Member Spotlight – August 2016

custom-sponsorHutcheson Tile & Stone
Eagle River, Alaska

A quality job means executing a well-thought-out plan of action

By Lesley Goddin

spot-01Hutcheson Tile & Stone in Eagle River, Ak., prides itself on working directly with end users and helping them through the “sometimes difficult process of a renovation,” said Don Hutcheson, owner. The company has done commercial work, but Hutcheson explained, “Our pace and goals are more suited to assisting homeowners and designers execute a well-thought-out plan for a functional and aesthetically pleasing project.”

Hutcheson started out in 1997 with Local 1236 right out of high school. This was a soft-good union, but it didn’t take him long to recognize he needed a more artistic challenge than soft-goods installation could provide. With the motto, “stick with what you know,” in mind, Hutcheson focused in on the tile trade, starting his own business in 2003 and his own tile company nine years ago in 2007. “Tile was a part of the trade that required more skill than just a warm body,” he said. “You cannot – in our line of work – do a better job by just adding more people. Finishing a job does not require you to turn up the radio and sweat more; it takes a well-thought-out-plan of action and an understanding of what the last cut will look like before you set your first tile.”

Don Hutcheson with daughters (l. to r.) Elizabeth, now 6 and Emma, now 2. The new addition to the family this year is Evelyn, born May 17.

Don Hutcheson with daughters (l. to r.) Elizabeth, now 6 and Emma, now 2. The new addition to the family this year is Evelyn, born May 17.

Continuing with his ethic of quality, Hutcheson joined NTCA two years ago after seeing the positive reviews from respected people on internet forums and social media who were promoting the values of being a member. “I always was confused about how to best tell someone how, or why to do something a certain way,” Hutcheson said. “Well, it is all there, right in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. I realized I had been doing some things wrong, but now I had a book that wasn’t just the text on a computer screen from who-knows-what-source, or [questionable] experience level of the person offering the information, but manufacturers and leaders of our industry who care greatly about the success of our industry as a whole.”

Hutcheson said that “One of the biggest benefits from the NTCA is the connection to other members who are equally, if not more, involved and concerned about the current state and future of our industry. The educational resources offered are amazing; with a little bit of digging around on the website, you will likely find more information than you were looking for. One of the greatest features to me, a small one-man show looking to expand, are the new training modules offered for an apprentice. Having gone through a union apprenticeship, I see value in training team members to be familiar with standards and expectations of our industry. That is a hard thing to do when you are trying to finish a shower for Mrs. Jones, but these are online classes that can be taken at any time. I think after a few years of this new program being out there we will see a significant increase in certified installers, and quality installations.”

spot-03spot-04Hutcheson is NTCA State Director for Alaska. He explained that “NTCA seems to be a good motivation for me to make myself, my business and my industry better – but there is no doubt that it can get lost sometimes in the daily grind of what we do. So after speaking with some folks who were State Directors and how that had helped them in their career, I asked about becoming the State Director for Alaska.”

The value is immense. “It is a great source of networking and I get to speak with other contractors that I meet at supply shops and tell them about the benefits of the NTCA,” he said. “I will get phone calls from suppliers or shops with questions. Those calls and conversations can come at any time and they are a great boost to morale and a reminder that we aren’t just installing a backsplash today – we are representing an industry and trying to make it better.”

Hutcheson just passed his certified installer exam on June 18th, making him the #1238 Certified Tile Installer in the country and the only one in Alaska. “It was a stressful test,” he admitted. Knowing a little about the difficulty from others who have taken the test, Hutcheson learned, “it was no walk in the park. I think that is a credit to NTCA and the CTEF for not just handing out participation awards.”

spot-06spot-05Being a tile setter is no walk in the park for Hutcheson, either. “Some days I hate this trade,” he honestly exclaimed. “Manufacturers of tile, product manufacturers, clients and peers all have different ideas what a great tile install should be. Those things are always in the back of your mind. I have never left a job that I was 100% satisfied with; I doubt I ever will. But I have never left a job that the client wasn’t happy with, either.” Hutcheson added, “When our clients are happy, they tell their friends about it and that is good for our industry. When our clients are upset with a job, they tell everybody, and those are the things that I try to avoid by being an informed member of the NTCA.”

Member Spotlight – July 2016

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

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

Elite Tile Company

Medford, Mass.
By Lesley Goddin


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Member Spotlight – June 2016

Christine and John Kotara of J&R Tile. Christine is the CEO and John was the co-founder of the company in 1984, with his brother Raymond.

