Editor’s Letter – January 2018

“Whatever you do or dream you can do – begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Happy new year, NTCA members!

I know the next year comes around like, well, clockwork, but somehow it always seems to amaze me that we are back at the start of another new year.

Of course, this is a time for resolutions that often get abandoned two weeks into the new year. But I am curious, have you ever made a business resolution that you actually kept (or a personal one, for that matter)? If so, would you be willing to share that with TileLetter readers? What was your resolution, why did you make it and how did you implement it in your business?

Here at TileLetter, we have made some resolutions for 2018 that we do plan to keep. For years TileLetter was a news magazine that brought you information about things going on in the industry as well as technical and business stories and tips to improve your business.

With today’s technology and digital news vehicles, we are changing the focus of TileLetter and how we bring you information:

  • TileLetter.com brings you daily updates on breaking news, announcements and timely information for our industry. Log in from phone, tablet or computer to see what’s new each day.
  • TileLetter Weekly and Enews & Views are short, digital newsletters that come out weekly, to alert you to significant developments and time-sensitive information in our industry.
  • TileTV is a concise video-format news magazine that’s available monthly, with convention and conference coverage, demos and the popular “Question Mark” feature in which NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein answers your queries.
  • Of course, there are our Facebook pages – National Tile Contractors Association, NTCA Members Only and TileLetter, which also bring you timely stories and articles.
  • As for TileLetter, we are making the move to become more of a technical/educational journal. We’ll still have News and Product briefs, with a short description and links to full stories on tileletter.com. But our printed content is looking to be more of a reference document – something you can come back to again and again for help in a challenging project or for information about more efficient business operations.

We’ll also focus more keenly on our members, and their projects and showcase their work in the pages of TileLetter. So expect some changes, and let us know what you think.

One of the stories I’d like to bring your attention to in THIS issue is the Tile Geeks Project technical project. This amazing labor of love brought together a group of tile professionals who enjoy working and networking together to renovate several areas at a farm that serves the local community, especially autistic adults and children. The charge was led by NTCA member and Tile Geeks administrator Justin Kyle of Kyle’s Tile in Ocean View, Md., and 15 friends who are all part of the Tile Geeks Facebook group, supported by generous donations of setting materials by LATICRETE and tile by Crossville, in addition to tool and other sponsors.

In our Benefits Box, this month we detail the upcoming schedule for the brand new NTCA Regional Training Program, which will bring 20 local opportunities for intensive hands-on training around the country. This is a member-only training opportunity that starts in February, so try to make it when it’s scheduled near you. And Amber Fox, the NTCA Five Star Program Coordinator, will bring you periodic updates on the Five Star Program, starting this month.

We truly wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2018, and we pledge to do all we can to support you in that goal!

God bless,

Lesley
[email protected]

Members only: NTCA Regional Training Program schedule set for 2018

In our last issue, we reported on the pilot member-only NTCA Regional Training Program held in October in New Berlin, Wis., developed by NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein and NTCA Training and Education Coordinator Becky Serbin. The program was a huge success and provided 100% free, hands-on experience and training for a group of 20 attendees, supported by NTCA trainers and staff from manufacturer partners.

As a result of this acclaimed event, many NTCA affiliate members are offering massive support to a full program of events in 2018, with Daltile and Crossville leading the bunch. In addition, ARDEX, Bostik, CUSTOM, LATICRETE, MAPEI, Merkrete and TEC/HB Fuller are supporting the program with financial donations. These donations are making possible a schedule of 20 dates for regional training at all regions across the nation. Thirteen will be open to local NTCA members, with eight events slated for Five Star Members only.

This program differs from the NTCA Workshop program in that they are all-day events, exclusive to NTCA members only. In contrast, NTCA Workshops are evening programs, open for anyone to attend.

