reputation and reliability, its members benefit. “The CTI program allows me to offer something to my customers that not Denny everyone else can,” said Brad Denny, NTCA regional director and State Ambassador, and project manager at Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co. Inc., Joelton, Tenn.



In addition to being a benefit to the installer, the CTI program is a boon to the installation company. “We’ve been located by people across the country using the database through the CTEF and NTCA websites,” said Erin Albrecht, chief operations officer of J&R Tile in San Antonio, Texas. And every year the construction industry is recognizing certi cation as more important.


Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co. saw a huge financial benefit after
receiving a request for certified installers. “Five years ago
we had an owner call us and say, we’re looking for CTEF-certified installers and we can’t find anyone who knows what they’re doing,” said James Woelfel, Artcraft vice president and NTCA chairman of the board. “It generated at least a billion dollars worth of work over the last six years,” he said.

Overall, certification raises the industry standard and encourages
quality installation.


“I think what we have seen is a different culture of professionalism in the trade,” said Kevin Fox, president and owner of Fox Ceramic Tile, Inc., in St. Marys, Kan., and chairman of the NTCA Methods and Standards Committee. “It took us a while to get a buy-in on it. We have a lot of installers that have been doing [installation] for 20 to 30 years, so it took me a while to convince them to validate their skills. We need those skills validated as a company as we’re talk- ing to general contractors, especially those who aren’t familiar with us. And we also need it validated for even repeat custom- ers that are looking for clients that will provide a consistent product.”


The tile industry toward certification as a standard. Martin Howard of David Allen Company in Raleigh, N.C., and current NTCA president, observed, “It really does set you apart from your competitors and it also validates your skill and it validates the knowledge that you have and the hard work you’ve put in to get where you are.” The more installers who are certified the better off the industry is as a whole.


Jan Hohn of Hohn & Hohn, Inc., in St. Paul, Minn., said, “It was a selling point I could talk to general contractors about, to architects, and designers to let Hohn them know we had passed a national test and it said we were qualified to install tile.” As more contractors, architects, and designers recognize certification as evidence of quality installers, certification will become ever more important to the industry and its members.

For more information, visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/certified-tile-installer-cti-program.

Editor’s Letter – March 2017

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Welcome to spring. The long, dark winter (for some – here in New Mexico, we’ve had 80 degree temperatures in March already!) is over and the tiling season has begun.

Of course, for most contractors, the tiling season is all year round, though the warmer weather affords some flexibility (and struggles – with wind, humidity, high temperatures, sun and rain) and opportunity for indoor and outdoor tiling projects.

Though warm weather is upon us (or nearly upon us, for those of you in the Northeast), cool weather will come round before we know it. That’s why it’s worth discussing electric floor warming with your clients. Today’s technologies make it easy to install and the benefits of a warm, cozy floor (even enjoyed on cool summer nights) will be appreciated for years to come. Take a look at our Tech Talk section for some discussion of electric floor warming challenges straight out of the NTCA Reference Manual.

Despite the push towards spring, we’re taking a look back at The International Surfaces Expo West (TISE West) that took place in the dead of January in Las Vegas. Take a gander at the events and activities that NTCA sponsored and supported at the show, which has really grown into a vibrant and vital opportunity for tile and stone contractors. Our product section this month also contains a sampling of what was seen at the show, both in terms of finishing product and setting materials and accessories.

We also have a fun Business Tip this month – Riding shotgun with Connie Heinlein. Connie is wife and intrepid assistant to NTCA technical trainer/presenter Mark Heinlein, and accompanies him to workshops around the country (many of the excellent photos of Mark you see in TileLetter or on social media are courtesy of Connie). She has a unique perspective on the value of NTCA to installers in the industry, and in the Business Tip section, she shares it with you.

At Total Solutions Plus, Training and Education coordinator Becky Serbin interviewed some of our prominent contractor members on video about the value of being a Certified Tile Contractor. TileLetter freelancer Terryn Rutford has extracted some salient quotes about the importance of this credential and how it helps in business, and presents it as our Qualified Labor story this month.