Christine and John Kotara of J&R Tile. Christine is the CEO and John was the co-founder of the company in 1984, with his brother Raymond.

J&R Tile, Inc.
San Antonio, Texas

Back in 1984, John Kotara and his brother Raymond, founders of San Antonio’s J&R Tile, Inc., chose NTCA membership, with the intent of emphasizing professionalism, education and industry collaboration of its tradesmen and participants.

Today, 32 years later, following in her father’s footsteps, director of operations Erin Albrecht has taken the lead on continuing J&R’s focus of educating the staff and the industry. Christine Kotara oversees the operation as CEO.

J&R Tile director of operations  Erin Albrecht.

J&R Tile director of operations
Erin Albrecht.

This current generation of J&R Tile leadership has taken participation to the next level, with dedication to certification, NTCA State Directorship, and technical leadership. For instance, Albrecht is a NTCA Training & Education Committee member, serves on the NTCA Thin Porcelain Tile Subcommittee, and is a Texas State Director for NTCA.

NTCA membership – J&R Tile is a Five Star Contractor – has become an essential component in developing partner alliances with training and educational support, manufacturer cross collaboration and recruitment efforts deeply rooted in CTI and ACT-credentialed individuals.

Today, J&R Tile’s impressive roster of work encompasses commercial, design build renovations, architectural support and specification consultation, pre-construction consulting and installation, LTPT, ultra-compact surfaces, specialty glass mosaics, moisture remediation, plaster and mud work, concrete toppings, surface prep, and underfloor heating, as well as high-end residential.

Why does this Woman Owned Small Business consider itself “The Most Qualified Commercial Tile Contractor in Texas,” and THE resource for large and complicated projects in Texas?

J&R Tile's crew of installers

J&R Tile’s crew of installers

100% qualified workforce; emphasis on training and staff support

For starters, J&R Tile’s workforce is 100% qualified through industry-recognized CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) credentialing and ACT certification. Since May 2015, it has trained and elevated seven CTIs, and two CTI professionals have achieved ACT Certification. Based on the CTI/ACT curricula, J&R Tile is currently developing several apprentice setters as well.

“It is our goal for J&R Tile, Inc. to be the most qualified, trained and technically-sound workforce in the trade,” Albrecht said. “The collaboration and professionalism of our CTIs and staff are what sets us apart, and we pride our business model on the complete experience.”

J&R provided technical expertise for substrate testing and to select and install the proper bonding agents for this Neiman Marcus project, that called for installation of plastic-sheet-mounted mosaics.

J&R provided technical expertise for substrate testing and to select and install the proper bonding agents for this Neiman Marcus project, that called for installation of plastic-sheet-mounted mosaics.

The company prides itself in offering creative, technically sound solutions to large technical challenges that help keep projects on schedule and under budget. Part of this comes from collaboration on pre-construction design and consultation from the project inception, and providing job-specific warranties and maintenance case studies on every project.

Part of the solidity of the company comes from the way it trains and regards its staff and full-time professional setting teams. The corporate strategy revolves around training, education, craftsmanship and quality installation. That includes a raft of weekly accountability and training measures for the company: weekly technical training and demonstrations at the company headquarters/training facility; weekly feedback from professional staff about products; weekly TCNA Handbook Training Topics aligned with product solutions, and an open forum for staff collaboration on new products and methods.

The company doesn’t pay lip service to the importance of training, either – it provides paid initial and ongoing training and incentives in the form of goal-structured project management led by CTIs and ACTs as superintendents/installers, and incentive-based profit sharing for all staff based on goals achieved.

There are other corporate benefits as well that fully support J&R team members: full time medical, dental and company-provided life insurance, and retirement plans with company matching contributions. In addition, the company provides all tools, truck and fuel for projects.

J&R Tile was tasked with massive demolition and replacement of 12 restrooms at Sea World in a three-week timeframe. The company conducted video documentation of substrate testing to substantiate technical recommendations prior to the start of the job. The contractor navigated the short time frame and worked around visitors and customers in the park, using rapid-set technology to meet the goals for the job.

J&R Tile was tasked with massive demolition and replacement of 12 restrooms at Sea World in a three-week timeframe. The company conducted video documentation of substrate testing to substantiate technical recommendations prior to the start of the job. The contractor navigated the short time frame and worked around visitors and customers in the park, using rapid-set technology to meet the goals for the job.

