NTCA Benefits Box – PartnerShip

partnership-logoPartnerShip®, the endorsed shipping management provider of NTCA, offers shipping discounts to all NTCA members on select FedEx® services, as well as savings on less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipments arranged through PartnerShip.  This program is FREE to all NTCA members, with no minimums required.

Members can  request a no-obligation free quote for standard or guaranteed LTL (less-than-truckload) services from PartnerShip freight broker. The service works with the reputable LTL carriers, including: AAA Cooper, Estes Express, FedEx Freight, Dayton Freight, Old Dominion, New Penn, Pitt Ohio, R+L Carriers, Reddaway, Southeastern, UPS Freight, YRC Freight and many more!

Services also include full or partial truckload (dry van, flat bed, step deck, refrigerated, etc.). PartnerShip employs a stringent carrier review process and has access to thousands of the top truckload freight carriers across North America. If you need to ship to a trade show, PartnerShip can help with this as well, as it can arrange great shipping rates with leading exhibit freight carriers. The company has a relationship with UPS Freight and YRC Freight and, if needed,  can secure other carrier options as well.

Many NTCA members are benefiting from the PartnerShip service, including James Woelfel, NTCA president. “We used PartnerShip for a project in another state,” Woelfel said. “Their service was perfect and the shipment was fast, at a fair price. All of my future shipping will be done with PartnerShip. This is a fantastic membership benefit.”

Interested in learning more about PartnerShip or becoming a NTCA member? Contact assistant executive director Jim Olson at 612-788-4726 or email [email protected]

Stone Feature – February 2016

Lessons from creating the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church in St. Helena, Calif.

mapei_sponsorBy Ron Treister, Communicators International

Fr. William MacIlmoyl at Grace Episcopal Church had a secret dream. With retirement around the corner, he wanted to give his congregation lasting gift of silence. “Modern life is so stressed, so busy, we all need a way to bring more silence into our lives,” says “Fr. Mac.”

He felt the best way to do that was to build a labyrinth in front of the newly renovated sanctuary. “I walked my first labyrinth years ago,” Fr. Mac says. “I look at it as a yoga, a contemplative technique not unlike saying the rosary. For 20 minutes you allow your mind to sink into silence, to get away from the business of the day and come to center.”

1-stoneSteve and Joan Heller also had a dream. Before Steve retired from General Mills, he and his wife purchased an 11-acre vineyard near St. Helena. After relocating there, they took a leadership position in the parish. Fr. Mac asked if they would make a donation as seed money for a labyrinth. To Fr. Mac’s surprise, within a week Steve and Joan not only agreed to use their donation for the labyrinth, but also to spearhead its construction. Steve immediately assumed the role of labyrinth construction coordinator and Joan lent support by setting up a labyrinth website as a way to create an open communication with the congregation about the project.

Robert Ferre recommends Creative Edge

While researching labyrinth construction design and techniques, the Hellers discovered the work of Robert Ferre, president of Labyrinth Enterprises and one of the founders of the Labyrinth Society. Steve contacted Robert by email and asked if he could recommend a company to construct the labyrinth. Robert replied: “If you want extraordinary work, go with Creative Edge Master Shop in Fairfield, Iowa, the country’s largest and oldest fabricator of architectural floors and landscapes using water jet technology.”

2-stoneCreative Edge’s Ron Blair was in charge of the fabrication of the Grace Episcopal labyrinth. “This was my first labyrinth project, although Creative Edge has fabricated many labyrinths using a wide variety of materials, from granite to stone to vinyl and carpeting,” Blair said. “I learned early on that Fr. Mac wanted to replicate the Chartres labyrinth, making the project nearly 43’ in diameter.”

As a comparative religion major at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Blair studied the sacred geometry of the Chartres cathedral in France. It helped that Robert Ferre had already measured the Chartres labyrinth down to the 1/16”. In his generous way of making the labyrinth available to everyone, Ferre had given his perfectly measured CAD diagram to Creative Edge, so the design was already completed.

Creative Edge President/CEO Jim Belilove and his wife, Ginger, traveled to St. Helena to meet Fr. Mac and Steve and see the site. Fifteen months after the initial meeting, the ground was prepared and the granite was cut by Creative Edge waterjet machines into the curving shapes that fit together like puzzle pieces, creating a perfect replica of the mystical Chartres labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church.

Reaching consensus on stone and color

3-stoneFrom the start, Fr. Mac and Steve wanted to reach consensus with the entire congregation. “One of the things you learn as a church pastor – you have to collaborate,” says Fr. Mac. “We didn’t want a single member of our congregation to feel uncomfortable with the colors or materials we’d chosen. And when we started, probably 98% of the congregation didn’t even know what a labyrinth was.”

Getting an entire congregation to make color and stone choices – rather than one or two decision-makers – made Blair’s task as project manager more complex. Steve handled communications with the congregation, but it took three or four rounds – nine months – to come to a consensus.

That brings us to the next principle of the labyrinth: Go at your own pace. When walking a labyrinth, it’s not a race to reach the goal. As in any spiritual pilgrimage, it’s an inner journey that unfolds as slowly or quickly as it needs to.

Steve said, “For starters, the Grace Episcopal Church is a beautiful structure dating back to the 1800s, made of tufa, volcanic rock. In the process of tripling the size of the sanctuary in recent years, the congregation chose, with great care, to keep true to the original architecture. They even located the original local tufa quarry where the original building stones were sourced. “Now, with the labyrinth, we are adding 1,400 square feet of hard-scaping within 10’ of this cherished building, almost touching it. So we didn’t want the labyrinth colors to be too starkly contrasting or too contemporary. We wanted it to look organic.