And in closing, a little tidbit that came to my attention from the Tile Geeks social media group on Facebook.  Schluter’s Shannon Huffstickler had shared some information about Tim Daly –known for his role in television hits Wings and Private Practice, and currently appearing as the husband of the Secretary of State in Madame Secretary opposite Tea Leoni– that she had heard during an interview with him on NPR that morning. It turns out that Daly (whose sister is Tyne Daly, by the way) once had a tile company in California called Silver Dollar Tile Company, because they “signed” their work by installing a silver dollar in every floor.

Do you “sign” your work? Send an email to [email protected] and let me know how you make your mark on the installation (apart from your excellent work, of course).

Make this day your best one yet.

God bless,


Workshops and Educational Events

The Tile Shop went above the call of duty for this February 9 event, presented by CTEF director of training and certification Scott Carothers in Dunwoody, Ga. It included over 10 key accounts from all over the country, and a tour of the nearby Blanke and Lackmond manufacturing facilities.  NTCA board advisor Dan Welch, NTCA State Ambassador John Roberts, and NTCA training and education coordinator Becky Serbin were also on hand to support the event, during which one new member signed up and nine installers expressed interest in taking the Certified Tile Installer exam in the future. The Tile Shop manager Henry Paz, technical coordinator Dan Holcomb, and numerous other Tile Shop personnel went all out to make this workshop a huge success.  The group is pictured at Blanke’s manufacturing facility.

Southern California State Ambassador Josh Castelli and son

John Wirtz and Amber Fox spoke about the NTCA Five Star Contractor program

About 40 people attended the San Diego Daltile Design Center NTCA workshop. The Southern California crowd expressed a lot of interest in certification. 

On February 21, the San Diego Daltile Design Center NTCA workshop was a hit, with about 40 attendees. Presented by NTCA’s Robb Roderick, it was supported by Southern California State Ambassador Josh Castelli of Christian Brothers Flooring & Interiors, and  John Wirtz and NTCA Five Star Contractor Coordinator Amber Fox who both spoke briefly about the NTCA Five Star Contractor program. Manufacturers iQ Power Tools, Alpha Professional Products and Custom Building Products were also represented.  The Southern California crowd also expressed a lot of interest in certification. 

Sixteen people attended the Mechanicsburg, Pa., workshop.  CTEF’s Scott Carothers stopped in on his way from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to lend his support to the workshop effort.  A second surprise visitor was NTCA vice president Chris Walker who happened to be traveling from New York to Washington with his mother-in-law, and made a slight adjustment to his travel plans to attend and support the workshop. Chris and Scott both provided outstanding commentary on successful contractors and installers joining and participating in the NTCA and challenging themselves with the Certified Tile Installer exam. 

On February 23 – National Tile Day – NTCA celebrated at the Daltile in Allentown, Pa. Jerry Dwyer, Dal’s NE Region VP presented manager Shawn Friel with his 25 year service award and the staff with a tile plaque recognizing Dal’s 70 years in business. Lots of great prizes were given away including trip for four and tickets to a game in a skybox at Yankee Stadium!

(L. to r.)  From MAPEI: Todd DeKorte, ; Becky Perry; and Lou Genzlinger, with NTCA technical trainer Mark Heinlein. While assisting with Mark Heinlein’s Conshohocken, Pa., workshop, Todd DeKorte, MAPEI sales representative for Eastern/Central PA & DE graciously offered show him the brand new MAPEI Distribution Center for the Northeastern U.S.  Unit manager Lou Genzslinger and Quality Control manager Becky Perry gave Mark a comprehensive tour and behindthescene insight of the brand new operation. 

The new van in which Mark and Connie Heinlein will tour the country is fully emblazoned with training and education sponsor logos! 

NTCA New Members

NTCA Oklahoma State Ambassador Chris Abouarrage signs up new NTCA member Jeremy Crim at the Daltile luncheon in Oklahoma City. 


Duana Fava and Robb Roderick

Jimmy Cabrera and Robb Roderick

At the Temecula, Calif., Daltile workshop , NTCA trainer/presenter Robb Roderick signed up two new members: Duane Fava of DNA Construction and Jimmy Cabrera of Pacific Surfaces. ARDEX and CUSTOM helped support the workshop. 