The curriculum will address either of the following topics:

Standards-based installation of Gauged Porcelain Tile and Gauged Porcelain Panels/Slabs

Really big, thin tiles are here to stay. In fact if you don’t get on board with learning how to install them based on the brand new tile industry standards, you may soon find yourself on the outside looking in on some wonderful new contracting and installation opportunities. This program is your chance to learn about the basics of the tile industry standards and get an in-depth look at the new standards and methods for installing Gauged Porcelain Tile and Panels (GPTP). You will learn why this tile format is the wave of the future, how it is made, designs it is used for and the special tools, setting materials and techniques required to install it.

Here is a sampling of some of the questions you will have answered during the GPTP program:

  • What is a Gauged Porcelain Tile or a Gauged Porcelain Panel (GPTP)?
  • What is ANSI, TCNA, ASTM?
  • What are ANSI A108.19 and ANSI A137.3?
  • Why do I want to know how to install GPTP?
  • What are all of these specialty tools and why do I need them to install GPTP?
  • Why do I need special training and a trained team to install GPTP?
  • How is this going to help me make money?
  • What is Qualified Labor and why does it matter to me?
Standard Practices: Substrate Preparation and Large Format Tile

This program will take attendees on an introductory journey into the tile industry standards found in ANSI A108 and the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. Attendees will learn how to navigate and use the ANSI A108 standards and TCNA Handbook, then will use their new knowledge to address some of real-world challenges in practical hands-on installations focusing on the all-important process of substrate examination and preparation for installing large-format tile.

Here is a sampling of some of the questions you will have answered during the Standard Practices for Substrates and LFT program:

  • What is ANSI, TCNA, ASTM?
  • What are ANSI A108, ANSI A118, A136, A137.1 and A137.2?
  • Why do I need to know about ANSI standards?
  • What is the TCNA Handbook?
  • Why do I need the TCNA Handbook?
  • How do I use the TCNA Handbook?
  • What are the different kinds of substrate and why are there standards for them?
  • Why do I need to know how to examine and prepare a substrate?
  • How do I properly prepare a substrate?
  • Why aren’t some techniques good enough for fixing a substrate and setting tile?
  • How is this going to help me make money?
  • What is Qualified Labor and why does it matter to me?

NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein will present each program, with occasional assistance from NTCA Trainer/Presenters Robb Roderick or Luis Bautista, and CTEF Director of Training Scott Carothers. Local contractor members may also assist.

To register for the free Regional Training Program in your area, visit www.tile-assn.com. For information about joining NTCA, contact Jim Olson at [email protected].

President’s Letter – December 2017

Is it time to refresh the culture of your company?

Rebuilding a company culture can lead to new levels of engagement and satisfaction for all

Martin Howard, NTCA president

Have you ever thought about the culture (a.k.a.personality) of your company? If you haven’t, I’d like to invite you to give it a try.

There are many cultures that companies seem to gravitate to, and we’ll look at a few for comparison.

  • The Traditional or Hierarchy Culture is common and tends to be found in “Top Down” structured companies. This culture can be demanding with little employee empowerment, expecting employees to just follow directions.
  • The Market Culture is most often characterized as having “market share and profitability” as their top priority. One issue with this culture is that the top goals of market share and profitability can often compete with each other.
  • The Family Business Culture is very common in the construction industry, especially among trade contractors. Multi-generational owners usually hold the leadership or management positions. This can be good if a high level of training and career development exist to ensure competent and smooth transitions of leadership. Employees can feel that if they hold different ideas or opinions than the family, they will not be heard. They can also see that they will never grow to attain a high-level position and this makes it difficult to retain good talent. Additionally, this can cause good people to leave or do enough to get by rather than give their best effort.

At our company – David Allen Company – we had a mixture of cultures that had developed over a 90-year period. In 2010, we hit the restart button to rebuild our culture, led by our Chairman, Robert Roberson. This process required a 100% commitment from the ownership/leadership to establish trust and transparency. Our goal was simple: we wanted to become a great company with high value to our customers and team members while creating a great place to work and build a career.