“Tufa is a golden color with rose and brown tones. So there were some members who thought an earthy, golden limestone labyrinth would match the beautiful golden tufa of the building. This is where the experience of Creative Edge saved us from making an expensive mistake. Ron gently steered us away from that choice, explaining that in their experience, limestone is easily stained. For durability, he suggested granite.

Guidance from Creative Edge ensures walking safety

“But polished granite can be slippery when wet,” Steve continued. “Ron explained that for safety reasons, the surface had to be roughened by applying a high-temperature flame treatment to create tiny chips in the stone. Though necessary, this process takes away some of the beauty of polished granite. So to get some of the beauty back, a high-pressure water treatment is applied to smooth it out a bit.

“So every time we chose a sample on a website, we had to have the granite supplier apply these treatments,” Steve explained. “It would come back to us looking quite different than the web photo due to the treatments, sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse. We also learned that granite comes in two thicknesses – 3 cm and 2 cm – but only the 3 cm granite would work for our project.”

Blair also narrowed granite choices to North American quarries, since nobody wanted to wait several years for the granite to be shipped from overseas. The quarries had to have sufficient amounts available so all the slabs could come from the same lot, ensuring that they would match each other.

Steve added, “We knew there would be two colors, one light and one dark, and once we had selected three samples for each color, I’d place them at the entryway of the sanctuary. Then I’d wait for 10 people to gather, and I’d write down their reactions. After about 10 of these gatherings, I’d have enough information to choose the next round of samples. “

Steve’s process was one of listening for consensus. “It was subjective. We went through three or four evolutions of samples before we got what we wanted: two beautiful colors of granite, Crystal Gold for the path and Masabi Black to outline the edge of the path. It was a great feeling, because by the fourth round, 90 to 95% of the people said ‘you’ve nailed it.’”

A joyful experience

Blair stated, “Even though this process certainly took a lot longer than normal, working with Steve and Fr. Mac and seeing the process unfold was a joyful experience. There was something special about having the entire congregation take part in the process. They did a marvelous job and came up with a wonderful palette.”

4-stoneEven the fundraising was easy. With the generous seed money from the Hellers, the rest of $250,000 came almost immediately. One member of the congregation, Jonathan Plant, donated the services of his landscape architecture company to position and landscape the labyrinth.

Fr. Mac says that when he walks a labyrinth, he stays in the center until it’s time to go. “It’s a time of receiving, of divine union,” he said. “We remember who we are at the deepest level, which is God.” He continued, “The labyrinth is a great teacher. Every time there are different lessons. Every time I go into the center and offer myself to God in whatever ways are useful. Some of them are conscious and some unconscious, but I come away with insights and answers.”

When asked to share his hopes for the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church, Steve said, “I hope it’s a place where people find spiritual safety, relaxation, and peace. I see it as a prayerful place, a place where people can learn about meditation.” Steve also wants to encourage people to move ahead with their labyrinth plans no matter what their budget. “I first walked a labyrinth made of canvas,” he said,“I saw one that was made of old shoes. You can buy kits to make a labyrinth out of patio pavers. Money does not have to be a barrier. It’s up to your imagination.”

“At Creative Edge, we are happy to help anyone build a labyrinth,” concluded Belilove. “Our waterjet machines can cut intricately curved designs out of costly granite or marble, medium-cost paving stones or terazzo, low-cost vinyl or carpet. In other words, no matter what your budget or materials, we can create it.

As for Fr. Mac, he is a happy man. By the time he retires next May, he will have experienced the joy of walking the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church many times – a “cherished dream coming true,” he said. He will have witnessed the members of his congregation enjoying the peace and stillness that a labyrinth journey brings.

And, he is hoping, the community will have unlocked its secrets as well. “Grace Episcopal Church has built this labyrinth as much for the community as for our congregation,” says Fr. Mac. He recently received a call from a fifth grade teacher asking if she can bring her class once the labyrinth is finished, and says they welcome schoolchildren, seniors, veterans – anyone and everyone in the community. Father Mac says, “We are looking forward to sharing this beautiful experience with people who have never walked a labyrinth before, who may arrive without a clue of what to expect and yet can experience sacred moments of awakening and peace.”



Institute memberships approve MIA+BSI two-year joint  venture

In December 2015, it was announced that the memberships of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and the Building Stone Institute (BSI) have voted to enter into a two-year joint venture. Effective January 1, 2016, the combined organization, MIA+BSI, the Natural Stone Institute, began operating as a consolidated organization. Each organization will also maintain its individual identity during the two-year period.

2015 BSI president Rob Barnes (Dee Brown, Inc.) remarked, “This joint venture, with its combined equity, will provide additional value to the industry and its members. MIA+BSI will ensure our continued relevance as we work together to become the world’s premier natural stone association.”

2015 MIA president Dan Rea (Coldspring) agreed, “I believe this is tremendously important for the stone industry. The time is right for likeminded people across the industry to join efforts to defend and grow the use of natural stone.”

In 2016, MIA+BSI will focus on five key initiatives, in addition to the myriad of ongoing programs underway for each organization:

Introduction of Dimension Stone Design Manual, Version 8, which includes additions pertaining to restoration and maintenance. Technical committees will be formed to expand references to thin stone and flagstone paving in the manual.

Addition of safety programs for quarriers (in addition to extensive current offerings available for fabricators, installers, and stone distributors).

Launch a Natural Stone Promotional Campaign.

Development of industry advocacy groups.

An expanded legislative outreach program.

The Board of Directors and staffs of both organizations are reviewing and combining operations and are excited to begin putting plans to action immediately. More information regarding the MIA+BSI joint venture will be available soon. The first joint presence occurred at TISE West in Las Vegas.

Learn more at www.marble-institute.com and www.buildingstoneinstitute.org.

Qualified Labor – Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

1_CTI_20x20Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

Certification: a standard to validating professionalism, skills and willingness to excel

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

tile-fusion-logoAfter eight years as a tile installer, Dave Karp became a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) at Daltile in Plymouth, Minn., in 2008.


