Business Tip – March 2018

Tax reform: yes, it is a big deal

By Pat O’Connor, Kent and O’Connor, Washington, D.C.

Tax reform legislation raced through Congress at lightning speed. So quickly, in fact, analysts are still digesting its contents and assessing its impact. Critics say it favors the rich. Proponents promise it will unleash the American economy. Others worry about the long-term impact on the national debt. Yet, the truth is, nobody really knows for sure how this legislation will reshape the economy or our society at large.

From the perspective of corporate taxation, we can say for certain, passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 is a big deal. For years, the United States has clung to an outdated 1986 era corporate tax code and a 1960s system of taxing “worldwide” income that most other countries abandoned long ago. At 35%, the U.S. corporate rate towered over other developed countries’ rates. In a global economy, where companies can choose where to produce and invest, these features pushed many companies and trillions of dollars overseas. Bold structural changes were needed. And, the new law does just that.

Already, as of mid-January, over 220 companies have responded, either by providing bonuses, wage increases, or both to employees. AT&T gave $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 hourly employees and announced they will boost capital spending in the U.S. by $1 billion in 2018. Starbucks employees received wage increases and expanded benefits. Some dismiss these gestures as little more than window dressing with no real impact. Yet, others see this as an early indicator of positive things to come as the consequences of tax reform work their way through the economy. (Ed. Note: Conversely, since the reform has been enacted, we’ve seen major retailers close hundreds of store locations, and lay off thousands of workers. Whether coincidental timing or deliberate scheduling, the effects on discretionary income are yet to be seen.)

The new 21% corporate tax rate and the switch to a territorial system of corporate taxation are key changes. But these are not the only ones. Other changes include:

100% Expensing: The bill provides a full and immediate write-off of most machinery and equipment purchased for use in a trade or business, including both new and used property.

Increased “Luxury” Auto Depreciation Limits: The bill increases limits on passenger vehicle depreciation – commonly referred to as the “luxury vehicle depreciation limit.” The limits are increased from $3,160 to $10,000 in the first year; from $5,100 to $16,000 in the second year; from $3,050 to $9,600 in the third year; and from $1,875 to $5,760 in the fourth and later years.

Limit on Interest Deduction: For companies with more than $25 million in gross receipts, the bill limits the deduction for corporate interest paid. The deduction cannot exceed the sum of i) business interest income plus ii) 30% of the adjusted taxable income of the corporation.

Entertainment Expenses: No deduction will be allowed for entertainment expenses, although the company can still deduct 50% of the cost of meals for employees on work travel.

Credit for Family and Medical Leave: In 2018 and 2019, employers can claim a tax credit of 12.5 to 25% for wages paid to employees while on paid family and medical leave.

A new deduction for pass-through entities

One of the most intriguing and complicated changes is the new tax benefit for “pass-through” entities, which includes S-corporations, partnerships, sole proprietors and most LLCs. The essence of the new Section 199A is a deduction of 20% of the entity’s Qualified Business Income (QBI). The potential tax savings is prompting many business owners to rethink their operation. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say Joe owns a tile installation business, called Tile LLC, where the income is taxed as a sole proprietor on Joe’s individual tax return. In 2018, Tile LLC has a profit of $250,000, which is reported on Joe’s Form 1040, Schedule C. Subject to certain income restrictions, Joe will receive a $50,000 deduction (20% of his Qualified Business Income) on his individual tax return!

However, the restrictions on the QBI deduction add a great deal of complexity:

First, there is an income threshold to consider. If Joe is married and files a joint tax return, he and his wife’s taxable income must be less than $315,000 to claim the full 20% QBI deduction (less than $157,500 for single taxpayers). For incomes over $315,000, a partial deduction is allowed for joint taxable incomes up to $415,000.

If the entity is a personal services business (accounting, legal, consulting, and any other trade or business where the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees is the reason for the revenue, except for engineering or architectural services), no QBI deduction is allowed for pass-through income if the individual taxpayer’s taxable income is greater than $415,000 for joint filers.

For entities that are NOT personal services corporations and the pass-through income exceeds the income threshold described above, a QBI deduction is available, but may be limited. In this circumstance, the QBI deduction is the lesser of 20% of QBI or 50% of the W-2 wages paid to all employees by the entity; or, alternatively, 25% of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of the original cost of tangible depreciable assets.

For Subchapter S corporations, the rules requiring employee/owners to be “reasonably compensated” still apply. So, if Tile LLC is a Subchapter-S corporation, Joe would pay himself a reasonable salary of, say, $70,000 and receive a W-2 for that amount, leaving a pass-through profit of $180,000. The 20% QBI deduction would be $36,000.

Generally, an estate or trust is also able to deduct up to 20% of business income from a pass-through entity.