We utilized several tools to assist us in this process, including 360 Evaluations, Skip Level meetings, and One to One listening sessions. These tools created dialog between departments and group discussions around a set of topics designed to foster honest dialog.

Early on in this process, we utilized a little book with a big impact: FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. Here we learned that, “There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself.” Said another way, we can choose to have a positive attitude while doing work we may not enjoy. To help encourage a positive attitude our leadership began to work harder to regularly communicate clear expectations, create transparency and demonstrate respect on a corporate level.

In our next step, we gleaned lessons from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. One of the major take-aways was the concept of getting the right people on the bus, and then making sure those people were in the right seats. This brought a renewed commitment to hire only the “best fit” candidates and be willing to wait to hire if necessary. Everyone in the company took the “DISC” personality profile (a measure of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness), which helped us better understand which seats were the best fit for our employees. DISC also helped us learn how to understand and communicate with personalities very different from our own.

On a structural level, we began dismantling some of the vertical silos that created division and started to build team levels of responsibility and accountability. This only works if all levels believe their voices are heard and can bring about meaningful change. To demonstrate this commitment, we assembled a cross-section of team members to review and modify the company policy manual.

Next, we developed clear career paths and the training and education necessary for success to improve team member fulfillment and job satisfaction. A key principle I learned many years ago is, “There is no success without a successor.” So, as we seek to develop ourselves, we must seek to develop those we mentor. The goal is that as one person takes the next step in their career development, they will have trained and mentored their replacement.

We then took on the task of developing a Standard Operating Procedure so that we could begin to work as a team. This offered the opportunity to scale our productivity by being able to support divisions that needed additional resources without having to hire and train for the short term. Through this process, duplications of effort have been eliminated and efficiency has lifted the level of work satisfaction. Encouraging team members to take ownership of their responsibilities requires empowerment and respect. Compensation and incentives have been reshaped and made available at more levels than ever before.

We then started a two-year company-wide process of studying Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust. This took us through the “4 Cores of Credibility:” Integrity, Intent, Capability and Results. Woven through these core concepts are 13 behaviors that build trust. Each month we created intentional opportunities to apply what we were learning by creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and team goals.

The study walked us through a progression of building trust within ourselves, in relationships, and within the company. Up until this point our focus had been building trust internally, but now we began to build and extend trust in our markets and with our customers.

We also began to build and extend trust in our community by addressing different areas of need there. Our team was excited to participate in various charity events where the company would provide matching funds, including Stop Hunger Now, Red Cross blood drives, holiday food drives, and Walk for Autism. At our traditional July cook-out and game day we reached new levels of fun as we teamed up with our co-workers to crown one team winner for the year. This spread to our annual Chili Cook-Off, which now attracts 30-40 entries. Our team-building event winners are recognized with trophies, plaques, and gift cards. We have offered Financial Peace University to the team and their families twice at no cost to them and have seen amazing results of personal debt reduction and wealth building.

With our centennial celebration a couple of years away and our desire to build a strong, stable, and enduring company for our team, we became an employee-owned company three years ago. Today the employees are the largest stockholders and we’re enjoying a high level of engagement to maximize the steps taken to improve our company. Throughout this process, the underlying theme has been to think about building others up and treating people like we want to be treated. The people that make up our team are – without doubt – our most important and valuable asset.

We still have much to accomplish, but the goal is closer than before and we are working toward hitting the mark. This journey has been enlightening, challenging and very rewarding. Ways of thinking about each other and work have changed and opened positive new channels of collaboration. I hope you are encouraged to think about your company and how you can make a positive difference for the future.