“Every member on our team plays in important role, and we do our best to create an engaging, supportive environment,” Albrecht said. “It shows with the professionalism of our staff from the owners to the newest hire. It’s a very special culture that fosters accountability and trust.”

J&R Tile employs some innovations that helps it uphold its reputation for excellence: real time, cloud- based project documentation and feedback from CTI/ACT professionals; architectural outreach with strategic partners throughout the region through available CEU credits and demonstrations, and showcasing J&R Tile’s professional installers and projects on social media and through a robust website (

Industry and community outreach

J&R’ s involvement doesn’t stop with its support of internal staff and the architectural design community. It’s invested in raising the excellence of the local industry tile community – as well as giving back with community outreach that also supports the future of the tile trade.

J&R arranges for ACT-certified setters to work with youth in growing interest in construction trades through involvement with Boy Scouts, PACE Program (Builders Exchange of Texas), the Pre-Employment Architectural and Construction Exploration Program, and TCCI (Texas Construction Career Initiative).

J&R Tile was faced with a costly demolition of 62 dormitory restrooms at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, with extended down times. This fast-track project required the work to be completed in phases, where one floor at a time would be completed. Phasing was important due to students occupying the floors above and below where the renovations were being done. The major scope of work was the demolition and replacement of all outdated shower/tub units. The shower valves were replaced by the plumbing contractor, and the existing base and entry to restroom had an outdated tile curb to be replaced. J&R Tile coordinated with the general contractor to have the plumbing contractor stub out for the thickness of the new tile. New 4 1/4” x 8 1/2” tile was installed on existing 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” wall tile.

J&R Tile was faced with a costly demolition of 62 dormitory restrooms at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, with extended down times. This fast-track project required the work to be completed in phases, where one floor at a time would be completed. Phasing was important due to students occupying the floors above and below where the renovations were being done. The major scope of work was the demolition and replacement of all outdated shower/tub units. The shower valves were replaced by the plumbing contractor, and the existing base and entry to restroom had an outdated tile curb to be replaced. J&R Tile coordinated with the general contractor to have the plumbing contractor stub out for the thickness of the new tile. New 4 1/4” x 8 1/2” tile was installed on existing 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” wall tile.

Member Spotlight – Hecox Instruction, Inc.

custom-sponsorWhen Dan Hecox, current NTCA State Director for Nebraska, was just a wee lad, he had a penchant for tearing things apart and putting them back together. Junior and high school classes in shop that included building constructiocn, welding, finish carpentry and drafting attracted him like a magnet, so much so that after high school graduation, he went to Southeast Community College and earned an Associate Degree in Building Construction.

may-member-01His next step after graduating college was to establish a business as a general contractor in 1991 to exercise his passion for finish carpentry. In 1998, he began working for a management company that owned Pizza Huts, which gave him a chance to flex his construction muscles and immerse himself in the world of tile setting. “In the 15 years of working on Pizza Huts, I traveled around the Midwest working on 30+ stores, doing everything from minor repairs, to full remodels, to building the stores,” Hecox said. These locations needed remodeling of the restrooms, with tile set around sinks and urinals – and at the time, Hecox had not yet set tile. He educated himself and fell in love with tile setting – “it was a lot like finish carpentry,” he said. “It required a lot of attention to detail, to have it done correctly.” After many years of working with his local tile supplier in Lincoln, his sales reps questioned him as to why he wasn’t setting tile full time. “I had never been asked that before and decided it was time to transition to just tile,” he explained.

Over the last three years, Hecox has specialized exclusively in tile, jumping from his GC commercial restaurant specialty with regional Pizza Hut construction and some residential work, to strictly custom showers, bathrooms in new residential construction and remodels. “I’m still listed as a GC, but I’m no longer doing GC work,” he said. “I’m looking into changing my business name to reflect the 24/7 tile work.”

Hecox is deeply involved in the industry and in making sure his customers are happy. “I have continually gone to different workshops and specialized training opportunities around the country,” he said. “I attend trade shows and network with my peers to do the absolute best job I can do for my customers. That includes taking the hands-on portion of the Certified Tile Installer test during the recent Coverings show in Chicago – with a goal to achieve the seven ACT certifications, obtain further training at Crossville this fall and work with two other shops on both East and West coasts “to shadow them and learn about mud work, floating walls, etc.,” he said. (At this writing, Hecox is CTI #1215)

Hecox is a one-man operation, and signed on as a NTCA member about a year ago, after receiving TileLetter for about a year. He said he “could see a great benefit to belonging to a trade organization and expanding my business through networking with other like type trade professionals.” He wasted no time becoming NTCA State Director for Nebraska. Hecox said, “The greatest value in being a NTCA member has been networking with people not just in the United States but also globally. It has allowed me to become friends with people I would never have known otherwise.”