Yes, it’s complicated. Tax planners are eager to see guidance from the IRS to provide more detail on how this provision will be implemented.

But with change comes opportunity. And the opportunities created by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 are indeed significant. While no company should rush headlong into a major restructuring, every company should explore whether their current structure continues to make sense. Almost overnight, we find ourselves in a new environment. Navigating this changed landscape will take skill, and the guidance of a knowledgeable accountant, but it will be well worth the effort.


Pat O’Connor is a principal in Kent & O’Connor, Incorporated, a Washington, D.C.-based government affairs firm. A veteran of Capitol Hill with particular expertise in health, transportation and the environment, O’Connor works with trade associations and companies to find workable solutions to the most pressing regulatory and legislative issues. For more information, visit or call 202-223-6222.

Ask the Experts – March 2018


I am a homeowner having a glass tile install performed. The tile is a 3” x 12” glass subway tile with a color backing. It is being installed as the backsplash around the stove/oven. My tile contractor said to butt the glass tiles up to each other with no spacing in between – and to butt them up to the quartz countertop – but I was told by the tile store to use a 1/8” spacing.

All I am looking for is your technical opinion on the proper way to install the tiles regarding the spacing to give some instruction to my contractor for the install. The tile edges/corners are flat with no bumpers that would cause a spacing when they are butted up to each other.


We always encourage our members to follow the guidelines set forth in the TCNA Handbook. On page 37 of the Handbook it states “that in no circumstances shall the grout joint be less than a 1/16 of an inch.”

One of the reasons listed for a minimum requirement for grout joint size on all tile installations is “thermal expansion.” Glass tile is highly expansive. It also explains that the grout joint should be no smaller than three times the variation of the tiles themselves. That means if a particular group of tiles vary in size 1/16”, the smallest grout joint recommended for that particular group of tiles is 3/16” of an inch.

Most glass tile manufacturers have directions for the use of their products. I would encourage you to contact the manufacturer of the glass to get their recommended grout joint size. And make sure there is the appropriate sealant joint where ever the tile meets differing materials like a countertop or cabinet.

I hope this helps.

Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer


I plan to have a small bathroom tiled, shower walls with niche, shower floor, and floor (12” x 24” walls and 4” hex all floors). This is on concrete slab.

I’m working with a contractor who is bringing tilers in for the job and I’d like to make sure they are following standards. Can you tell me what the acceptable methods are for building/waterproofing a mud-pan, including shower wall and threshold?

I know they are creating a mud pan, but not sure what products or method they are using. I’m assuming there are a variety of products used and methods, which makes it complicated for the lay person. Any information/diagrams are appreciated.

Thank you!


You are correct that shower construction is complicated. It is critical that a shower is constructed properly.

Depending on the specifics of your installation, there are several methods for constructing showers published in the 2017 edition of the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. These will guide a contractor who owns and uses them.

These methods include: B414, B441, B415, B420, B426, B431, B421, B422, B421C, B422C. These methods may vary somewhat depending on whether ceramic/porcelain or stone tiles are being installed. In addition, the Handbook contains several details for common configurations for curbs and membrane installation.

You are also correct that there are a variety of products on the market that are excellent for constructing successful shower and tile installations. Many of these materials meet or exceed the ANSI A118, ANSI A137.1 and ANSI A137.2 standards. A knowledgeable installer and contractor will be able to identify the appropriate materials and relate them to the TCNA Handbook method that is most appropriate for your installation.

If your contractor is a member of the National Tile Contractors Association I would be happy to speak with them and assist them with any questions or concerns they may have in selecting the appropriate method for constructing your shower. If your contractor is not a member of the NTCA, I would be happy to speak with them about becoming a member, and all of the professional benefits membership provides. A search for an NTCA member contractor near you can be done at this link: or

I highly recommend employing a Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer (CTI). CTIs are installers who have proven their knowledge of skills in applying industry recognized standards, methods and best practices to ensure you get the correct installation from the substructure to the finished tile surface. CTIs can be located at this link: or

I hope this helps!
Mark Heinlein – CTI #1112, Training Director,
Technical Trainer / Presenter