––––

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

Editor’s Letter – December 2017

“You don’t choose a life…you live one.”
– Emilio Estevez, as Daniel, in The Way

It’s November 3, and I sit poised between trips. On Sunday, I leave for Total Solutions Plus, where I hope to see many of you! Only two and a half weeks ago, I returned from the aforementioned pilgrimage (October 2017 Tileletter Editor Letter) in Northern Spain, 200 miles of what’s known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

I haven’t totally returned to my day-to-day life after my trip – and that’s probably a good thing. I’m still incorporating insights, inspirations and lessons from the Camino into my life. Much of my regular day is spent sitting in my home office, interacting with my computer and phone screens, with the occasional phone call. That’s a distinct difference to the 20 days spent walking an average of 10 miles a day on the Camino, from village to village (and the occasional large city, like Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada, Santiago itself) through cornfields, rocky mountains, vineyards and green forests, surrounded by sunshine, morning mist, fresh air, the sound of birdsong and cow bells…..and pilgrims.

Jumping for joy upon arrival at the Cathedral de Santiago.

Lots of fellow travelers on the Way, forming temporary communities and families that coalesce, dissolve, and re-form, perhaps with new members along the trail or at a village where we stopped for a break, or a snack, or for the night’s lodging. Besides the glorious spaciousness of my surroundings and ability to ponder, this wonderful network of connections with people from various places in the U.S. as well as Australia, Germany, Canada, UK, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Italy, and around the world was the most nourishing part of the trip.

And this is what brings to mind the upcoming opportunity for temporary communities to again form, this time in a business setting. Total Solutions Plus has grown to be a well-respected and well-attended conference as people from all sectors of the industry – both domestic and abroad – travel to learn, share, establish new relationships and form and strengthen new connections. More programming is added each year, but it still is a relatively relaxed setting with ample time to sit and talk and make beneficial new contacts and visit with old friends.

Certainly, by the time you receive this magazine, the event will have passed, but never fear, there’s another one next fall! And don’t rule out TISE West in January in Las Vegas, and Coverings, held in May 2018 in Atlanta. These gatherings also give you the opportunity for connection, insight, inspiration that will benefit your business and give you a new perspective on not only your operations, but your life.

Just one group of pilgrims met along the Way (and my walking partner, Jane Knap, center – blue shirt)

And since this month is the month of major holidays, remember to take some time to celebrate with the communities of family, friends, neighbors and other loved ones who form the foundation of your life. Looking for uplifting activities to share with your loved ones over the holidays? Consider these Camino movies: The Way (with Martin Sheen) – which prompted me to do the walk – and I’ll Push You, a documentary just released last night (find out more at www.illpushyou.com). This film chronicles two childhood friends, Justin and Patrick, and their 500-mile journey on the Camino – a heightened challenge since Justin is confined to a wheelchair due to a progressive neuromuscular disease, and Patrick vows to push him the entire distance – and the lessons they both learn along the Way.

Happy Holidays, God bless, and stay tuned for pictures of Spanish tile in a future issue!

Lesley
[email protected]

Crossville Marks Tenth Tile Installation in Specially Adapted Smart Home Built by the Gary Sinise Foundation

Crossville, Tennessee – As the exclusive tile supplier for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) in 2017, Crossville recently celebrated the 10th specially-adapted smart home dedication. Throughout the past year, Crossville has donated more than 10,000 square feet of tile for installations in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other spaces inside homes custom-built for wounded veterans and their families.

“It’s exciting to know we have contributed to help 10 deserving heroes and their families enjoy the comforts of brand new, specially-adapted smart homes. Our tile is a part of the everyday surroundings that are making life better for those who’ve sacrificed so much,” says Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing.

The beauty of tile is far from being the only driving force for incorporating Crossville products into the design of these unique homes. Tile’s performance, versatility, and ease of cleaning are also key factors in its use.

“The tile specified for each family has been chosen to make life more simple and solve challenges, all while looking beautiful for the long term,” Waldrep shares.

The dedication of U.S. Navy EOD1 Andrew Bottrell’s home in San Diego, Calif., marks Crossville’s 10th R.I.S.E. home completed this year. Crossville tile was installed in the master bath, guest and upstairs bathrooms, and in the laundry room–covering the floors and walls.