Hecox experienced a blip in his career path in 2007, when in the middle of the Pizza Hut building project, he was diagnosed with stage 4 tonsil cancer. The doctor demanded he quit work for over four months to undergo treatment, but instead Hecox worked through the neck dissection, and time-consuming radiation and chemo treatments to get the restaurants built, then took a much-deserved rest when they were complete.

“Being able to fulfill people’s dreams and desires with their homes” inspires Hecox. “Seeing people’s reactions as the different phases of the project are completed and hearing their praises of happiness keeps me highly motivated.” And their praises – together with all Hecox’s dedication – are paving a path towards more prosperity for Hecox, with their word-of-mouth advertising fueling the growth of his business.


These two projects illustrate the scope of Hecox’s work today. In the first, the customers had requested a zero-entry shower. Since the framing was already complete, Hecox cut out sections of the subfloor and reinforced the I-joists in order to lower the subfloor and install the two linear drains to match the floor tile height. Heat was installed on the floor and bench.

may-member-02 may-member-03 may-member-04In the second project, 1,200 sq. ft. of plank floor were installed with alternating 6” and 9” width planks, along with alternating colors of Natural and Saddle.

may-member-05 may-member-06

Member Spotlight – 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.



Member Spotlight – Grazzini Brothers & Co. – Sept 2015




Grazzini Brothers & Company is a nationwide specialty contractor specializing in installation of commercial tile, terrazzo, marble, granite, carpet, vinyl and industrial flooring. It was established in 1923 by brothers Frank and August Grazzini, who began a partnership to install concrete walks. Trained in terrazzo installation in Italy, they added this service to their growing business, which spread throughout the Midwest. In the late ’30s and early ’40s, the brothers’ business expanded to include tile work, and their completion of veterans hospitals in Grand Island and Omaha, Neb., helped solidify the company’s reputation as a quality-driven company.

greg_grazziniOver the years, Grazzini Brothers completed many innovative projects including nine city blocks of the vehicular roadway of the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis and the roof of the Seattle Space Needle. The company also added industrial flooring to its list of services in the ’60s, and stone fabrication over the next two decades. This helped to fuel growth outside the bounds of the Midwest, such as the company’s first international project, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., in Tel Aviv, Israel, and other international projects in Scotland and Nova Scotia.

As the world celebrated the new millennium, Grazzini Brothers celebrated an increasing national presence that necessitated the establishment of satellite offices and crews in the Dakotas, Iowa and Alaska, allowing the company to conduct work in 12-15 states at a time. The company has a strong presence in Alaska, following a large U.S.A.F. base project in Anchorage. Today, projects in Alaska – including many government projects – are served by an area manager, crew of 20 craft workers and local warehouse.

allen_grazziniBy 2006, Grazzini Brothers established four divisions – tile, terrazzo, stone and soft flooring – becoming a flooring solutions company that offers a full suite of options from terrazzo and tile to wood and carpet.

From the beginning, the founders’ belief in the American dream, coupled with their old-world knowledge of craftsmanship and artistry, formed the foundation of the thriving company. The founders established core values of excellence and customer satisfaction. With every project, no matter its size, the company pledges to provide quality craftsmanship, superior service and steadfast reliability.

Grazzini Brothers & Company joined NTCA five years ago, eager to be associated with an organization that is dedicated to the professional installation of ceramic tile and natural stone. The greatest value in being a member is knowledge, fellowship and education. And that’s critical to today’s leadership, Allen and Gregory Grazzini. Allen is a third-generation family member, and holds the positions of senior project manager in the Tile Division and vice president of Soft Flooring Operations. Fourth generation family member Gregory now acts as president and CEO.

Greg noted, “What makes our business unique is that many of our employees have been with our company for over 20 years. In this ever-changing world, this loyalty is becoming rare. At Grazzini Brothers, we are a family business and we treat our employees like family. We strive to create an environment where our employees feel like they are appreciated for their contributions to the success of our business.” Grazzini Brothers employ 150 people in this business that has spanned five generations.