President’s Letter – March 2018

Best Practices – Contract Negotiations

We’ve invested time and money in estimating a project, reviewing all the specifications, drawings and contract documents, communicated with our suppliers and vendors, priced out all the materials and labor, calculated the risks of the job and submitted our bid. Great news!! We have been awarded the project. It is critical that we not relax and assume the hard part is over. If we do, we put our entire investment at greater risk.
One of the biggest mistakes any of us can make is not negotiating a fair contract for our services. Unfortunately, this happens more frequently than you might think. One of the first things we all need to understand and accept as fact is that almost all general contractors write contracts that are slanted in their favor. In many cases, they are seriously slanted against the trade contractor and put us at a disadvantage before we ever start.
It sounds elementary and it shouldn’t have to be said, but rule number one is, we should never sign a contract we haven’t read and understood. We should never think that because we have a relationship with the customer that they will take care of us and not enforce the contract.
Another common belief is that trade contractors are never successful negotiating any of the conditions in their contracts. Well, that’s exactly what the general contractors want you to believe. When we read the contracts, the first thing we must determine is, “Am I willing to take the risks assigned to me and sign this contract? If not, then I must identify the objectionable clauses and either strike them or draft acceptable language I can agree to.” At the end of the day, if we aren’t able to negotiate acceptable language, we must make the business decision to either sign what we have or graciously walk away.
Some of the key clauses that need our attention are:

Payment terms, including any clauses about “pay when paid” or “pay if paid” as a conditional precedent. Some states have laws regulating this language. This means that the contractor only has to pay you “if” he gets paid or at some time “after” he is paid.

Set off provisions, which allow contractors to hold money on additional projects under contract with them other than the project in question.

No damage for delays, which puts all the risk of the construction schedule on the trade contractors and does not allow any reimbursement of costs for delays even if we are not at fault.

Work force supplementation, which allows the contractor to charge you if they supplement your crews, with or without notice or default.

Back charge clauses, which allow the contractor to backcharge the trade contractor without notice or with limited notice for an unlimited list of things.

Since I’m not an attorney and can’t give legal advice, the most important thing I can say is that you should consult with an attorney prior to signing contracts. Once you understand some of these clauses you can begin to negotiate with greater success. It’s always a good idea to work toward having your proposal with all your inclusions, exclusions and clarifying notes included as part of the contract.
Companies that regularly practice these principles are usually Best in Class contractors. That’s something we all aspire to achieve.
Keep on tiling!

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

Editor’s Letter – March 2018

As I am writing this, National Tile Day, February 23, is just three days away. Our social media and online digital sites have been awash in Why Tile? news and hashtags, and posts that serve to boost tile’s popularity with consumers, illustrating the properties, artistry and performance characteristics of the floor and wall covering that we in the industry have dedicated our lives to promoting, selling, installing and using in design. Tile manufacturers’ associations – foreign and domestic – as well as contractors, designers, Coverings, and others are all getting into the act. Did you catch any of it? How did you get onboard with raising awareness of tile as a great finishing material in 2018?

Did you miss it? Well, mark it on your calendar for next February 23, 2019 and plan a promotion or awareness campaign in your segment of the market. Wondering what to do? Enter #whytile or #nationaltileday in your favorite social media and see some of the efforts that took place in 2017 and 2018, then plan accordingly and join the festivities.

Taking a look at our story lineup this month, please be sure to catch the Business Tip, written by Pat O’Connor. He takes a look at how the new Tax Cut and Jobs Act may affect your business. LATICRETE’s Sean Boyle also gives us a view into economic trends and growth that will impact our industry in 2018 and beyond.

Also take a look at the Coverings preview. It includes information about an exciting new activity NTCA is spearheading at the show – the Installation Experience. At press time, it’s still in the planning stages, but read and learn about what we’ve got up our sleeve for your enjoyment and education, and plan to attend Coverings May 8-11 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta this year.

God bless,
[email protected]

Ringing in the new year with new educational opportunities

By Becky Serbin, Training and Education coordinator

As we start a new year, each of us typically reflects on the previous year and then decides to make resolutions that hopefully we will keep through the month of January.

Well, I wanted to do something similar to start the year.

We completed one full year of offering an online system for training. Within that time, we created several new introductory courses for new hires, moved to a new learning management system to house NTCA University, and created a pricing structure going forward so that all members – no matter the size – could afford to sign up and take courses.

In case you haven’t heard, NTCA University is a member benefit so we wanted to make sure that it was affordable for all members. You can have users come together in a meeting, so only one login is required for your company – or you could have a login for each user. It is up to you.

Here’s the current pricing structure:

1 Person – $50

2 People – $99

3-15 People – $149

16-50 People – $199

51-100 People – $299

101-150 People – $399

151-200 People – $499

Keep in mind that NTCA’s Partnering for Success program now has a $50 voucher for the NTCA store that contractors can choose as one of their vouchers. That means that if you are a one- person shop and choose to use the $50 voucher for access to NTCA University, you would have access for free to the site for the whole year.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store at to make your purchase (or enter in your browser).

So what are our resolutions for the year? As I said, many of us break our resolutions early in the year so I don’t plan to make any resolutions that will be quickly broken, but here are some items that NTCA will be working on this year.