The master bath and shower floor and walls feature Crossville’s Gotham collection. With subtle striations, aggregate finishes, and lived-in colorations of concrete, this collection provides an urban aura for the space. In addition, Crossville’s Ebb & Flow collection accentuates the master bath walls with a touch of stone and glass.

The upstairs bath features Crossville’s Buenos Aires Mood collection. This line offers an elegant color, touchable texture, and sensuous movement to offer the right look and feel for a relaxing space.

About U.S. Navy EOD1 Andrew Bottrell
U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1 Andrew Bottrell attended EOD school in 2008. A year later, he reported to EOD mobile unit 3. He was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2011 with Seal Team 10. In Afghanistan, on Oct. 1, 2011, while conducting combat operations Bottrell was in a vehicle that was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). He suffered extreme injuries which led to a double leg amputation and a left arm amputation.

About Crossville, Inc.
Founded in 1986 and celebrating 30 years in 2016, Crossville Inc. is a U.S.-owned and operated manufacturer of award-winning tile collections for residential and contract applications. Its headquarters and manufacturing facilities are located in Crossville, Tennessee. Crossville, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Curran Group, a private holding company renowned for its core values of family, respect, partnership, integrity, and improvement.

An industry innovator, Crossville is the first U.S. tile manufacturer to achieve the following:
– produce large format tile on site,
– manufacture tile with certified recycled content,
– develop the Tile Take-Back® Program for recycling fired porcelain tile,
– achieve certification of its waste recycling programs,
– achieve TCNA’s Green Squared certification for all of its U.S.-produced tile lines,
– distribute a complete line of gauged porcelain tile panels, and
– become a net consumer of waste.

For more information, visit Crossville’s website by clicking here.

About Gary Sinise Foundation
The Gary Sinise Foundation honors America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need. Through its R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), specially adapted smart homes are being constructed for severely wounded veterans nationwide. Each one-of-a-kind home is customized to ease the everyday burdens of a wounded hero, their family, and caregivers. Other programs include Relief & Resiliency Outreach, Invincible Spirit Festivals, Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band, Arts & Entertainment Outreach, Serving Heroes, and First Responders Outreach. Its latest program, Soaring Valor, is sending WWII veterans to The National WWII Museum and documenting their first-hand accounts of the war. For more information, please visit GarySiniseFoundation.org.

President’s Letter – November 2017

It’s that time of year when we are pushing hard to reach the career goals we set back in January, and now there are only weeks left to the finish line. We all lead very busy lives, and even more so as we approach the holiday season.

In the midst of our hectic lives do you ever wish you could hit the pause button for a moment? Years ago, I heard a wise man say, “Keep the main thing, the main thing.”

Here’s a question for us to consider: how can we prioritize those other “main things” like we prioritize our careers? “Main things,” like family, faith, and caring for others in our community. It’s hard to hit pause when most of us are never far from our smart phones, televisions, computers, social media, or the 24-hour news channel. How do we minimize the distractions that rob us from growing and moving forward to achieve our goals?

We know planning and prioritizing our time is always the fundamental first step in the right direction. I’ve learned that if I take a little time to regularly reflect on the blessings in my life, I have that extra boost of motivation to stay the course, whether that applies to business, family, my faith or serving in the community. When we reflect, and realize the many ways our lives are blessed, we walk in a fresh perspective that makes some of the stressful stuff in life take its rightful place in the back seat.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a third-world country with a team that reaches out to the two billion people in the world who have no access to basic financial service and serves them through micro loans for small business enterprises. While there, I was privileged to observe how these people who had limited electricity, no water or sewer services, and limited public or private transportation live contented, even joyful lives, in the midst of severe poverty. How do they live with joy amid poverty? They had the love and support of their families and community and a sturdy faith in God. They had an unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit that propelled them to work hard to better their lives. This experience caused me to embrace the value of every life, the dignity of work regardless the pay scale, and see that we all have purpose. It also reminded me we were all born into a set of circumstances for which and over which we had no choice or control. Those of us fortunate enough to have been born in the United States of America, have not only received blessings beyond compare, we have been given the opportunity – no, I would say the responsibility – to lift others up in every way possible.