Reputably trained and certified installers are crucial to installation excellence. Greg applauds the high-caliber apprenticeship schools in the Twin Cities areas, instrumental in the superb training the company offers its workers. The company believes in partnering with the apprenticeship school to train all of its employees on the job and consistently achieve the high standards clients have come to expect. All estimating and project management is done out of the St. Paul office, allowing the company to complete projects to the highest standard, on budget, and on time. Grazzini Brothers & Company has developed strong working relationships that have endured for years all over the country. For a full list of impressive commercial work, along the lines of Target Field, Mall of America, Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, visit

Grateful for the support and integration with its community, Grazzini Brothers gives back by participating in many trade and civic organizations such as Associated General Contractors, Minnesota Builders Exchange, Associated Builders and Contractors of Minnesota, American Cancer Society, MS Bike 150, North Memorial Community Foundation, Operation Glass Slipper, St. Paul K-9 Foundation, TreeHouse, United Way, and Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations.

“We measure our business’ success by client satisfaction, employee satisfaction and community satisfaction while growing the business and being good corporate citizens,” Gregory concluded.

Project Spotlight:
Target Field

0915-grazzini-1The complex elements of this LEED Silver Certified ballpark required resources such as comprehensive design phase management, unparalleled schedule coordination and disruption avoidance, site logistics, and integrated work planning to ensure quality. Virtual design, plans and schedule became a major part of the project’s success. The project entailed 125,375 sq. ft. of ceramic, porcelain and stone tile. Fewer than 200 days were allotted to complete all tile installation in the club levels, concessions, corridors, elevators, lobbies, restrooms, and team locker rooms. Tile was installed via thinset.


Member Spotlight – Hawthorne Tile – August 2015

custom-sponsorHawthorne Tile

Portland, Ore.

Hawthorne Tile is a unique company of educated craftspeople who are able to execute technically-challenging tile and stone installation projects, primarily for discerning homeowners, talented designers, and superb builders. The firm has a reputation as a company of collaborators, problem-solvers, and visionaries, honed over time. Most Hawthorne Tile clients are renovating beautiful older homes, from a variety of eras, utilizing the highest-quality materials and standards to complete their projects.

dirksullivanHawthorne Tile also provides a high level of craftsmanship that makes the company natural partners with builders of fine, custom homes. The company executes a limited number of small custom commercial projects and handles the restoration and maintenance of existing tile projects – especially where a higher level of skill is required to work with fussy materials or forensics are required to solve underlying installation issues.

Hawthorne Tile is dedicated to the timeless art of tile, and to the tradition of creating elegant and lasting tile work. The company’s team of highly skilled and creative craftsmen understand that tile is just a decorative covering.
Without the knowledge and understanding of how to properly build the foundation for a tile system, that decorative covering will leak, crack and fail.


Technical excellence + artistic vision

Dirk Sullivan, a native Oregonian, is the CEO and founder of Hawthorne Tile. After years in the tiling industry, Dirk made the decision to start his own tile company to meet the demands of homeowners for more complex tile projects that require not only technical but artistic vision as well.

1-hawthorne“I have a deep sense of satisfaction from creating a successful company built on referrals,” Sullivan said. “I’ve always enjoyed the creative end of tile – designing with function and longevity in mind. I feel proud that I’ve created a culture within my company that puts education first – allowing my company to grow and someday live on without me.”

Founded in 2000, Hawthorne Tile is Oregon’s only NTCA Five Star Contractor. The company has grown, nurtured and educated its dedicated team, building a reputation among homeowners, builders and designers as Portland’s premier source for interior and exterior custom tile, glass and stone work.

Hawthorne Tile’s thoughtful professionals collaborate and exercise surgical precision to solve design dilemmas, and keep clients up to date on emerging industry trends and installation products.

2-hawthorneHawthorne Tile has been a NTCA member for five years. “I like the idea of being a part of something larger than just my company and myself,” Sullivan said. “Upon meeting [NTCA presenter] Michael Whistler I was instantly inspired by his enthusiasm and knowledge. In 2010, I was really ready to take Hawthorne Tile to the next level and felt that becoming an active member of the NTCA was an essential part of this process.”

3-hawthorneSullivan counts the greatest value in NTCA membership as “the connections made and feeling of support from my colleagues – not just in the building with me or in my city – but all over the United States,” he said. “I’m no longer just a tile setter in Portland, Ore., but a member of a national organization of equally dedicated and like-minded professionals. The insight I have gained in a short time from interacting with fellow NTCA and NTCA Five Star members has been invaluable. Further, as a member of the NTCA Technical Committee, along with outstanding NTCA members, I have had the opportunity to help shape the future of the industry.”