We will continue to develop online training for new hires. So if you have apprentices, this means that we will start working on a three-year setter program.  For all others, you can use these courses to train your new hire on how to plan and set tile.

We will also be working on courses from the Training and Education sub-committees.  The CEU Technical sub-committee is working on courses explaining the necessity of documentation and how to properly document and the CEU Management sub-committee is developing introductory courses to estimating.

We will also be assisting Scott Carothers of CTEF with developing courses for people to take prior to completing the hands-on Certified Tile Installer Test.

Again, it looks like it will be a busy year again in 2018.  If you have any questions or have ideas about courses that you’d like to see us pursue, please give me a call or send me an e-mail. 770-366-2566 or [email protected].

Happy New Year!


The building blocks of a NTCA Five Star Contractor

Amber Fox, NTCA Five Star Program Director

As I wrap up my first year on the job as the NTCA Five Star Contractor Program Director I have been reflecting on some of the items that we are implementing for 2018. One of the first items that comes to mind is the update to our application. This has great significance because it is essentially a roadmap on how to become a Five Star Contractor.

Our new application incorporates the building blocks to a Five Star Contractor: Integrity, Professionalism, and Craftsmanship. In order to build a firm foundation, your company culture must value continual investment in itself. So how do we find companies that have this culture imbedded on all levels, and how do we evaluate them for acceptance into our group?  These are the questions we asked ourselves when we updated our application.

I will touch upon some of the key elements of the application process in the hopes that you can recognize greatness in your own company, and if not that it can inspire you to rise to the challenge.

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, and the state of being whole and undivided.

All applicants must show proof that they are contracting under the local laws of their state, which means that they carry all licenses and insurance needed.  Stability is important, which is why they must attest that for the last five years:

  1. They have operated under the same company name
  2. The company has not filed for bankruptcy
  3. There have been no federal or state tax liens filed against the company
  4. The company pays all federal, state and local payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, unemployment, FICA, etc. for all employees.

As a Five Star Contractor, you are part of something bigger, which is why you are also required to have been an active NTCA member for at least three years. Active membership does not just mean that you have paid your dues; we are seeking out leaders who get involved and want to help shape our Industry. That’s why you will always see our Five Star Contractors out in force at events like TISE West, Coverings, and Total Solutions Plus.

ProfessionalismExhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.

This sums up how you do business as a whole. We request resumes for your designated company representative as well as a project manager to help us understand the background of your company. The backbone of all companies is their employees and we want to know that you value them and invest in them. That’s why we require that you have an active Safety Program as well as an Employee Manual/Handbook.

Each day contractors need to interact with many partners such as material manufacturers and distributors.  Successfully navigating these relationships is imperative, so we require that you gather three reference letters from your vendors/suppliers attesting to your professionalism in the tile industry.  How your client sees you is the best judge of all, so we also require three letters of recommendation from your client base such as architects, designers, general contractors, or owners.

CraftsmanshipOne who creates or performs with skill and dexterity especially in the manual arts.

Now we address the heart of our contractors – the artisans. It is our belief that it takes one to know one, so two letters of recommendations from peers or competitors are required.

Since our group encompasses national membership, we needed to find a way to evaluate skill level. To that end, it was decided that at least 10% of your field installers must be Certified Tile Installers through the CTEF or have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor. Although it is required that 10% be certified, many of our Five Star Contractors have fully embraced this program and are far above the minimum needed.

The Five Star Contractor Group is comprised of contractors of all sizes and specialties but what they all have in common is an unwavering drive to exceed expectations, upholding the highest technical standards, and providing impeccable quality and service. Because of this commitment to excellence on every level, I see our group as industry leaders who are creating the change we want to see in our industry. It is my

hope that others see our efforts and are inspired to join us.

If you would like additional information about the NTCA Five Star Program, please reach out to me at [email protected].

Tile setters, suppliers donate labor and materials to the Tile Geeks Project

Good works and camaraderie enjoyed while renovating Madison Fields in Dickerson, Md.

By Lesley Goddin

Madison Fields ( in Dickerson, Md., is a fully functional farm that offers an inclusive environment where adults and children – many with special needs – can play, learn, and work together. Among the features of the farm is an Equestrian center that fosters a nurturing and healing partnership between horse and rider that benefits children and adults with autism, developmental disabilities, wounded veterans or the local community.

For 10 days at the end of October 2017 into early November a group of 15 tile installers who are members of the Tile Geeks Facebook group came together to donate their time and expertise to renovate various areas of the farm – almost 3,000 sq. ft. in all.

Justin Kyle, owner of Kyle’s Tile in Ocean View, Del., a Tile Geek administrator and NTCA member, set this plan in motion a year prior. He was inspired while at a training session, working with many fellow setters.