Dave Karp, owner, Tile Fusion LLC

“I found out on a Sunday night that Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) was coming to town on Tuesday,” Karp said. “I sent emails that night and called first thing Monday morning to make sure I could get in. I felt it was a great way to separate myself from the rest of the guys in town.”

A year later Karp opened Tile Fusion in Shakopee, Minn., specializing in high-end, meticulous, and detailed residential tile installation. Becoming a CTI gave Karp the confidence to pursue his own tile shop. “[Certification] made me feel stronger as an installer, more professional, and better at selling myself.”

The CTI exam consists of two parts – a hands-on portion and a written-portion. “The written test wasn’t too difficult, being open book,” he said. “I read the book a couple of times.” For Karp, the hands-on portion was a different story. “I was in the same room as two of the Twin Cities’ premier installers,” Karp said. “Legends I’d call them: Joe Kerber and Jan Hohn. It meant the world to me to be able to show everyone what I’ve got.”

During the test, students have two days for preparation, tile setting, grouting and taking the written exam. It can be a very stressful experience that requires both quick thinking and quick acting. “The tile supplied to us was 4” X 4” white ceramic and 12” X 12” porcelain, but there were two different dye lots,” he explained. “I used this as a design feature – one color for the border and checkerboard for the center.”

Gerald Sloan, former NTCA trainer, judged Karp’s work and was impressed by his decision to include 1/16” joints. “I still feel good thinking back on that day,” Karp said.

In addition to being a CTI, Karp is wedi, Schluter, and StonePeak-MaxFine thin tile certified. And he became a member of the National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA) after hearing Gerald Sloan speak in August 2009. “He spoke of education, technical knowledge and professionalism within the industry and how the NTCA is leading the way. I signed up that night to be a member.” Karp is also a member of the Handmade Tile Association.

Karp is currently preparing for the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) in vertical mortar. NTCA membership and CTEF certification provide incredible value to the tile installer. The NTCA and CTI logos distinguish his estimates and invoices from those of competitors, and give tangible proof of an installer’s expertise. “I promote certification as a standard to validating who you are, your professionalism, skills and willingness to excel.”

Tech Talk – February 2016

tec-logoTile and stone lippage:

What is acceptable tile lippage and how do you avoid excessive tile lippage through quality tile and stone installations?

Donato PBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA

Tile lippage is the vertical displacement between two adjacent tiles of a ceramic, glass, or stone tile installation. Excessive lippage can lead to a number of problems: the edge of the tile with excessive lippage can have a propensity to chip; furniture and appliances can get caught on edges and not slide easily across the floor; and most important today is that excessive tile lippage can be a safety hazard particularly to the elderly with our aging population. Tile lippage is an inherent characteristic of installed tile. It is not possible to eliminate it completely, but it can be minimized within reason.

(Ed. note: This is part one of a two part article. Part two will appear in a future issue of TileLetter.)

Standards for tile lippage

There are industry standards for determining what is acceptable or excessive tile lippage. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A108.02-2013–4.3.7 for the installation of ceramic tile states that for grout joints less than 1/4” (6 mm) wide, the allowable lippage is 1/32” (1 mm) plus the inherent warpage of the tile. For grout joints that are 1/4” (6 mm) wide or wider, the allowable lippage is 1/16” (2 mm) plus the inherent warpage of the tile. There has been some confusion in the interpretation of this standard, which is discussed in detail later. The Marble Institute of America (MIA) simply says that there can be no more than 1/32” (1 mm) lippage for natural stone tile installations.

Substrate tolerances


Stone tile that does not have excessive lippage. Photo from Premier Tile of Oaksmall, Calif.

The challenge in trying to meet the standards to minimize tile lippage has to do with a number of compounding conditions. One of those conditions is the condition of the substrate in terms of flatness, which can affect tile lippage particularly when you are adhering direct to a concrete slab. Per industry standard ANSI A108.02-2013-, the substrate needs to be prepared prior to the tile installation so that the maximum allowable variation from the required plane for tiles with all edges shorter than 15 inches (380 mm), is no more than 1/4” in 10 feet (6 mm in 3 m) and no more than 1/16” in 1 foot (1.6 mm in 0.3 m). For tiles with at least one edge 15 inches (380 mm) or longer, the maximum allowable variation from the required plane is not more than 1/8” in 10 feet (3 mm in 3 m) and no more than 1/16” in 2 feet (1.6 mm in 0.6 m). A very irregular substrate makes it difficult for the tile installer to compensate and install the tile so lippage is minimized.

Medium bed thin-set mortars:not designed to compensate for out-of-tolerance substrates


Limestone with excessive lippage.

Many tile installers and specifiers misunderstand the use of medium bed thin-set mortars. There is a misperception that medium bed thin-set mortar adhesives – which can be applied as thick as 3/4” with some products – will compensate for substrates that are excessively out of plane. Industry standards for thin-set mortar adhesives, such as modified dry-set cement mortars standard ANSI A118.4-2012-2.1, clearly state that thin-set mortars are designed as direct-bond adhesives and are not intended to be used in truing or leveling underlying substrates or the work of others. Substrates need to be prepared before adhering the tile to them. High spots on concrete slabs need to be ground down and low spots need to be filled with special patching


Limestone installation without excessive lippage.

mortars. Cementitious self-leveling mortars can be used over concrete and wood subfloors to achieve the appropriate flatness or slope to meet project requirements. Medium-bed mortars are only meant to be used for large-and-heavy tiles so they don’t sink into the thin-set mortar during the installation, or to be used to compensate for ungauged tiles that vary significantly in thickness from each other.  Because of this common misunderstanding, the industry is in the process of eliminating the name “medium-bed mortar,” and changing it to “dry-set mortar for large- and-heavy tile (LHT mortar), which is limited to 1/2” (12 mm) thickness after embedment.