So, this Thanksgiving I’d encourage all of us to reflect on how blessed we are and how we can make a difference in the lives of others without compromising their dignity.

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

Editor’s Letter – November 2017

How is it possible that we are already in November, looking down the barrel of the Christmas season AGAIN? This fall has been filled with the good and the bad: fraught with fires and floods, a pilgrimage in Spain for me (more to come in a later issue), and we are on the cusp of Total Solutions Plus, the all – industry conference that is growing by leaps and bounds every year – this time held in our nation’s capital.

It’s also the month that we count our blessings – officially – with the holiday of Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for, personally or professionally? If you share with me at [email protected], I can include your comments in an upcoming issue, as we move into the new year.

As for me, I’m really grateful for all the focus on education and training NTCA has. Now, this has been part and parcel of the NTCA mission since it began, but in the last couple of years, we’ve seen it skyrocket to a new level, with the incredible resource known as NTCA University compiled by Becky Serbin, Dan Welch, Dave Rogers and others – and planning to make this available to support more people becoming educated and skilled tradespeople as we go forward. I’m grateful for the development of the Regional Training program, which had its debut in New Berlin, Wis., last month. Together with our ongoing workshops and the online opportunities, no serious tile setter should be without the chance to learn more about products, methods and standards that will only make their jobs better.

I’m grateful for our amazing trainers and presenters – Robb Roderick, Luis Bautista (who also enables us to reach the Spanish-speaking tile setter community with this vital information), Scott Carothers, who somehow fits in more educational sessions with his Certified Tile Installer testing schedule, and Training Director Mark Heinlein, Facebook personality extraordinaire, along with able assistant and wife Connie. In addition, I’m grateful for Kevin Insalato, who is the Regional Evaluator Coordinator for the CTI tests, and has worked hard to be sure more Regional Evaluators are trained and able to bring CTI tests to more eager tile setters around the country.

Then there’s the amazing leadership, staff, board of directors and the tireless State Ambassadors and volunteers – everyone pulling together for the good of everyone else. It’s quite a community to be a part of.

Do what you can to get the word out about NTCA. And it is quite serious about being the Voice of the Contractor, so if you have something you want to share or communicate, visit the website at www.tile-assn.com, and get in touch with one of us. We are stronger together.

God bless,

Lesley
[email protected]

Monthly Webinars, TileTV benefit everyone in the industry

Some of the benefits of NTCA extend beyond the NTCA membership. Such are NTCA free webinars and the Tile-TV digital news magazine.

Twice monthly, you can tune in to free hour-long webinars on pertinent topics to the industry, presented by experts.  Sessions in the series are individually sponsored by ARDEX, Coverings ’18, Custom Building Products, Emser, LATICRETE,  MAPEI, Schluter, and TEC. If you can’t tune in during the day, no problem! NTCA archives all the webinars so all you have to do is go to www.tile-assn.com/?page=webinars, register, and you can watch any of 50 (at this writing) webinars. Some of the webinars include: Sealers for Tile, Grout & Natural Stone; Superior Tile Format, The New Generation of Tile; Barrier Free Showers; Strategies for Social Media; Benefits of Precast Cementitious Terrazzo Tile; Membranes and much, much more.

Take a look! Mike Shoffner, marketing services coordinator for Ironrock, Inc., called these webinars “very educational and informative.” We think you’ll agree.

