Contractors get creative with green solutions

Recycling options can benefit homeowners, contractors, and community members as well as the earth

With this issue addressing issues of sustainability, environmental friendliness and recycling, we turn to a couple of contractors to see what might be percolating in the green arena for them. 

Nadine Edelstein, owner of NTCA member Tile Design by Edelstein located in Vashon, Wash., addresses the recycling issue with a program she’s dubbed, “No Tile Left Behind.” Edelstein said, “It’s enabled me to pull a LOT of material out of the waste stream, and then I am able to make creative spaces for clients with it. I don’t charge them for the material, but they pay me to design with it.”

Edelstein’s original hex concept made from her No Tile Left Behind program.

Edelstein was asked to create a feature wall for a new local salon and used No Tile Left Behind material to create it.

“I was thrilled when I found out that the branding was around the concept of the hive,” she said. “Several years earlier I had created a concept wall for a local group tile show. I cut kite shaped tiles from tile and stone (from No Tile Left Behind) and arranged them into a dimensional wall of hexagons for the show’s entry. Of course I saved all the tiles and hoped I would find an imaginative client. 

“Then along came The Hive! I had to tweak the color palette and add some more pieces but I was finally able to give the piece a place in the real world,” she said.

The wall Edelstein created for The Hive salon, using “waste” material.

Another recent No Tile Left Behind project was a shower for a previous client of Edelstein. “I was able to utilize glass, ceramic, and porcelain in a blue/green color palette to create a large scale mosaic for their master bathroom remodel,” she said.

“Fortunately, I have a large studio,” she said. “So I am able to store the rescued tile and stone until I can find them a new home.”

Another “Green” perspective

Another “green” perspective on recycling comes from appropriately named NTCA member Phil Green, owner of PGC Construction, Remodeling and Design in Gilberts, Ill. He’s also the creative genius behind the “Back Butter Buddy” tool, a tile-centric Lazy Susan that sits atop a bucket and allows large tiles to be turned more ergonomically. He’s putting his innovative mind to work on the recycling issue and he’s outspoken about the need for novel solutions. 

Glass, ceramic and porcelain from Edelstein’s No Tile Left Behind tiles created this stunning shower.

“We in the tile/remodeling industry generate a fair amount of waste materials during the course of our projects. Even the cartons and bags from our tile and thinset become something that we need to deal with,” he said.

“As the planet gets more and more cluttered with debris from a ‘disposable-minded’ society we NEED, MUST, ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO do our personal fair share to chip in and become part of the solution. Many programs already exist, and new ones are on the horizon that look for alternatives to bagging and shipping everything to the dump.”

Green detailed  a few things that his company has chosen to do to help: “When we demo a kitchen or bath we do it in such a way as to not damage the reusable products from the project,” he said. “Sure, sledge hammers work, but they are just to add drama on the DIY/HGTV shows. We take cabinets, countertops, faucets, light fixtures, doors, and even old paint to our local Habitat for Humanity Restore. For any valuable products, I fill out a donation sheet and give it to my homeowners as a tax write off. They appreciate it and it means less in the landfill. Win, win!”

Cuts and broken tiles are the perfect materials for mosaic projects.

Cuts and broken tiles make excellent materials for mosaic projects, Green has discovered. “I love the look of mosaic designs, and once again the tile gets a new life and is not buried in some hill,” he said.

“I would suspect most towns have a recycling program along with their normal garbage pick-up,” he added “I try to bring cardboard and plastic home to be disposed of in my personal container. I am also lucky enough that I can have an open burn pit at my home. I take paper and wood products home and burn them there. If I get any metal from my jobsite – other than copper and aluminum – I bring that home too, separate it from my normal waste and set it aside. I know that the ‘scrapper’ will drive along on garbage pick-up day, and if I can help him make a couple of extra pennies, I do. 

“Every town also has a recycling drop-off center for scrap materials such as copper and aluminum,” he said. “I accumulate these metals and make the trip, even if just for gas money, but I know these products too will be melted down and be reborn.”

Green knows this isn’t an exhaustive list of solutions, but it’s a start for contractors who want to be earth-conscious. “That is my GREEN perspective,” he said. “I guess I’ve always been Green without realizing it.”

Teaching your kids the tile trade: yes or no?

One recent Tuesday, Dave Clark, owner of Clark Flooring LLC in Jackson, Miss., posed a question on the Facebook group, Global Tile Posse, about working with young family members – who’s done it and how is it working out?