Tile warpage

Another compounding factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is how much warpage the tile has. Today with such large tiles, particularly the rectangle shapes whose long-to-short-side ratios can be extreme, tile warpage can cause unavoidable actual or perceived lippage, which is discussed later.


Measuring 1.8 mm (9/128”) of tile lippage, which is excessive for stone, but acceptable for ceramic tile.

Please note that all ceramic tiles, including porcelain tiles — which are a type of ceramic tile — have some degree of warpage. This isn’t anything new. The irregularities in ceramic tile, just as in natural stone, are what give these products their character and desirable appearance. Ceramic tiles have always had warpage and other dimensional variations, although today’s current manufacturing technology results in greater consistency in ceramic tile production. The ANSI A137.1 Specifications for Ceramic Tile standard has established allowable tolerances criteria for each type or category of ceramic tile.

Calibrated versus rectified tiles


Measuring excessive tile lippage in stone at 4 mm (5/32”) on a floor tile.

Porcelain ceramic tiles are much denser and are more controllable in their manufacturing, although they do have warpage. Standard calibrated porcelain tiles have tolerance requirements that allow more variation in warpage and sizing dimensions. Rectified porcelain ceramic tiles have been ground after manufacturing so their dimensional tolerance variations are much more limited. This allows the tile to be installed with a narrower grout joint width. Some manufacturers will say the grout joint can be as narrow as 1/16” (2 mm), although I never recommend a grout joint less than 1/8” (4 mm) wide. A 1/16” (2 mm) wide grout joint is too narrow to adequately fill to full depth for maximum support of the tile edge. Failure to fully fill the joint can result in grout coming loose later.


Natural stone slate floor installation that shows excessive tile lippage due to improper installation

The 1/16” (2 mm) wide grout joint also isn’t wide enough to allow for adjustments during the installation to help compensate for dimensional tile variations and to help minimize the potential for tile lippage. The more dimension variation a tile has, the wider the grout joint should be to keep grout joints looking consistently straight and to minimize potential tile lippage. That is why you see grout joints on irregularly-sized Mexican paver tiles that are 3/4” (20 mm) wide or wider, which helps compensate for the broad variations in their dimensional sizes.

Grout joint widths

ANSI standards and the MIA state that the grout joints can never be less than 1/16” (2 mm) wide. I often see where tiles are butted together and this can lead to some serious problems. One potential problem is tile edge chatter where the edges of the tile chip because the tiles compress against each other. This is caused by normal expansion within the tiles caused by moisture or temperature fluctuations or from the dynamic building structural movements.  Another potential problem with tiles butted up to each other, particularly if there aren’t adequate movement joints installed within the tile assembly, is that tiles can become debonded and tent up from the compression stresses; particularly if they are not bonded well to their substrate.

Measuring tile lippage of 2 mm (5/64”).

Measuring tile lippage of 2 mm (5/64”).

Staggered tile pattern standards

Tile warpage generally occurs at the tile corners or at the center of the tile. For that reason the ANSI A108.02 standards state for running bond tile patterns (tiles are installed in a staggered or offset pattern) using tiles where any tile side is greater than 15” (380 mm), the grout joint size shall be on average a minimum of 1/8” (4 mm) wide for rectified tiles, and a minimum of 3/16” (5 mm) wide for calibrated tiles. The grout joint width shall be increased over the minimum requirement by the amount of edge warpage on the longest edge of the tiles being installed. For example, for a rectified tile exhibiting 1/32” (1 mm) edge warpage on the longest edge of the tile, the minimum grout joint width will be 1/8” (4 mm) +1/32” (1 mm) or 5/32” (5 mm) for running bond tile patterns. Again, the wider the grout joint the more you can minimize irregularities in the tile and minimize tile lippage.


Measuring excessive stone tile lippage of 2.38 mm (3/32”).

Warpage concentration limitations

Currently the ANSI A137.1 standards don’t limit how much warpage can be concentrated within certain spans of the tile. This can be problematic because the tile might not exceed the maximum allowable warpage, but its warpage could be concentrated at the tile corner or at the center of the tile, for which the tile installer can’t fully compensate. For this reason the ANSI committee is currently considering adding language to the standards to limit warpage concentration.

Staggered tile pattern limitations

Because tile warpage can be so much more problematic with tiles that are being installed in a running bond pattern, there are other limitations stated in ANSI A108.02-2013- This particular standard covers the compounding effects of the warpage from two adjacent tiles. It states that tiles being installed in a running bond pattern where the tile side being offset is greater than 18” (457 mm) long, the running bond offset cannot exceed 33% of the tile length, unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. Mock-ups should always be required for approval prior to the tile installation to make sure that the end user understands what they are getting and to avoid any false expectations.


Note gap between two tiles at end and the concentrated warpage at the end of ceramic tile wall.

How to calculate allowable tile lippage

Now let’s go back to the allowable tile lippage standard that says that the allowable lippage is either 1/32” (1 mm) or 1/16” (2 mm), depending on the tile and the width of the grout joint, in addition to the inherent warpage of the tile manufactured in accordance with ANSI A137.1. Tile Council of North American (TCNA) website (www.tcnatile.com) interprets this as meaning that the inherent warpage of a particular tile is the actual warpage that the specific tile has when installed. Some people incorrectly interpret this to mean that you can take the maximum allowable warpage stated in ANSI A137.1 and add that to the respective allowable lippage value. If that were true, then in my opinion, from a standard-of-care point of view for professional tile installations, the calculated lippage would be unreasonable and excessive.