Daniel Ellis (l.) of Imagine Tile & Stone joined NTCA during the San Diego workshop at Daltile Design Center. He’s shown here with NTCA trainer/presenter Robb Roderick.


Chris Johnson and Robb Roderick at Johnson Tile at Marazzi Anaheim


Peng at Marazzi in Anaheim

Robb Roderick and Valente Lopez of ETR Development

Ashanti Bayrooti of Lifetime Flooring and Robb Roderick

Robb Roderick had a crowd of 20 at Marazzi, Anaheim, with many manufacturers on hand including ARDEX, Schluter,MAPEI, LATICRETE, Merkrete, Alpha Tools, James Hardie,  and Lackmond. Five attendees joined NTCA. Shown with NTCA trainer/presenter Robb Roderick are Chris Johnson of Johnson Tile, Valente Lopez of ETR Development, Ashanti Bayrooti of Lifetime Flooring and Peng Zheng  of Yuchen & Paul Construction. Mike Rubel of Reptile, Inc. also signed up, but missed a photo opp


John Vanarthos and Mark Heinlein

NTCA trainer/presenter Mark Heinlein welcomed new NTCA member Jon Vanarthos of Gemini Home Remodeling, who joined at the NTCA workshop at the Conshohocken, Pa., American Olean Sales Service Center.  


TISE West: positive mood, effusive showing of NTCA members

Activities for contractors amplify in 2017 Surfaces/TISE West show in Las Vegas

By Lesley Goddin

Last month, my editor letter gave a preview of the Surfaces/The International Surface Event (TISE) West show in Las Vegas. The International Surface Event (TISE) is comprised of: SURFACES | StonExpo/Marmomac | TileExpo events.

Here’s a bit more of what went on there, particularly regarding NTCA/CTEF events. I’m writing this just a few weeks before the Coverings show in Orlando – sometimes I feel our lives are strung together from industry event to industry event – just return from one and it’s time to get ready for the next.

Optimism and crowds were evident in Vegas this year, whether it was at the conference sessions, the NTCA booth, the Certified Tile Installer exams or at the many exhibits for tile, stone and setting materials that populated the show floor.

There are many other positive indicators at the show as well. The  420,000 sq.ft. show floor was over 32,000 sq. ft. larger in 2017 than in 2016, with 800 brands exhibiting – more than 200 of which were new and had not exhibited at TISE before.  Over 100 countries were represented.

Attendance  jumped 7% in 2017 over 2016 – even more significant since 2016 showed a 10% growth over 2015. Exhibitors are pleased, evidenced by on-site rebooking for the 2018 event that accounted for nearly 80% of the 2017 show.

NTCA Executive Meetings

For NTCA, the whole show kicked off with an executive committee meeting, followed by a well-attended Training & Education Committee gathering, led by Training & Education Committee chair Dave Rogers of Welch Tile and Marble.


The Training & Education Committee meeting was very well attended.

NTCA State Ambassador Reception

That first evening of TISE West, NTCA held a reception and dinner in appreciation of its members and State Ambassadors with an address by NTCA president Martin Howard, presentation by Eric Astrachan of TCNA and a video on the history of NTCA and its accomplishments in the last 15 years, introduced by Will White of Custom Building Products.

David Allen Company’s Martin Howard, NTCA president, addressed the State Ambassador and Member Appreciation Dinner. 

NTCA Five Star Contractor Jan Hohn (l.) of St. Paul’s Hohn & Hohn, Inc., with Jen Hoff of Taffy Event Strategies, the management company for Coverings at the NTCA dinner.

Amber Fox (l.) NTCA Five Star Contractor Coordinator with TCNA’s Stephanie Samulski.

Rod Owen of NTCA Five Star Contractors C.C. Owen in Jonesboro, Ga., with wife Melinda (l.) and daughter Olivia, who was in Vegas for the very first time. 

Robb Roderick (l.) NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter with Kyle Maichel of Fox Ceramic Tile. 

John Cox of Cox Tile, past NTCA president, turned 60 years old during TISE West – NTCA celebrated with a special cake during the dinner. He’s shown here with TileLetter editor Lesley Goddin. 