“Working my son this summer, he’s 12 and never really done anything like work. Mainly just want to spend time with him and teach him a trade and the value of a hard-earned dollar. Any of you guys or gals ever work your youngsters? What would you pay them? Would you let them run a saw?”

This is an interesting question, since one of the main challenges in our industry is the dearth of tile setters and interest in the trade in the next generation. But after reading these responses, there is hope!


Sean Burkhart, Burkhart Construction Management, Richfield, Wis.: My son helps me every now and then. He is 9. I taught him how to run a tile breaker when he was 4. I don’t even have to explain it to him now. Just hand him a cut with a mark and he breaks it then stones the edge! Great help!

Brad Tremain, Tremain’s Top Tile, Winona, Minn.: Run a saw and wipe grout. Simple cuts. I’ve let my 8-year old run straight cuts.

Charles Nolen, Prestige Custom Tile, Logansport, Ind.: I get the awesome privilege of having my son install right along with me every day and I can say it’s truly the best ever watching your kid turn into a mini you. It’s pretty damn rewarding, not to mention the whole being proud thing, so here’s to you, Caleb Nolen. Let them do whatever they feel comfortable with. One of many good things about a wet saw is it’s hard to cut fingers off with it.

Kevin Green, Artistic Marble & Tile, Columbus, Ohio: $10 an hour. I tell him he has to save half of it, and yes I show him how to use the tools.

Cody Laws, Cody Laws Contractors, Wadmalaw Is., S.C.: I started when I was about 6. I got a dollar a day to pick up carpet scraps and blades. I had my own pair of pliers to pick them up with and put in a can.

Clayton Knutson, Final Touch Contracting, Dallas, Texas: I started real work and paying taxes/social security at 8 in a shipyard. My son is 4; works harder than most men.

Joseph Maiuri, Shores Tile Co., Roseville, Mich.: Yes sir. 12. First job I had was removing the paper between the quarry tile base and cutting the cardboard off the top: “Police the area.” I also cleaned my brother’s truck. I think I got $10/hr back then. That’s awesome – teach them young!

Matthew Allcott’s 11-year-old son grouting a floor…

Matthew Allcott, MGA Tiling, Frome, Somerset UK : I’ve let my boy have a go on the dry cuts (subway tile) and grout a small floor; he’s 11. He got 15 pounds for the day.

Dave Morgan, CA Flooring, LLC, Clinton, Miss.: My son helps my brother some throughout the summers. He’s 14 now and has been helping for the past few years.

Nathan N Michelle Mikoski of Batharium, Kannapolis, N.C.: Depends on the kid. My oldest started when he was 9, and around 13 things clicked for him. By 14 he was straight up setting small jobs and tub surrounds on his own. He’s started back today for the summer and will be 16 in a few weeks. He’s paid for his first car (a 1970 Beetle) and his own monster gaming rig. His younger

…and doing dry cuts on subway tile.

brother is 11 and still isn’t ready to handle a power tool, but he has other skills neither I nor his older brother have

Greg Dawson, Greg’s Flooring, Quesnel, B.C.: Pay $15/hr. Make him work, but try to have fun. Every dollar you pay him now is money that you won’t give him later to go out and do stuff. And he will feel like he earned it. It’s coming out of your pocket either way; just let them work for it.

Dennis Pacetti, Pacetti Tile & Remodeling, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.: Pay him what you’d pay an actual helper, and work him like an actual helper.

George Adams, ST Tile, Wellington, Ohio: My son has been on jobs since about 4. I was self-employed for 15 years and a single father, so my son came to work with me as often as possible. When he was 16, he started working for the same company I do. This is his second year here and he earned himself a $3 dollar/hour raise.

Tom Welch, Welch Bros, LLC, Woodland, Wash.: I don’t have a son but I do have two nephews that spent summers working on my tile jobs that are now both licensed full-service tile contractors. They were 14 or 15 when they first started and are now in their mid thirties. They started by just doing housekeeping and cleaning tools and buckets, buffing grout jobs, and just getting acquainted with construction in general by working around other tradesmen. I always made sure they got paid so they understood the value of working. I couldn’t be more proud of both of them and their accomplishments.

Matthew Felton’s stepdaughter Natalie helping on a waterjet mosaic, grinding off knobs where the mosaic broke off from the original stone tile. (In all other work she wore eye protection, Felton said).