Square edge versus chamfered edge tile

Another compounding factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is whether the tile being installed has a sharp square-edge or if it has an arris with a slight chamfered edge. The sharp square-edge tiles are more prone to showing tile lippage and other variations, where the chamfered edge tile will be more forgiving. The chamfered edge will make the grout joint width wider at the tile surface.

Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Donato provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier Magazine Article of the Year. Donato can be reached at [email protected]

Business Tip – February 2016


The power of a single thought


By Steve Rausch

It’s Saturday morning and I’m wondering: Can a single thought begin a snowball of momentum for yourself, your family, and co-workers? And is the timing of that thought key?

I’ll explain in a minute but first let me tell you two stories of senior marketing professionals who were given news about a recent re-organization. Neither was surprised that there was a re-org at this company, or that their role could be impacted.

The first was told her role would be eliminated. After the shock wore off, she decided to leave with the same integrity and positive outlook that she had demonstrated during her 30 years with the organization. She thanked the CMO and others who had been part of her journey. She committed to transitioning her work at the highest level of excellence and for the highest good of the company. She tucked in a trip to Hawaii for good health and continued to be available even after her official time had ended.

So what happened? She was immediately sought after to sit on boards, and when her former company threw an incredible party to celebrate her and her life-long contributions, she realized her relationships and reputation remained as stellar as when she was an employee. This was  a great asset for her next career phase, and held relief and enthusiasm for the team that stayed behind. They will not hesitate to reach out to her in the future for business opportunities because of how she exited. Her enthusiasm must have sent a tsunami of positive outlook to the team, much like a departing employee who is disgruntled sends a flood of negative outlook to those remaining.

Those of us living in Georgia just saw another example of this power when Coach Mark Richt of the University of Georgia Football team was released recently. Coach handled the transition in a positive and powerful way, praising the university, the football program, and even expressing understanding of the reasoning behind the decision yet disagreeing (obviously) with that decision. Coach Richt was picked up within a few days by another major university – University of Miami – and will, I’m certain, continue to provide young men with a positive and inspirational role model.

The second story also comes from that same corporate re-organization we discussed earlier. I had previously spoken to another marketing manager in another country of this company and he had shared his concern of the re-org. He had deep expertise in his field but he said he had trained up some of the finest professionals so if he was de-employed the business would be in excellent shape. I spoke with him six weeks later and the joy in his voice was so intense I nearly choked up. He wasn’t de-employed. He was given more responsibility and easier international travel. He said he was so happy that on Monday morning he woke up at 4 a.m. to get to the office by 5 a.m. because he was so excited to start his day! And this is a 30-year veteran with the company! No doubt, that enthusiasm was a contagious influence!

I was floored when I realized that I had uncovered what seemed to be a critical business principle – that smart people actually set up the reality of outcomes for themselves even if they don’t choose the situations in which they find themselves. And this wasn’t being a Pollyanna. I’m just an outside observer – a vendor – watching this unfold. No one was aware of or trying to impress me.

So I started to wonder, is there a critical moment in time when these people chose to be positive, optimistic and take the high road?  We all know plenty of situations, work and personal, of people who receive “negative” news and then let that news destroy their next phase in life, almost to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am certainly not a psychologist, but I came across a recent article that might explain the “how to” behind the positive response to build amazing life momentum. The article notes that there it is scientifically proven that the thoughts one holds in mind before going to sleep profoundly impacts one’s attitude and energy the next day. Positive, grateful thoughts prepare an individual to have a positive, energetic, day full of gratitude; worry thoughts wind up producing more worry upon awakening.

Now the people in the reorganizations mentioned above probably established their outlook early or over their entire life. But for those of us who worry or wonder whether or not to take the high road, perhaps this little exercise of controlling the single last thought before we go to sleep at night might tap us into the momentum that positive outlook brings! I certainly don’t see any downside of focusing on this and it seems to me the “upside” could be incredible. Let’s all try this starting today.

Steve Rausch has been involved in the tile and flooring business for over 30 years and is currently an industry consultant specializing in sales, marketing, and interpreting technical issues in understandable terms. You can contact Steve at [email protected] or 404-281-2218.

Ask the experts – February 2016


Our house is currently under construction. The contractor applied a 1/4” grout for the 7” x 20” wood look-alike ceramic tile. We want to know the standard application of grout for this kind of tile to prevent lippage. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.


Grout is an important structural component of the tile installation. Grout joint size is determined by a number of factors such as the grade of the tile, variation in tile thickness, warpage (cupping or bowing) within each tile, wedging (variation in a tile’s facial dimensions), installation pattern, and others. Depending on the quality and grade of the plank type tile you have described, we often see many physical variations that must be accommodated.

While design preferences and final appearance are also important considerations, the installer must factor all the variations to determine the appropriate grout joint width that will produce an installation with allowable lippage. Without personally knowing the factors of your installation, a 1/4” grout joint is not uncommon and may be the most appropriate.

– Mark Heinlein, NTCA presenter


cracked-glassWe have had a lot of difficulty with two tiles that keep breaking with our shower install. We have no choice but to cut the glass tiles because there has to be an opening for the water. We’ve followed all of manufacturer’s suggested techniques: wet drill, drilling from the back etc. Do you have any suggestions?


Glass tile, particularly large format as these seem to be, can be extremely difficult to cut successfully. You stated that you are using wet drilling, so that leads me to believe you are using a diamond core bit (possibly 1-1/4”). You need to ensure that the hole saw is sharp (new diamonds exposed) so undue pressure is not exerted on the tile while being cut. Sharpen a diamond core bit (or diamond blade) by wet cutting several times through a very abrasive material such as an aluminum oxide rub stone or a piece of concrete cinder block. When you wet cut the tile, you need to use LOTS of water, as any heat build-up can result in failure. Also, drill very, very slowly, again to not exert undue pressure on the tile. It seems that cutting from the front AND back of the tile can usually give a successful result. Mark the tile on both sides, wet drill slowly half way through the face side of the tile and stop. Turn the tile onto its face, preferably on a towel to avoid scratching, and slowly wet drill from the back of the tile to meet the cut you previously made. This trick usually works.