NTCA also produces a monthly news magazine called TileTV. View it at www.iwantmytiletv.com and learn about industry events in a lively news magazine style. The most recent show at this writing – August 30, 2017, has the 2017 Italian Tile Expo at the center of its program, explaining that “NTCA Representatives will be delivering presentations at the upcoming Cersaie Ceramic Tile Trade Fair in Bologna, Italy. Meetings regarding large format and gauged porcelain tile will also be held with Assoposa and leaders of the EUF. Tune in for more details.”

Coverings, Daltile, LATICRETE, ARDEX, Custom Building Products, Bellota, MAPEI, Tile Shop, Lackmond all sponsor TileTV and make it possible for NTCA to bring you this news magazine.

In addition, a brand new segment for Tile-TV started with this episode. NTCA Training director, Mark Heinlein, answers questions from viewers in “Question Mark”. Tune in to this punchy monthly news show and view archived shows from 2017 and 2016 or follow at Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tiletv.

Interested in learning more about NTCA? Contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or visit NTCA’s Membership page  at  www.tilessn.com/?page=Membership.

OCTOBER 2017: MEMBER SPOTLIGHT – Surfaces 15

Sponsored by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partnership parlays passion and change for good into benefits for business and the industry

Greg Twarog and Edwardo Martinez formed the partnership Surfaces15 (www.facebook.com/surfaces15) three years ago with the concept of creating a diverse clientele and body of completed work. The company has held true to that goal, with an average of 25 projects going at all times, varying in size and job scope. By utilizing the vast talents of its teams, Surfaces15 (S15) – located in Downers Grove, Ill. – can tackle projects ranging from small remodeling repairs like replacing sealant on an old tub back to full scale remodeling projects refinishing basements, kitchens and baths or small to medium scale commercial build outs.
The company focuses on detailed, custom jobs, but also undertakes install production type projects on occasion, never sacrificing quality. S15 utilizes CTEF Certifi ed Tile Installers (CTIs) to install stone tiles, Saltillo, stone slabs, large thin gauged porcelain panels, LVT, VCT, custom and commercial carpet, hardwood, hardwood refinishing, engineered hardwood flooring, large-scale floor prep, epoxy, and conduct moisture mitigation. The team is Nuheat pro certified, skilled in wedi waterproof shower systems, and steam
shower installations. Though leading a young, three year old company, Twarog and Martinez have over 50 years of installation experience between them. Martinez is a second-generation flooring installer, working in the commercial and residential arenas;

Greg Twarog with recently-completed residential remodel in Crete, Ill.

Twarog is a first-generation tile setter, classically taught the tile trade from laborer to journeyman and eventually business owner – all the while specializing in the custom residential market. Both men bring the experience of owning their own flooring businesses to the mix. Twarog transitioned from business owner to working for a Chicago-area distributor during the recession, eventually moving up to outside sales rep. “When Edwardo and I met, and we both realized we shared the same passion and philosophy for the industry, we decided to move towards our common goal and form Surfaces15,” Twarog said.

Both agreed to build S15 from scratch from hard work and from their own skills and contacts and networks. After a year of business they decided – as Coverings 16 Chicago approached – that they would make it a point to attend and to participate with their vendors and network as much as they could for the week.

 

This project is a private residence and contract for a remodel in Crete, Ill. A
Leveltec tuning system eliminated the chance of lippage on this job.

“We went and after a weeklong discussion we both decided to make the investment into the NTCA,” Twarog said. Why did it take a week? Why not sign up right away? After all, there are vouchers after all and many benefits to be had. “Edwardo and I don’t do anything halfway,” Twarog said. “We knew if we decided to sign up we would be all-in. All-in for us, means we would want to both be CTEF CTIs and we would also both want to be State Ambassadors so we could both be a bigger part of the tile industry in a way that would set us apart from all the rest.”
Now, just over a year later they are both CTEF CTI certified as well as many in their network of installers. “In this short time we have been involved with many of our vendors through both the NTCA and the CTEF,” Twarog said. “This has been extremely gratifying to see the positive changes in both ourselves as well as our local industry.”