Matthew Felton, Mattheworks.com, Milwaukee, Wis.: My dentist was kind enough to give my stepdaughter free braces. She was 10. So when his bathroom project came up in the summer, you should have seen the look on his face when he came home to see her outside in his driveway by herself making cuts for me.

I obviously didn’t just throw her out there. She learned everything – especially safety wise – that she needed to know and was more capable than most hired help I hired after the same amount of training. Pay for your son? As much as you would pay for what you would get out of any other trainee with whatever skill level he performs at. But agree there should be a lesson in saving as well.

Shaun Skeen, Home & Business Renovation Solutions, Okeechobee, Fla.: This is awesome seeing the next generation. I will start my son next year when he turns 4. We all better watch out for DCF showing up at our doors for child labor laws, LOL. Seriously though, let him enjoy just being with his dad then slowly start working him. Trash clean up, getting buckets filled, pulling spacers, cleaning thinset out of joints etc.

Dave Clark, Clark Flooring, LLC, Jackson, Miss.: All great responses. Thanks GTP! My kid makes great grades, just finished 6th grade with one B and the rest As. He likes to brag on being one of the smart kids and his achievements. I really just wanna spend time with him and teach him something that we know can be valuable. Kid saves all his money. I give him cash usually twice a year and he puts it wherever he puts it. He’s probably got more stashed away than I do. Lolz. Happy Tuesday, y’all!

From the Field – September 2013

NTCA continues efforts to promote membership in strategic planning

By Bart Bettiga

The NTCA prides itself on being the “Voice of the Tile Contractor” in our industry. Recently, our executive officers met at the home of current president Dan Welch in Grand Rapids, Mich. As the association continues to grow, with almost 850 members as of August 1, the Executive Committee spent several days reviewing the goals and objectives established by the Board of Directors and developing new initiatives moving into 2014 and beyond.

Saving NTCA members money, and finding them work

One of the most important objectives of the association will be branded in a stronger marketing effort moving forward. Simply stated, the NTCA continues to develop programs that will “Save Our Members Money and Find Them Work.” If we can show our members tangible results in this effort, there will be every reason for them to continue as members of NTCA.

Examples of programs that fit into this objective include the NTCA Partnering For Success Program, where associate members offer FREE product vouchers for products to offset the investment a contractor makes in membership in NTCA. This program has been one of the most successful efforts in the history of the NTCA, and now offers three times the cost of NTCA membership in FREE products for contractors to use on their projects. In fact, as of June 30th, the NTCA had issued over $570,000 in vouchers back to our members! This goes right to your bottom line! More importantly, many of our members have thanked us for this program because it has helped them to source new and innovative products that they continue to purchase for their company. This is truly a win-win program.

NTCA promotes qualified labor

Another key strategic effort our association continues to work on is to promote “qualified labor” to project owners, architects, builders, designers, etc. By working closely with manufacturers, distributors and other labor associations in our trade, we have made giant strides in this effort. Language promoting hiring qualified tile installers has been inserted into tile industry standards, specification programs, and manufacturers’ product recommendations. We continue to develop certification through the CTI (Certified Tile Installer) program offered by the CTEF and the ACT Program (Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers) jointly promoted by the leading tile associations in the industry. The NTCA Five Star Contractor effort is a comprehensive company recognition program that is also part of this effort.

There are many other discounted programs and services the NTCA offers to its members. If you are interested in learning more information about this, you can go to the NTCA website at www.tile-assn.com or contact assistant executive director Jim Olson at [email protected]

Standards development

Perhaps the most important role we play on behalf of labor is in the development of industry standards. The NTCA Technical and Methods and Standards Committees develop the NTCA Reference Manual, which is being printed this year and for the first time ever being offered to the entire industry. In addition, these dedicated individuals develop proposed changes and new methods to the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation and ANSI A108 Committees; selected individuals participate in these committees on behalf of the NTCA and labor as well. I can attest to the fact that your “voice” is represented on these national committees thanks to the voluntary efforts of many NTCA contractor members.

I am amazed at the volume of work the NTCA staff does to fulfill our goal as the Voice of the Tile Contractor. Even more amazing are the volunteer efforts taking place all around the country by NTCA Members, State Directors, Regional Directors, and Executive Officers. Not only are we growing in membership at the NTCA, we are growing in the number of “active members” who regularly contact our office for business and technical support, attend our local educational and training programs like the NTCA Workshops, and come to national tradeshows we sponsor and support like Coverings and Total Solutions Plus.