One further point: many diamond core bits on the market come with a masonry type pilot bit. This bit needs to be removed for glass tile (and really any tile harder than a 4” x 4” or 6” x 6” talc body tile). Begin cutting with the core bit by holding the drill at a slight angle to the face of the tile, and with a steady hand, begin the cut. After cutting in about 1/16”, start slowly rotating the drill more and more upright until you have created a completely circular kerf. You may then begin drilling perpendicular to the tile (exerting very little pressure).

You probably do not have an abundance of extra tiles, so hopefully this will work for you on the first try. If you still experience cracking of the tile, you may need to enlist the help of an abrasive waterjet cutting company. Most cities and even towns have one these days. Just mark the tile, take it to the waterjet guys, and for a nominal fee they will make your cut. This method of cutting puts almost zero pressure on the tile.

I also noticed from your photos that the tile had cracked under an installed plumbing fixture. Tub spouts usually screw into place, and it is very easy for an installer to slightly over-tighten the fixture to get a nice tight fit, resulting in cracking. It is much better with glass tile to leave the fixture one revolution loose and to use a 100% silicone sealant (caulking) between the fixture and the face of the tile.

Hope this helps, and feel free to call me with additional questions.

– Michael K. Whistler, NTCA presenter

Editor’s Letter – February 2016

Lesley psf head shot


“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”  – Albert Einstein

A couple of topics for this letter.

First, I want to post this photo, taken in December 2015 at association headquarters in Jackson, Miss., of the brand new, updated NTCA logo and most of the NTCA staff and distinguished guests. The porcelain logo was created for the association by Tom Ade and Filling Marble & Tile in Egg Harbor City, N.J. It just so happened that the installation of the logo coincided with a visit of most of the staff to headquarters for year-end meetings, planning , and a holiday dinner. Shown are (l. to r.): Sandy Bettiga, Bart Bettiga, Lesley Goddin, Mark Heinlein, Mary Shaw-Olson, Jim Olson, Becky Serbin, Scott Carothers, Michael Whistler, Jill Whistler, Tricia Moss and Michelle Chapman. Missing is Lisa Murphy, NTCA accountant, and Joe Tarver, NTCA executive director emeritus.

Second, I want to further the discussion, started in the December Editor Letter, about solutions to the labor shortage in the U.S.

Just this second week in January, we received a report from the Associated General Contractors of America that showed in December, construction firms added 45,000 workers, as construction unemployment continued its decline from 8.3% a year ago to the current 7.5%.

One of the telling aspects of the report, however, was this statement: “Association officials noted that most contractors remain concerned about shortages of available construction workers, noting that 70% of contractors report having a hard time finding workers. They urged federal, state and local officials to act on measures outlined in the association’s Workforce Development Plan to support new career and technical education programs. In particular, they called on Congress to enact needed reforms and increase funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”

SEVENTY percent. That’s huge. I don’t currently have a figure for the tile industry, but I suspect it would be in a similar ballpark. Which brings us back to the December letter.

We received a lot of feedback to this letter – phone calls to Bart in the office and emails to me – thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! Some respondents were very favorable to the idea of exploring the possibility of importing labor in the form of skilled, certified Mexican workers on a temporary basis to help alleviate some of the immediate labor shortages that are plaguing our industry; some also cited personal experience with excellent work of Mexican laborers they had worked alongside.

Others misunderstood the intent of the letter, fearing an influx of unskilled, undocumented workers, which was never part of the original discussion. But the point was made numerous times about the importance of developing U.S. resources, whether in trade schools, recruiting ex-military – goals NTCA is involved in at various levels, including our online apprentice program in development. And in fact, NTCA president James Woelfel added this comment:

“Young African-American males between the ages of 16-19 are unemployed at the rate of over 20% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young women are in the same range. Here in Arizona young Navajo males are at around 70% unemployment, these numbers are staggering.

“Have we as an industry done our best to reach out to these diverse groups? I don’t think so. Are we selling our own citizens short? We need to do better in outreach to the younger people in our country, no matter the ethnicity (Ed. note – And, I would add, the gender). We have plenty of opportunity in our industry to employ young Americans.”

Well said, and great points. And yet I can’t help thinking that while all the plans to develop U.S. resources are good ones that should definitely be pursued, this issue is that educating, training, enticing and convincing U.S. citizens to enter the field, obtain necessary training and certification and make tile setting their life’s work takes a long time. Certainly, a great goal to shoot for and to attract more U.S. workers into the field from trade school paths, ex-military, inner city populations.

Yet we have an immediate need  – a NOW need – for workers. SEVENTY percent of construction contractors report a shortage. Would a program to certify skilled Mexican workers to help alleviate this situation be able to be implemented more quickly? That is anyone’s guess. But it might make sense to initiate efforts on both fronts. Once any obstacles are overcome in getting these trained workers here legally, we would be working with a population that has the desire to work in this field vs. starting from square one when it comes to plans to recruit U.S. workers.

I invite continuing discussion on this topic, and let’s see what arises!


[email protected]

President’s Letter – February 2016

JWoelfel_headshotChange order blues

It’s important in our industry to learn from our various experiences on our jobs. We are just finishing a very difficult job where we were asked to step in and supplement another tile contractor’s work on a hotel because the original tile contractor did not have the manpower to do the work on schedule.

All of the work we did was on a time-and-material basis and was done through signed change orders generated by our company and signed by the general contractor. We are now winding down the job and it’s time to reconcile all of the change orders, bill and get paid. I have been in negotiations for the last three weeks with the general contractor to have the last few change orders settled so that we can bill for the final amount.