As stated, one of Sullivan’s greatest satisfactions is having built a company that makes education a key component to the culture of Hawthorne Tile.

“We are the proud employers of three CTI (Certified Tile Installers) and two ACT (Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers) holders,” Sullivan explained. “This means our skilled team is formally trained and technically certified, as well as being able to successfully interpret our client’s artistic vision.”

Sullivan is planning to bring the CTI exam to Portland, Ore., with the intent to certify all his installers.

4-hawthorneOne of the goals at Hawthorne Tile is to engage and inspire the young tile professionals of tomorrow. Beginning in September 2015, Hawthorne Tile plans to send 1-3 of its young team members through the Northwest College of Construction’s Apprenticeship program untilizing curriculum developed by the NTCA.

“This investment in the tile craftsmen of the future will ensure Hawthorne Tile’s promise of excellence for years to come, and benefit the entire tile industry for generations,” Sullivan said.


Member Spotlight – July 2015 – EJT Contracting

custom-sponsorEJT Contracting takes pride in tile setting

Eric Tetreault celebrated as one of Coverings’ Rock Stars

By Lesley Goddin

eric-tWhen Eric Tetreault – current owner of EJT Contracting in Saugerties, N.Y. – was in high school, a major construction project in his neighborhood piqued his interest in building trades. He was eager to rush over to the construction site after school and help out, eventually skipping school altogether so he could work on the job all day.

Flash forward a few months, and Tetreault joined the GED program so he could work construction full time. Eventually, he discovered his true interest was in tile installation, and he continued to pursue that passion to the career in residential remodeling with a heavy emphasis on tile he has today.

“I have always been known for my tile installs, knowledge of products, methods, and standards, and attention to details,” Tetreault said. He seeks ongoing knowledge of approved methods for successful installations.

1-MbrSpt-0715“I approach each project as a new challenge to better myself,” Tetreault added, “I take immense pride in the end product and what we as tilers are able to accomplish for our customers.”

Continuing to learn about his trade is paramount to Tetreault, and so is demonstrating his tile prowess. He is the 708th installer to gain Certified Tile Installer status from CTEF and the fifth ACT installer to be certified through the program.

About four years ago, Tetreault joined NTCA during a workshop. “I was so impressed with the presentation and knowledge of [NTCA presenter] Gerald Sloan that I had to join,” he said. “The promises of literature, publications and voucher program were enough to join, but little did I know they were only the tip of the iceberg. I have since taken advantage of every available training, networking, and educational opportunity that I could, including Coverings, Surfaces, special workshops (the Schluter/NTCA joint workshop, for example), webinars, phone and email support, etc.,” he added. “The people behind the scenes are the most pleasant I’ve ever met. Everyone involved is so welcoming, so charming, and so intelligent, I could sit with them for hours. Even local members,  directors and retailers don’t see me as competition, but as a colleague.”

Though he clearly values network and training opportunities as key reasons for joining the association, he also values other member benefits, including TileLetter magazine, discounted Certified Tile Installer exam, product vouchers, and the NTCA Reference Manual.

Tetreault was honored in April as one of the Coverings’ Rock Stars, during the show held in Orlando, Fla. Tetreault was “shocked, excited, and honored to be recognized as an emerging leader.” Some of his industry 2-mbrspt-0715accomplishments include taking the lead in obtaining and helping others achieve certifications, joining and helping promote the industry and NTCA, and being in the forefront of new products, methods, and standards.

For Tetreault, being a tile installer is deeply satisfying. “I get many joys in this line of work,” he said. “The top of the list might be working with designers and architects to help them understand the fundamentals and challenges of complex and demanding installs, then working with them to create them, exactly as planned, aesthetically, functionally, properly, and correctly. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly,” he said, “I enjoy the beauty of a finished product. I really appreciate a well-designed space, and to have a considerable hand in creating it is very satisfying.”

NTCA Member Spotlight – June 2015

custom-sponsorHigher Standard Tile & Stone

Lahaina, Maui

1-HSTIn the 1990s, when he was 19, Isaac Homza traveled from his home in rural Goochland, Va. (near Richmond), to Brooklyn, N.Y., to volunteer doing construction work on the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Homza didn’t have a construction background, but was willing to assist where needed. Eventually, he was assigned to a tile crew, and worked with people from around the country and Canada to renovate many historical buildings in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood that were used for residential and office purposes.