The NTCA is committed to letting you know that one of our strategic missions is to “Save our Members Money and Find Them Work.” Join our growing association now and let us prove it to you.

A Year of Possibilities

By John Trent, John Trent Construction

With more than several hundred opportunities around the U.S. this year to attend industry events, access to continuing education within the industry has never been so abundant. Never before has it been so easy to participate with the industry, and never before has it been as necessary as it is today.

These days, many people enter this industry with their only exposure to installation training being what they learned from a big-box, one-hour presentation on Saturday morning or through trial and error as taught by the school of hard knocks. Scores more have only experienced managing a business from the shoebox of receipts stuffed under the seat of the work truck. Others have never heard of any industry associations.

Like many others in the trade today, I did not have the good fortune of being born into a tile family or knowledge of any apprenticeship. I installed for several years before working with an installer who possessed the desire to share with me the correct ways. I still had no knowledge of any industry associations, training programs or symposiums. It never crossed my mind that there could be these types of organizations out there willing to train me in the correct methods.

A rising tide lifts all boats

What’s your point, you ask? The point is that there is so much available knowledge out there to be shared – a lot of it free of charge – yet so few take advantage of it. Not only do we do ourselves a disservice by failing to utilize this information, we also keep our industry headed in the wrong direction by not taking advantage of the opportunities to learn and share the most up-to-date practices. From promoting industry standards through social media, encouraging less-engaged installers/companies to attend available opportunities, or taking the time to share our passions with those outside the industry, we should all take an ownership role in the industry, not just in our own businesses.  It is up to everyone involved in this or any other trade to make it the best it can be by becoming a good steward for the industry. By sharing practices, skills, knowledge and techniques we will help raise this trade back to the higher standard it enjoyed in years past. Everyone should take the initiative to help themselves by helping the industry. A rising tide lifts all boats. As president Theodore Roosevelt said, “Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”

A knowledge-driven industry

It has been said that our industry used to be skills-driven but now is more knowledge-driven. Staying abreast of this ever-changing knowledge is paramount to success in today’s market. No longer are we installing only a half-dozen different types of tiles. Today you can have a half-dozen different materials in a single project! We are bombarded with hundreds of options and variations of tiles, mortars, grouts, waterproofing, sealers, floor prep, crack suppression materials, uncoupling membranes, drains….and the list goes on.

While most all of these materials are good products when used according to their given specifications, none of them are free from limitations and all will fail when used incorrectly. It isn’t unusual to have completely contradicting specifications for the very same materials. Learning their individual compatibilities is necessary for any successful installation. This is where the shift from skills to knowledge has taken us.

Many opportunities, many free!

With the industry supporting the relationship among the manufacturer, distributor and installer like never before, no one expecting long-term success can ignore the opportunities to stay abreast of this ever-changing information. With more than 80 NTCA Tile & Stone Symposiums, 35 Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Certified Tile Installer testing opportunities, Coverings, Total Solutions Plus, and more than a dozen industry-specific events, it has never been easier to find a way to grow within the industry. Whether you desire to learn more about the changes within the TCNA Handbook of Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, how to set up and run your office, make the best use of social media, deal with problematic installation issues, or network with industry movers and shakers, the choices are abundant. And the choices listed don’t include the dozens of manufacturer-specific events available, all aimed at keeping installers up-to-date with each manufacturer’s specific requirements.

Return our trade to revered status

This is a year of possibilities: a year to embrace the opportunities and change the direction of our industry. We can take advantage of the wind at our backs and go with the current instead of continuing to paddle upstream against the tide.  This year, those with passion for the industry can step up and state “Enough is enough – I will no longer sit idly by and watch the industry and my livelihood stagger along into ruin. I will commit my time, skill and knowledge toward bettering my industry so that it can return to a position more deserving of the glorious place in which the artistry and skill are given the just notice as they were in years past.”

America was once revered as producing the best of the best. There was a pride in doing a job not only well but best. The tile industry enjoyed the rewards of this mentality for many years. It will be vital to return to this pride in our way of life, in producing the best of the best to lift our industry out of the hole into which it has slid. I am challenging everyone who reads this to embrace giving back to the industry as if you owned a piece of it. Commit to providing that helping hand both to ourselves and our competitors as a way of lifting us all.

Want to contact John? Reach him at [email protected]