This negotiation is causing me headaches. Why? Even though we have signed change orders for all of the work done – and have completed all the work – the general contractor is still negotiating my prices.

During our various industry meetings and shows I have had the opportunity to sit down with other tile contractors around the country and share similar experiences. Martin Howard of David Allen Company, NTCA 1st Vice-President, shared with me that I have to make sure the change orders are professional in nature and are signed BEFORE we do the work. Pretty elementary I know, but also very important. How many times have we tile contractors completed change order work, THEN put a piece of paper in front of the general contractor, who suddenly forgets their directive and hangs us out to dry?

Experience and networking has underscored the importance of making sure our documentation is professional, clear and signed before the work is done. But experience and networking has not prepared me for negotiating payment for change orders that are signed before we have done the work – this is a first. I see a few options:

1. I can hold my ground and convince the contractor to pay me for what I have done.

2. I can make a business decision and negotiate away some of my hard-earned money.

3. I can take a hard line and start filing liens and sending letters that will hurt feelings and destroy relationships.

To me, 3 is the nuclear option. Option 2 is like giving me fake cherry-flavored medicine – it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Option 1 is my best choice. I must be professional, make lucid points and back them up with superior documentation. Plus, this meeting needs to take place in person and not on email or over the phone.

This article may be obvious to everyone reading it, but this situation arises almost every day during tile contracting. We as tile contractors need to handle this challenge in the most professional way possible, without damaging our relationships with our general contractors. However, sometimes, we may have to damage our relationships in order to get paid.

I do know one thing for sure, I will learn from this experience.

Respectfully, James

James Woelfel, NTCA president



Mosaics and robots

1-feature(And you thought the movie title “Cowboys & Aliens” was an oxymoron?)

Seemingly forever, too many people, including venerable art cognoscenti worldwide, continue to envision mosaic art solely as ancient history. That’s unfortunate, when, in actuality, this time-tested art form has a solid place in both neoclassic and contemporary environments being created by today’s leading architectural designers. The time has come to bring this ancient art form into modern times.

The rise of mosaic art


Artaic mosaics at Legal Harborside, Boston, Mass.


An Artaic mural adorns the Ostra Restaurant in Boston.

Described as “artfully designing surfaces by incorporating small, closely-placed pieces of hard material,” mosaic design has been traced back to Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium B.C. Archaeologists also uncovered exquisite mosaic designs in Greece circa the fourth century B.C. Two hundred years after that, the conquest of Greece by the Romans resulted in this art process morphing to an entirely new level, adorning churches and other religious buildings with stunning, timeless, and enduring Christian art. During the golden years of the Byzantine Empire, the evolution of mosaic artwork took a huge leap, showcasing gold, silver and an endless palette of bright glass (tesserae) tile pieces, setting them at diverse angles and depths, creating lighting properties that were almost dreamlike.

The ultimate example of Byzantine architectural mosaics is the “church of gold,” Saint Mark’s cathedral in Venice. From the 11th century on, this masterpiece building was known worldwide by its nickname, Chiesa d’Oro – “church of gold” – because of its elaborate gold mosaic domes and beautifully designed fascia. Unfortunately, as global fascination with Byzantine art declined, so did the golden age of mosaics.


A mosaic mural of seven oaks expresses the namesake of Seven Oaks Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Bringing mosaics into the 21st century

One Boston-based businessman, who just happened to have a penchant for both mosaics and contemporary computerized technology, had a clear vision. He wanted to preserve the time-honored, handmade attributes true mosaics from around the world have always offered, such as having the glass, ceramic and stone still being curated and individually selected by a master craftsman. He wanted to provide Renaissance-quality mosaic work, but produce it using 21st century technology. He decided to make this vision a reality.



Vertex Pharmaceuticals features an Artaic mural in its Boston lobby.


At the Loews Hotel in Chicago, an abstract Artaic mural serves as a backdrop in the pool area.

Meet Dr. Ted Acworth, scientist and engineer by trade, as well as an award-winning entrepreneur. Holding an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and an MS and BS from Columbia University, all combined with his uber-focused interest in mosaics, Acworth pondered ways to bring back the majesty of mosaic design to today’s world. The result was the development and implementation of Artaic, a firm offering a highly unique robotic fabrication system, which assembles custom mosaics with rock-star computerized precision and amazingly quick turnaround, ensuring that the highly artistic mosaic component of any building project will not slow down any agreed-upon overall construction deadlines.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 4.08.32 PMAnd because the process is totally computer-driven, perfectly-manufactured exact copies of any creative Artaic piece will always be available. “For retail or hospitality roll-outs, this is so important,” explained Acworth, “Architectural designers, building managers and owners want to continue their ‘look’ from one of their buildings to the next. Using our process, they now have the confidence this will be done. And our robotic production regimen is fast, accurate, and cost-efficient.” Acworth proudly added that his firm’s work is “Made in America.”

Artaic’s work embellishes many signature, highly focal architectural projects. These include the Hyatt Waikiki lobby fountain, a floral floor pendant for Hilton Costa Mesa, custom murals for multiple Legal Sea Foods locations including Boston’s Logan Airport, a pair of matching lobby walls for Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a photorealistic wall mural for Bay Area restaurant Spice Kit, and many more.

Enter Bostik

Artaic’s work did not go unseen by major players within the commercial construction sector; one being Bostik, one of the world’s largest producers of adhesives and sealants, and manufacturer of Dimension™ RapidCure™ Glass-Filled, Pre-Mixed, Urethane Grout. Dimension contains micro-glass beads and a translucent, urethane binder that both reflect light and allow it to pass through. In particular, this adds an illuminating sparkle, creating one-of-a-kind, three-dimensional effects within glass tile installations.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 4.20.08 PM“When I first was introduced to the Artaic robotic mosaic production process, I was blown away,” stated Scott Banda, director of marketing for Bostik’s Consumer and Construction Business Unit.