 

 

 

Surfaces15 and NTCA: creating change for good

As Martinez and Twarog show up as new NTCA Illinois Ambassadors, they have shared their vision with vendors and discovered they share the same passion for the goal for change. “We asked if they would be interested in hosting NTCA events and CTI test days,” Twarog said. “They liked the idea so much, that they have made special provisions with the CTEF for eligible contractors to take CTI tests at their local stores anywhere nationally. This is not only a huge commitment to their contractors but also their clients to help assure a successful install of their products they sell.

“That has been the greatest value that the NTCA has yielded to us, being able to successfully make a positive change and impact to our industry as a whole,” Twarog
added. “When you see Mark Heinlein drive into your town in the NTCA truck you know something will be learned and good change will come from it,” Twarog said. “That’s what is most important to us, and that is what we volunteer for – the positive change and the sharing of good installation practices so fewer failures occur.

Failures are never good for our industry. They make all our jobs more difficult when we go out to sell that big project we want to work on to the Mr. and Ms. Smiths or the general contractor that we have just met. “As you will see in our installations, it does not matter if Edwardo or I install the project, or if it’s our team members from our network, Surfaces15 has a passion for what we do that shows through in our workmanship and finished product,”
Twarog said. “We are always willing to lend an ear and offer or research advice to help,” he added. “Many already know this about us and it’s something that I don’t see ever changing.”

A residential project in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

Surfaces 15 used The Tile Shop 8″ x 48″
planks, with Blanke edging and tuned with
MLT Mechanical Lippage Tuning system in this Indian Head Park, Ill., balcony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This 32,000-sq.-ft. office buildout and warehouse space on Bradley Street in Chicago was for Power Homes. Surfaces 15 did all flooring aspects including grinding down entire building using large industrial equipment and edgers, and moisture mitigation. Tile is from Daltile, carpet tile from Mohawk and warehouse sealer coat from Sherwin
Williams.

President’s Letter – October 2017

NTCA participates in international outreach during Cersaie in Bologna, Italy

Leaders of the National Tile Contractors Association were recently honored guests at the Cersaie Ceramic Tile Trade Fair, held annually in Bologna, Italy. Cersaie took place September 25th-29th, and is the world’s largest exhibition of ceramic tile and installation
materials. NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga, chairman of the board James Woelfel and

I attended the exhibition and collaborated with leaders of several international associations dedicated to the professional installation of ceramic tile. In addition to attending the fair and technical seminars, with an emphasis on large-format and gauged porcelain tile panels, NTCA leaders participated in an exclusive meeting with representatives of Assopossa, the Italian association dedicated to ceramic tile installation.
The emphasis on the meeting was on training and education, and promoting best business practices of tiling contractors. In addition to the board of Assopossa, leaders of the EUF, the European Federation of National Tilers Associations, also participated in the summit discussions. Topics on the agenda included different systems of certifi cations, for both installers and contracting companies’ education and training initiatives, including apprenticeship programs, keeping pace with changing and innovative technology, and safety in the workplace, especially as it relates to the creation of dust during work place operations.

An official tour of four technical partners of Assopossa was also part of the program, with official visits at Cersaie scheduled with Fila Care and Maintenance Systems, MAPEI Coporation, Raimondi Tools, and Schluter Systems.
The NTCA Board of Directors has identified international outreach as one of its main strategic objectives. The goal of this outreach is to establish dialogue and collaboration with other associations with shared interest in promoting and advancing the proper professional installation of tile and stone in the market place. We seek opportunities to learn and collaborate with these associations to continue to build consensus within the industry where advantageous. The desire is to engage the manufacturers with a broad base of support for training and education that enhances the use of tile and stone with technically sound and beautiful installations around the world. NTCA has previously developed programs and relationships with tile and installation associations in Australia, Canada and Spain. Discussions with other associations are ongoing.

Keep on tiling!
Martin Howard, president NTCA
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

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