“I came to the realization that the same people in our group would travel to conventions and training events at different places in the country,” Kyle said. “We go to classes, drink some beers, walk through the conventions, but never really had a chance to work together. So I came up with the idea of finding a good charity project to do that would give us the chance to get together like we enjoy anyway, and out of that some good could come.”

After a flurry of emails to children’s charities that went unanswered – and a rough poll of Geeks who might be interested in such an endeavor – Kyle received a response from Madison Fields in April 2017, expressing needs that could be met by the tilesetting group. And it just so happened it was virtually in Kyle’s backyard.

“I was willing to organize this project anywhere in the country,” Kyle said. “With Madison Fields only a three- hour drive away, I was able to plan and arrange everything better than I had hoped.”

The original scope of work morphed from a “bunch of bathrooms in an extra house that the foundation was trying to buy on a property next to the farm,” Kyle said. That deal fell through, but instead there was a need for much more tile work in other parts of the farm, including four bathrooms, a tile floor in the barn itself, and a large floor in one of the resident houses.

Donations: labor and materials

When Kyle first hatched this notion, he ran it by those Tile Geeks on a shuttle bus with him at a training class. He got enthusiastic responses, so he set up a separate Facebook group (The Tile Geeks Project) and added the people he thought might be interested in doing it. “From there it just blossomed,” he added.

Those who attended came from all over the country: LATICRETE rep, Jeff Kimmerling, Milwaukee, Wis.; Dennis Pacetti, Pacetti Tile and Remodeling, Inc., Huntingdon Valley, Pa.; tile setter James Morris, Philadelphia, Pa.; Paul Luccia, Cabot & Rowe, Houston, Texas; Ulas Maris, Maris Tile Pro, East Moriches, N.Y.; Metin Gungor, Dekor Construction, LLC., Columbus, N.J.; Jon Appleby, Appleby Custom Tile, Bucyrus, Ohio; Joe Lenner, Infinite Ceramic, Emmaus, Pa.; tile setter Jim Garbe, Schenectady, N.Y.; Joseph Dantro, On All Floors, York, Pa.; Dan Kramer, DKCT, Inc., Buxton, N.C.; Stephen Belyea, JSG Tile and Stone, Weymouth, Mass.; tile setter Bethany Sheridan, Sterling, Va.; Carl Leonard, Cutting Edge Tile, Roebling N.J.; and George Maneira, New Age Stone, Jackson N.J.

A variety of setting materials was used on this project including: Strata_Mat™, Hydro Ban®, Hydro Ban® Board, Hydro Ban® Sheet Membrane, Hydro Ban® Flange Drain, Hydro Ban® preformed shower systems including curbs, and corners, Hydro Ban® Adhesive & Sealant, 3701 Fortified Mortar, PERMACOLOR® Select grout, Tri-Lite™ mortar, and more.

These installers footed the bill for their own transportation and took time away from their businesses to work together for the greater good. As it turned out, there was lodging available in the historic farmhouse that dates back to the early 1800s where the group was able to stay for most of the project. That was a boon for the bonding of the group. “If we had to go to a hotel, the majority of our down time would have been spent in our rooms,” Kyle said. “Having use of the farmhouse gave us a center base to work from. We could go out to dinner and then come back and sit around the living room and talk shop. It was really a fun experience.”

Donations of materials were another story. Since the project was established right before Coverings, Kyle had the chance to speak with Noah Chitty of Crossville in person in Orlando to ask for donations. Crossville was very generous with their tiles, donating 3,000 sq. ft. tile from multiple series for the project, including Nest, Notorious, Speakeasy, Cotto Americana, and Virtue.

Likewise, Kyle had been in contact with LATICRETE’s Ron Nash about this effort, who gave “his blessing. I even got to sit down with Henry Rothberg and he said whatever we need is ours,” Kyle said. In fact, LATICRETE wound up sending materials above and beyond what was requested, which wound up coming in handy when some unexpected situations cropped up later.

“We asked LATICRETE for what we expected to need,” Kyle said. “They sent out some extra materials including the new 257 Titanium thinset, and 2” Hydro Ban board, which was put to good use.

“It was an important step, because without setting materials and tile, we couldn’t do anything,” he added. “But once I knew those two companies were on board, it was just a matter of getting all the details figured out.”

Beyond the donations of labor and materials, Kyle knew that a “slush fund” account was needed for incidentals like plumbing and vanities. To address this, Kyle established a silent auction and Tile Geek members donated items to be auctioned off. Contractors Direct and Norton donated saws, and J&R Tile donated an iQ dustless saw; Shannon Huffstickler from Schluter was instrumental in donating three shower kits, and MLT’s Mick Volponi donated several MLT kits also. All items were sold to the highest bidder, which allowed the group to have some cash to work with.