“One of our primary business goals is for Dimension to be the grout product of choice within the commercial construction arena, especially for glass mosaic projects. Already, today’s top architects and designers are referring to Dimension as ‘another great design component,’ which is absolutely unheard of in the grout world. We are now partnering with Artaic as we successfully move towards this goal. We believe Artaic’s futuristic technology combined with the inimitable characteristics of our Dimension grout, together will ultimately bring back the high levels of architectural awareness, acceptance and specification which unique mosaic design that dominated hundreds of years ago.”

Bostik and Artaic partner in Apple Store Workshops

Some of the planned initiatives of this Bostik-Artaic partnership for 2016 will include co-sponsorship of Apple Store Workshops. In the past, Artaic has hosted “Public Art in the Digital Age” workshops in major-market Apple stores. Apple, Inc. sees Artaic’s proprietary mosaic design software as fitting closely with its creative brand position. The purpose of these events was to bring architects and artists together to integrate artistic mosaic installations into building practices.


This retail mural is a concept image for Artaic’s design collection.

Bostik recognized these to be progressive and visionary technical exercises and thus, will be tag-teaming with Artaic in similar programs beginning early in 2016 in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and other metropolitan milieus.

The iconic American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright once stated, “The architect must be a prophet…a prophet in the true sense of the term…if he can’t see at least 10 years ahead, don’t call him an architect.”

“We’ve studied the 4,000-year, chronicled history of mosaics,” concluded Acworth. “We learned where it all began, where it evolved to, and where it came to a standstill. Our M.O. to offer the architectural world a way to resuscitate and invigorate the acceptance of it, is in our way, a bit prophetic, too. We want to incite a strong mosaic movement that will result in world-class mosaic design being specified for signature design projects, for decade upon decade to come.”


Member Spotlight – February 2016 – Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC (CTS)

custom-sponsorSince 1985, Tom Cravillion has operated his business in Plymouth, Wis., just a stone’s throw from Kohler, Wis., and the Ann Sacks Showroom, with whom Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC has built a close working relationship.


Tom Cravillion of Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC

The contractor specializes in tile and stone work for high-end residential homeowners that are either by referral or are satisfied customers. Cravillion said, “Over 80% of our business this year alone was previous customers.” In addition, the company does small commercial projects as well as new homes and renovations.

True craftspeople, Cravillion Tile & Stone specializes in dry-pack mud floors over hydronic heat tubes that involve marble or stone finishes.

Cravillion got his start in tile at age 12, when he began working with his father Gene – an architect – doing tile projects for family home remodeling jobs. At the age of 15, he started contracting jobs, being dropped off at various job sites. Cravillion took to the work with excellence and craftsmanship, so much so that at the tender age of 18, one of his jobs was featured in Better Homes and Gardens!

In 1982, Cravillion volunteered doing work on the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, N.Y., similar to the course that Isaac Homza took (TileLetter June 2015). When he returned to Wisconsin in 1985, he founded his business, developing close personal working relationships.

“We began to find our niche in doing what others said could not be done,” Cravillion said. “Early on, we began following NTCA, TCNA, and ANSI guidelines. We grew to eventually have over 12 employees and a fleet of trucks, servicing eastern Wisconsin, even doing work in Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota, Florida, Michigan, Connecticut and New York.” In 2006, Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC earned the First Prize Commercial Spectrum Award for “The Women’s Room”.

The economic downturn of 2008 forced the contractor to make some changes, reducing work staff and overhead down to five full and part-time employees.

Sweet sixteen

This year marks the 16th year of NTCA membership for the contractor, which joined in 2000.

“While attending a NTCA work shop conducted by Dave Gobis back in the late 1990s, we were introduced to the NTCA and began to see the value it offered,” Cravillion said. “In 1999 while attending the Coverings show in Orlando, Fla., we cemented the commitment. Because of this we began to see how we could set ourselves apart from the rest of the crowd. We are not always the lowest price in a competitive bid, but specialize in doing the job right according to TCNA guidelines and ANSI standards.” One way the company sets itself apart from others, is by setting up a cleaning schedule and maintenance program that they follow through with on a yearly basis with customers.

Cravillion considers the greatest value in NTCA membership to be the networking with other contractors and industry leaders throughout the country: “people like Jim Olson, Bart Bettiga, John Cox, Michael Whistler, Isaac Homza, and well as many others,” he said. “We have benefited from the training seminars at Coverings, Total Solutions Plus, Daltile and setting materials manufacturers. As a NTCA State Director for Wisconsin, my goal is to bring this wealth of knowledge to those who are willing to participate. We also value the voucher program that is provided each year.”

Cravillion took his professionalism up another notch by becoming Certified Tile Installer #1116 on April 14, 2015. “It was a tremendous accomplishment, yet highly stressful test, being judged by your peers not just the customer,” he said.

Integrity is key to Cravillion. “When we know we have shown integrity, done the best we could, and have a satisfied customer – that is the reward, large or small,” he said. “It’s not about the money or income but knowing you did your job right and did not take any short cuts.”

Projects of excellence
Carriage house

Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC completed this circa early 1900s carriage house project over the summer of 2015, for a repeat customer. It entailed a linear drain system, mud-pack floors, and waterproof membrane system with polished white Thassos/Ming green mosaics.



Bathroom renovation

This bathroom renovation was also completed in 2015, featuring a mud-pack floor over hydronic heat tubes, waterproofing over mud pack, and waterjet-cut pattern stone in Calacatta and Emperador marble. A linear drain was installed with curbless access. The project featured floor to ceiling marble with base and crown in matching stone.


1 23 24 25 26 27 28