Demos, talks and meetings abound

One of the most valuable aspects of the show is seeing products and methods in action, getting a chance to see products close up and meeting new people. NTCA had a full schedule of demos on the installation stage, and exhibitors also ran their own demos at their booths, and took time to tour TileLetter through their products.

Crowds flocked to demos on the installation stage by NTCA technical trainer/ presenters Robb Roderick (standing) and Mark Heinlein.  

At the CUSTOM booth, Expert Care and Maintenance Senior Technical Advisor Sole Alcaino demonstrates the AquaMix Cement Grout Haze remover.


At Progress Profiles, Domenico Borelli and Dennis Bordin demonstrate Prodesso Heat Grip mat for floor warming/uncoupling/waterproofing. 

Adrian and Alma Flores of Cement Pro

One of NTCA’s newer manufacturer members, Mexico-based Cement Pro has over 40 years of experience manufacturing mortars, grouts, tile care products and bonding agents. Adrian and Alma Flores (pictured l-r) explained that Cement Pro also began manufacturing in 2009 in Riverside, Calif. 

Broadcasting direct on Facebook Live during the show was Lindsey Waldrep (c.) of Crossville, moderating a discussion with Lisa Mende of Lisa Mende Designs (l.) and Patricia Gaylor of Patricia Gaylor Interior Design. (see the A&D feature in TileLetter TRENDS issue for more on this interview).

NTCA booth – a meeting place

Seven new members joined NTCA during TISE West. There was a frequent  crush of people at the NTCA booth, where State Ambassadors, members and curious showgoers clustered to talk about tile, education, business and membership.

Christine Kotara (l.) Johnny Kotara and Erin Albrecht of J&R Tile in San Antonio stopped by the NTCA booth during a tour of the show. 

Jamen and Chanel Carrizosa of Icon Tile & Design talked about learning, training, design and installation while at the booth. 

NTCA Florida State Ambassador Michael Weaver of Trendsetter Tile & Stone, Coral Springs, Fla.

Stoneman Construction’s Jason (l.) and Shawn McDaniels – brothers from Portland, Ore.

Certified Tile Installer testing and Regional Evaluator training

There was a strong showing at TISE West for Certified Tile Installer testing, with nine installers taking a timed test to lay tile on the CTI modules. The effort was supported by several of the new Regional Evaluators which will allow more frequent CTI tests to take place with smaller class sizes across the country. Twelve new Regional Evaluators are on the job, led by Kevin Insalato of California Flooring.

Nine installers took the CTI test at TISE West.

NTCA Arizona State Ambassador John Mourelatos of Mourelatos Tile, Tucscon, Ariz., took (and passed!) the CTI test at TISE West. At Coverings, he will train to become a Regional Evaluator.  

Next year, TISE West will be held at Mandalay Bay from January 29- February 1, with educational sessions beginning January 28. For more information, visit www.tisewest.com.


TEC®3N1™ Performance Mortar

TEC® 3N1™ Performance Mortar is ideal for installing heavy and large-format porcelain tiles on floors and walls. With no-sag, no-slump and slip resistance, this lightweight, polymer-modified mortar provides high performance, and superior troweling to help reduce fatigue.  TEC 3N1 Performance Mortar exceeds ANSI A118.4 and A118.11 shear bond specifications and provides 50 lbs. of coverage with only 30 lbs. of actual weight, is mold and mildew resistant, and allows an extended open time for maximum adjustability. tecspecialty.com.

TEC 3N1 Performance Mortar

MD Building Products Prova Board Pan Assembly Kit®

MD Building Products Inc. showed the PROVA BOARD PAN ASSEMBLY KIT®. The kit provides all of the components required to install and waterproof a tiled shower using PROVA-BOARD® Plus tile backer. Available in ABS and PVC, this cost-effective combination of backer and kit is perfect for new construction or projects where existing drywall or cement board needs to be replaced, and eliminates the two-step process of waterproofing membrane over cement board and/or drywall. www.provaproducts.com 

MD Building Products Prova Board Pan Assembly Kit

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