“To top it off, Justin Ernst of Minnetonka Minn., contacted Kate-Lo Tile and at his request, they shipped a pallet of buckets to the jobsite for us to use,” Kyle said.

In addition, iQ itself donated an iQTS244 dustless saw to the effort that was used on site and then raffled off at the project – Ulas Maris held the winning number!

Working together to meet challenges

Kyle had some concerns bringing so many “Type A” personalities to work together. But it all worked out, he said. Setters buddied up to work on different areas of the project and when they finished, jumped right in to other areas where work was still under way. “We all just blended together as I hoped,” Kyle said.

In fact, Jim Garbe said, “For me, the best part of it was the amazing way that the planning and execution fluidly evolved constantly as the situations were assessed and re-assessed when demo commenced and often revealed things that were worse than we expected them to be. Instead of one large job, it was 10 small ones going on all at once with a limited time frame and constantly fluctuating labor force,” Garbe added. “The ability of everyone to problem-solve and switch gears to be what the current task required was simply amazing to behold.”

The project was not without challenges however. “The biggest challenge was knowing that we were on a set time frame that we had to meet and since we had not demoed anything, we didn’t know what was behind, and under the existing materials,” Kyle said. “There was no new construction. It was a complete remodel.”

Having the materials on hand made things better, Kyle said, even materials that had not been on the original wish list. For instance, the one bathroom in the horse stable was a bathroom someone had tiled improperly. It has a curbless shower, with no slope to the drain, tile stuck to the wall over drywall, and no waterproofing. The Tile Geeks team went in and ripped it all out.

“We didn’t have the room to do a true curbless shower as they had intended, but we were able to build partitions with some of the 2” Hydro Ban board, and make a vanity with the Hydro Ban board,” he said. In addition, “We did a large floor with a failed floating laminate job on top of it,” he continued. “We ripped that out only to find that the original slab had cutback on it. We ended up having some 257 Titanium, LATICRETE’s new thinset there. We knew it would bond to cutback, so we used it to install Strata_Mat. That saved us time from having to grind or scrape the floors.”

Camaraderie – an added bonus

In the end, the project was win-win – delivering renovated spaces for the organization and a time of connection and camaraderie for the setters.

“Tile Geeks Project was my first priority for the year of 2017,” said Ulas Maris, who enjoyed reuniting with Tile Geek friends and meeting some he only knew by name online. “I was looking forward to being there and sharing my skills helping out people in need… It would not be possible for us to be there if we didn’t mean it for real in our hearts. We all wanted to be there and be part of it.”

Tile setter Bethany Sheridan from Sterling, Va., added, “I enjoyed working with a team that accomplished so much in a short period of time, all for a good cause. It was also great getting to know my online friends from Tile Geeks. I would certainly do it again.”

Stephen Belyea, a NTCA State Ambassador as well as a Tile Geek member, said, “It was a pleasure to be a part of the Tile Geeks Project.  It was very rewarding to donate my time to the Autism Foundation. It was a bonus to do so with such a great group of people. Everybody that was willing to donate their time was also there with a great attitude. We all came from different places and different backgrounds, but we all had the same goal. We were all positive and willing to work hard and do what it takes to get the job done.

“It is nice to learn different techniques from different people,” he added. “I enjoyed being around people who are as passionate about tile as I am…We would spend quality time at each meal having great conversations. Sitting by the fire having a drink after a long day of work was great. I look forward to doing this again and hope the same caliber of people show up.”

“It’s amazing to me, anytime I get together with tile guys, especially the ones willing to donate their time and effort to something like this, I’m struck by the fact that they are simply really cool people,” Kyle said. “They are obviously intelligent in the tile field, but that also filters into other aspects of their personalities. I find the same thing when I go to conventions. I’m amazed at how well we all get along.”

Garbe added, “The opportunity to work with these people was as good as I expected it to be,
and I would do it again in a

Large-format Tile – January 2018

Polished concrete floor renovation needs self-leveling treatment for large-format porcelain install

MAPEI products minimize impact of flooring installation in Indiana Greek Orthodox church

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church sits on a 20-acre (8,09-hectare) site in Carmel, Ind. It was the first church to be constructed in the Triad Byzantine style since the Hagia Sophia, which was built more than 1,400 years ago. The church design includes a dome with a diameter of 55 feet (16,8 m) that was built and raised up from the ground, bronze doors weighing 600 pounds (272 kg) each at the grand entrance, and the ability to accommodate more than 600 worshippers.

Because the expression of creative beauty within the Greek Orthodox Church’s places of worship is a major tenet of the Church, the members of Holy Trinity decided to have the floors and some vertical spaces dressed in tile and stone. CJK Design Group specified large-format 24” x 24” (61 x 61 cm) and 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) porcelain tiles from Daltile’s Diamante, San Michele and Continental Slate series for the narthex, nave and sanctuary.