Homza started out as a helper with his first crew of tile setters, which was mostly female. “They were very detail oriented and trained me well,” Homza said. The volunteers had to do their own maintenance and repairs, so they quickly learned to follow industry guidelines and not cut corners, he added.

2-HSTHomza received some training programs in-house during this project, and learned via seminars by LATICRETE and TEC, but mostly it was on-the-job training. “I ended up learning the tile trade and now use it to support my family.” Homza is the owner and lead installer of Higher Standard Tile & Stone in Lahaina, Maui, and has been a member of NTCA since 2009.

Homza’s destiny as a tile setter was also influenced by his mother – an accomplished artist, and his father, a meticulous craftsman – as well as the enduring artistry of destinations in Italy, France, Korea, and India that he has traveled to with his wife. There he witnessed how true craftsmanship and artistic ability can lead to beautiful tile and stone installations that can last for centuries.

3-HSTFast forward to current day: Homza moved to Lahaina, Maui and has been installing tile and stone there since 2006. Homza got his business up and running in March 2009, in the eye of the financial storm. He admits it was “Not exactly the best time to start a tile business. But I think starting when times were tight helped us make good decisions.” This included doing the job correctly and not succumbing to low bidder mentality. “This has helped us attract the clients that appreciate our work and refer us similar clients today,” he said.

4-HSTThese clients are 80% residential, with a 50/50 mix of work directly for homeowners and general contractors, and 20% small-to-midsize commercial. Much of the residential work is for vacation rental properties, which requires Higher Standard to keep a strict schedule to avoid interfering with client’s rental income. The company also does condo projects for individual owners or general contractors, which are part of larger properties that require Higher Standard to strictly follow the association work rules and working hour requirements. In all, clients come from Maui, at least 14 states in the U.S. mainland, three Canadian provinces and Japan. Higher Standard keeps off-island clients informed on work progress with pictures sent via email or text.

5-HSTHigher Standard and its crew of four people specialize in custom homes with lots of exterior stone tile. It also installs beautiful custom mosaic murals designed by local artists, like one that was just completed for a local elementary school, a glass mosaic mural for the new Bank of Hawaii in Kahului, Maui, and an upcoming large exterior glass mural for a public school in upcountry Maui.

Doing the job correctly is tantamount to Higher Standard’s philosophy (hence, the company name), a philosophy the company states on its website:

1. Use the highest quality tile and stone installation materials.

2. Use TCNA, NTCA and ANSI approved installation methods.

6-HST3. Provide superior, friendly customer service.

4. Be nice to everybody!

“We are not the low-priced option but specialize in doing the job correctly, with attention to the details, doing our best to meet TCNA guidelines and ANSI standards,” Homza said. “Whether our client is a corporation or a homeowner, we try to make the installation process as stress free as possible. I think our biggest asset is our crew; they are very friendly and professional. Clients always compliment us on our work but more importantly on our people.”

NTCA: “best tile contractors”

Homza, who is now the NTCA State Director for Hawaii, joined the association in Spring, 2009, after reading positive comments about NTCA on the John Bridge Tile Forum.

7-HST“John Cox, who was NTCA president at the time, reached out to me and spent a lot of time on the phone explaining why he found being an NTCA member helpful for his company,” Homza said. “I appreciated the time and personal interest he showed. I realized that some of the best tile contractors are NTCA members, and I wanted my company to be a part of that and help support the organization that supports the tile contractors who care about doing the job correctly.”

Homza also values the ability to get feedback and “expert advice” on questions or problems from the network of “best tile contractors” who make up the NTCA.

Homza has extensive technical training provided by LATICRETE, Custom, Schluter, TEC, NTCA, TCNA, ANSI, and the John Bridge Tile Forum – and he’s a CTEF Certified Tile Installer since the October 2012 test at the NTCA event at Daltile, Honolulu. It’s part of what he uses in his proposals to explain how Higher Standard Tile & Stone differs from the competition. (For a list of other ways the company sets itself apart, visit

“Being a tile contractor is a lot of hard work but the best part is seeing the smile on our clients’ faces when they see the finished product, and the satisfaction you get when you work together as team to complete a difficult project,” Homza concluded.

NTCA Member Spotlight – May 2015

custom-sponsorCape Cod Tileworks

Harwich, Mass.