But when the church was built eight years previously, the floors were finished in polished concrete that produced a nonporous, sealed surface that did not offer the proper finish for the installation. Traditional shot blasting could not be used for surface preparation because of the deleterious effect that it could have on the painted frescoes and delicate icons, which were created with a centuries-old process using egg tempera paints.

Innovative technology produced a solution that circumvented tradition and provided a breathtaking foundation to anchor the beauty that lines the walls and ceilings of the narthex, nave, sanctuary and ambulatory at Holy Trinity.

Preparing the subfloor

Installers from Indianapolis-based Starnet contractor Certified Floorcovering Services (CFS) used MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip primer to cover the polished concrete surface, eliminating the need to shot blast and potentially damage the church’s painted treasures. Next, the crew tested and used Ultraplan LSC – a MAPEI self-leveling liquid skimcoat – to patch and smooth all floor surfaces, again reducing dust worries. The crew also used Mapelastic CI liquid-rubber membrane for crack isolation in the concrete flooring. During the first three weeks of work, the church still held services in the nave.

Once the floors were prepared, the CFS installation crews worked meticulously to the architects’ plans. The crews transitioned between varied types of porcelain tiles and marble to produce a look that complemented and accented the intricate icons and frescoes. The large-format 24” x 24” (61 x 61 cm) and 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) Daltile porcelain tiles for the narthex, nave and sanctuary were set with Ultraflex LFT mortar and then grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA.

In addition to porcelain tiles, red “Rojo Alicante” marble tiles were set as borders and for transitions between the white porcelain tiles. The marble tiles were set with Kerapoxy 410 100%-solids epoxy mortar; these tiles were also grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA. The CFS crews hand-cut many of the Rojo Alicante tiles to fit around existing structures in the church and so that they could tile a number of vertical elevations in the floor.

In the narthex and nave, the crews set four prefabricated mosaic medallions that continued the iconography from the walls to the floor. The crews first used Mapecem Quickpatch concrete patch and Ultraplan Easy self-leveling underlayment to patch and level the substrate beneath the medallions. Then, the crews set the medallions in place with Ultraflex LFT.

The installers also set Daltile Keystone glass mosaic tiles along the inner walls of the baptistery, and they interspersed Glass Horizons mosaic tiles with Crema Marfil marble pillars on the baptistery’s exterior. After waterproofing the baptistery with Mapelastic AquaDefense membrane, installers used Adesilex P10 glass tile mortar to set the mosaics.

Mapesil T sealant was used to fill all expansion joints and soft joints where vertical and horizontal tiled surfaces met.

Innovation and determination bolstered the flooring contractor’s efforts to successfully complete the beautification of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Because CFS was so proud of its work, it entered the project in the Starnet Design Awards; the company won the Silver Award for the 2017 Unique Installation Challenge.





Member Spotlight – January 2018 – H.J. Martin and Son

H.J. Martin and Son
Green Bay, Wis.

Lots of good things get their start in the garage. Bands, science projects, and in this case the company now known as H.J. Martin and Son, founded when Henry John Martin began selling paint and tile out of the family garage in 1931.  Eighty-six years later H.J. Martin and Son is a multi-divisional specialty contractor, self-performing commercial and residential flooring, walls and ceilings, glass and glazing, doors and hardware, and fixture and millwork installation nationwide.

The company’s diversity helps it cross-train its installers and helps to retain top talent. If one department is slow and another is busy, it can readily adjust. The company also can offer package discounts to the general contractor or end user on multiple phases of a project.

The contractor gets great satisfaction from the entire process of contracting, from showroom to installation, and the customer’s excitement about the final result.

“We go to great lengths to maintain an extensive selection of tile products within our two showrooms,” said David Martin, the 4th generation of H.J. Martin and Son. “Many of these tiles are exclusive to H.J. Martin and Son, so we often will have customers travel a great distance to purchase from us.”

H.J. Martin and Son prides itself on its team of in-house designers, who have detailed knowledge of its tile products, and are experts at finding the right fit for each individual client.

“We have long believed the thing that sets us apart from other tile contractors is our highly experienced team of installers,” David Martin said. “They are true artisans, who continue to train on the newest installation processes.

“All of our people, from designers to installers, try to delight our customers with an exceptional tile experience to last a lifetime.”

H.J. Martin and Son specializes in ceramic tile and natural stone for both residences and commercial projects. On the residential side, the company displays a wide variety of tile and stone products within its two showrooms and employs a team of aforementioned 14 in-house designers who help guide the client to the perfect tile or stone for his or her home. And company installers are experienced with a popular in-floor electric heating/uncoupling system

The commercial division installs tile and stone in office and government buildings, automobile dealer showrooms, educational and healthcare facilities, hospitality spaces and retail locations, among other places.

In addition, H.J. Martin and Son has an in-house team of floor-care specialists. They are experts at ceramic and natural stone cleaning, sealing and restoration, along with grout cleaning, sealing and recoloring. If a new tile floor is not an option, refreshing existing flooring is a great option.

Since H.J. Martin and Son strives to deliver quality products and installation to all of its customers, it joined NTCA in July 2014, with the belief that existing and potential customers will see its NTCA Five Star affiliation and know that they are receiving the highest quality of installation available.

“As a company, we believe strongly in continuing education for our installers, designers and other flooring specialists,” Martin said. “We always strive for our people to be knowledgeable in the latest product advances and installation techniques through attendance at outside seminars or in-house training sessions. We believe that the mission of the NTCA embodies many of the same ideals.

“NTCA membership, particularly as a recognized Five Star Contractor, assures clients that they are receiving the highest quality of workmanship for ceramic tile and natural stone,” he added. “Having the NTCA member designation helps to communicate our expertise level to those outside the company.”

Although the company does not currently have Certified Tile Installers or ACT-certified installers on staff, more than 80% of its in-house installers are Journeymen and have completed the requisite four-year apprenticeship.

Qualified Labor – January 2018 – Sark Tile supports education by hosting NTCA Workshop and CTI exam

Sark Tile, based in Lincoln, Neb., hosted NTCA Tile & Stone Workshop in October 2017. This is a groundbreaking event, since it’s the first NTCA Workshop ever hosted in Lincoln.

But perhaps it should come as no surprise. Sark Tile has been committed to educating the tile industry in its area for over 20 years. Since Mark Becher founded Sark Tile in 1999, he has been working to educate his clients.

As a national distributor of tile and tile installation products, Sark Tile serves a range of clients from architects to the end consumer, offering an exceptional platform to reach a broad range of people within the industry. Sark Tile took advantage of this platform by hosting the October Workshop, and subsequently, a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test the next month.

The October NTCA Workshop titled, “Failures, Could it be Me?” was a great opportunity to bring in an expert, NTCA Training Director Mike Heinlein, to show local installers, designers, and clients how to avoid common installation mistakes. The event was described as eye opening and a brilliant refresher, even for a seasoned installer. For those who weren’t as well versed with the tile installation process, it was a first-rate opportunity to learn the correct way to perform basic techniques.

Heinlein began the workshop with a slideshow presentation outlining some common tile installation failures and how to avoid them. The diverse group of attendees was provided a superb opportunity for questions and discussion. Installers raised discussion about hurdles they have to overcome, and designers talked about their struggles. “It was apparent education on all sides of the project would solve most of these issues,” said Dan Hecox, NTCA State Ambassador for Nebraska and Regional Evaluator for the
CTI test.

Sark Tile staff (l. to r.): Katie Danehey, Serina Buchanan, NTCA’s Mark Heinlein, Mark Becher, Brian Glory, John Cury and Faith Allen Peck.

After a quick break for some networking and delicious food, Heinlein finished the workshop with some hands-on demonstrations. This portion of the workshop was an excellent chance to physically show attendees why it is so important to do things correctly, and what the outcome can be if they aren’t. Attendees walked away with many tricks of the trade.

The layout of Sark Tile was ideal for this presentation, with a beautiful showroom for the discussion and a spacious working area in the warehouse for the hands-on demonstration.

Sark Tile’s warehouse was also an outstanding location for the CTI event they hosted in November. With the help of CTI Regional Evaluator, Dan Hecox, local installers were able to test their skills.

Sark Tile hosted the first CTI test in Lincoln, Neb. in November.

Kate Danehey, office manager from Sark Tile, expressed the company philosophy that the health of the industry relies on installers.

“If we have installers out there incorrectly installing our products resulting in failures, the first finger is almost always pointed at the material which is almost never the case,” Danehey said. “Proper preparation combined with the correct setting materials and tools lead to a faster and more profitable install. Consumer’s confidence – and perception that the install will be smooth – is of paramount importance when trying to make a sale, which is why these testing events are so important. The more skilled installers we have in the area, the more likely people will be to use tile in the future for additional projects.”

Sark Tile owner Mark Becher is committed to education and bringing workshops, like this one from NTCA to the local tile trade in Lincoln.

Sark Tile also hosted Lincoln’s first NTCA workshop in October 2017.



A group of Sark employees ready for the CTI test to be held at the company warehouse, with (from right) Scott Carothers, CTEF; Dan Hecox, NTCA Nebraska State Ambassador and Mark Becher, Sark Tile owner.

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