Working with Cape Cod Tileworks is like working with several businesses in one. Maybe it’s skilled tile installation you’re after; or perhaps you are looking for unique, beach-motif handmade tile. Perhaps you are interested in the expertise of magazine and book authors on design and installation, or would like to consult with a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design or Sophia in Japan.

If so, you’ve come to the right place, where Tom and Lane Meehan and staff wait to serve you. The family business in a historic, old, three-story building in Harwich, Mass., owned by the Meehans, gives you access to all of these services, including a love for the art of making and installing tile.

1sptlt-0515Westport Tile and Design owners Tom and Lane Meehan moved from Westport, Conn. in 1994 to Harwich, Mass., establishing Cape Cod Tileworks.

The business is a true partnership between Tom and Lane. Lane crafts beautiful, beach-inspired, one-of-a-kind handmade sea life tiles with motifs like crabs, mermaids, flip-flop feet, shells, and starfish, to name a few. Tom works with a crew of two installers to install commercial tile, glass, metal, stone, pebble tile, and handmade decorative tiles in mostly residential settings and upscale homes. Their four boys often lend a hand installing when schoolwork allows.

“We are a very hands-on business where everyone wears different hats and are part of a total team,” Tom said. A dedicated and knowledgeable staff helps customers create the space of their dreams.

2sptlt-0515“Being a second-generation installer has taught me the old-world way of installing tile, combined with all of the new methods that I have been introduced to, allowing me to train my employees well.” He endorses courses offered at the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation for anyone who is interested in pursuing tile setting.

Lane has a degree in design from Rhode Island School of Design, as well as one from Sophia in Japan. She is also a contributor to Tauton Press’ Fine Homebuilding Magazine as well as Hanley Wood’s Journal of Light Construction. Tom is a longtime writer for a number of different magazines such as Fine Homebuilding. And both Tom and Lane are published book authors with Working with Tile in the Taunton’s “Build Like a Pro” book series, which combines both design and installation techniques.

Handmade tiles; custom installation

3sptlt-0515“What separates us from other tile businesses is the incredible handcrafted sea life tiles that Lane makes,” Tom said. “They are unlike any other tiles in the country (I believe). The tiles are very original. Every tile is individually made and none are exactly the same.”

Another point of distinction is how the crew installs the “critter tiles,” he said. “We create decorative scenes by cutting these tiles into regular field tiles or putting them in a scene with stone pebbles and creating a pool cutout in a floor or a decorative backsplash. Many times, it is not just a tile job, but a piece of artwork. That’s what makes it fun,” he said. You can see installation examples that incorporate these handmade tiles as well as bottle glass, beer bottle caps and other items that make the project truly custom at

4sptlt-0515Cape Cod is also home to many upscale residences that call for very detailed yet extensive tile work. “The nice part is, for every high-end home on the water that we work on, we do an equal amount of work for everyday homeowners like ourselves. We live in a wonderful community,” Tom said.

Joining NTCA

After being a member of the Marble Institute of America for about five years, Tom’s interest about NTCA was piqued when visiting the association’s then-modest booth at a Coverings show about 15 years ago.

“What impressed me was the people I was talking to knew as much – and even more – about tile than I did but they wanted to hear what I had to say,” Tom explained. “They were genuinely interested. I joined because I wanted to become a member of a group of my peers where as a team we could make a difference. It was investing in the future of the tile industry.

5sptlt-0515“The greatest value of being a member is that you always know you are not alone,” he added. “Even if you don’t take advantage of all of the information made available to you, you know that if you are in a jam and need professional advice, the NTCA is there by your side.”

Tom considers the TileLetter a benefit as well, having gleaned information from articles as well as new products and tips from ads. “I know that the manufacturers advertising are legit and their products have been proven and in many cases, are state of the art,” he said.

Other educational opportunities he values are Coverings seminars and industry education whenever it is offered.

What’s hot in Cape Cod

Tom often uses uncoupling membranes as the substrate in floor installations, unless he’s installing over concrete slabs. “If the floors are really in bad shape and very off-level, I will do the old-fashioned mud job,” he said. Electric radiant heating is also popular on the Cape, as are linear drains and curbless showers.

Popular styles include limestone tiles in many different forms from 12” x 12” honed to an array of different-size tumbled stone. Porcelain tiles that simulate stone are a huge percentage of the company’s installations, with sizes up to 12” x 24.” The classic 3” x 6” white subway tile with decorative border at eye height is the leader in shower and tub walls; enhanced, of course, by the company’s own handmade decorative pieces cut into floors, borders and field tile.

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