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NTCA names winners of Tom Ade Scholarship Awards

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) recently announced its 2020 Tom Ade Scholarship Award winners for academic achievement.

This year’s program features one $5,000 Grand Prize scholarship winner, as well as several $1,000 winners. 

Kimberly Callahan with stepfather Woody Sanders, president of DW Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga. Callahan is NTCA’s $5,000 Grand Prize Tom Ade Scholarship Award winner for 2020. 

The Grand Prize Winner is Kimberly Callahan, daughter of Wei Callahan and stepdaughter of Woody Sanders, president of DW Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga. Kimberley has just completed her first year toward a Master’s degree in Social Work, with an emphasis in Clinical Psychology.

The $1,000 scholarship winners include the following: 

  • Sadee Perez, daughter of Sally Perez, Human Resources, of Visalia Ceramic Tile in Visalia, Calif. She also works at Visalia Ceramic Tile on a part-time basis.
  • Meghan Lowery, daughter of William and Emily Lowery. William Lowery is an NTCA member and owner of Lowery Tile in Alsip, Ill.
  • Hailey Peffer, daughter of Meredith Peffer, general manager of NTCA Associate Member, NAC Products, Akron, Ohio.
  • Alera Welch, who is the daughter of Dan and Doreen Welch of Welch Tile & Marble, Kent City, Michigan.
  • Emily Martinho, daughter of Edward Martinho, vice president of Visalia Ceramic Tile.

Congratulations from the industry

Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director said of the Grand Prize Winner, “I wish Kim the best of luck and good health as she endeavors to make a difference. This world needs her talent.”

Ron Nash, senior vice president of sales and marketing for LATICRETE, an NTCA member and supporter of the scholarship program, said, “This is fantastic. I couldn’t be happier to be part of an organization that supports our industry and, even more importantly, the people who make our industry great.”

Woody Sanders added, “Kim has such a very special heart for people who need help,” he added, “She has an ability to step into another’s shoes and see their perspective and is driven to help while holding onto her values. She is an inspiration that gives me hope for our future. She is so very special.”

COVID delays

The Tom Ade Scholarship Awards were delayed this year due to complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bettiga said, which led to having only one Grand Prize winner. “However,” he explained, “we have decided to choose several $1,000 scholarship award recipients, as the quality of the applicants and their deservedness for financial support was outstanding.

“We all need a little good news right now,” added Bettiga, “so celebrating these young people is coming at the right time.”

Funds for the Tom Ade Scholarship Awards are made possible through the generous donations of NTCA members: total donations determine the number of scholarship recipients each year. Scholarship applications are reviewed by a committee of NTCA’s Board of Directors, as well as members of the NTCA staff.

The Tom Ade ceramic tile scholarship was established by the NTCA to provide educational opportunities for children or grandchildren of NTCA Contractor Members. Tom Ade is a former NTCA regional director and a previous recipient of the organization’s Ring Of Honor and Tile Person of the Year Awards. The scholarship also encompasses a contribution to the educational institution of choice for the applicant.

In memory of Gerald Zakim

Gerald (Jerry) Zakim, age 91, of Wanaque, N.J., formerly of Paterson and Wayne, passed away peacefully on the night of January 4, 2020, at his home. He was the beloved husband of Phyllis H. (nee Hamburg) Zakim for 68 years, devoted father of Stuart Zakim of Montclair, N.J., Elayna Kirschtel and her husband David of New City, N.Y., and the late Leonard Zakim of Newton, Mass., cherished and proud grandfather of Andrew, Alex, Jonathan, Joshua (Grace), Shari (Philip), Deena (Jesse), Aaron (Michal), Jason and Naomi, dear great grandfather of Leo, Lev and Lyla, dear brother of the late Sam Zakim and the late Esther Zakim Fox. Prior to his retirement, “Jerry” was the owner of a construction and consulting firm in Northern New Jersey and had a patent for a waterproof coating system. He was a graduate of Clemson University, in South Carolina where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree and was a Navy veteran of WWII. 

Jerry Zakim (l.) with NTCA’s Mark Heinlein.

Jerry was a lifetime member of the National Tile Contractors Association and an NTCA Recognized Consultant. 

Gerald was a longtime member of Temple Beth Tikvah, in Wayne since 1966, and was a member of the Veritans and the YM-YWHA of Northern New Jersey, in Wayne, where he was inducted in the Sports Hall of Fame for his time as a basketball referee in the 1940s. 

“I didn’t get my annual birthday call on January 10th this year from Jerry Zakim, and I didn’t get to make my birthday call to him on January 11th,” said Joe Tarver, Executive Director Emeritus of NTCA. “This was a ritual that started many years ago and was uninterrupted just by a few days. Jerry was a unique person in our industry with an insatiable quest for education and training and a willingness to share his knowledge with everyone. His history in the industry covered everything from inventor to consultant. He was a long-time member of the NTCA Technical Committee and participated in many NTCA Workshop programs. There was never a dull moment with Jerry around. RIP my friend.”

Services were at the Louis Suburban Chapel 13-01 Broadway (Route 4 West) Fair Lawn, N.J., and burial followed at Independent United Jersey Verein Cemetery, McBride Avenue, Woodland Park, N.J.. Memorial donations in memory of Gerald Zakim may be made to the Lenny Zakim Fund, 33 Arch Street, 26th Floor, Boston, Mass., 02110.

In memory of Albert Thompson

Albert Maurice Thompson, 81, of Eufaula, Okla., passed away Thursday, January 9, 2020, at his home. Albert was born on August 21, 1938, in Edmond, Okla., the son of Henry and Adelia Thompson, and graduated from Edmond High School. On March 1, 1996, Albert married Joann Bates at the Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. They were happily married for 23 years. Albert enjoyed playing guitar, helping people, and singing at the Plumb Theater.

Albert and Joann Thompson at the 2000 NTCA Annual Convention. 

He owned and operated Thompson Tile and Marble of Edmond and later owned Artistic Tile & Marble of Guthrie for over 25 years. He was a master tile man and was a member of the National Contractors Tile Association where he received the Tile Person of the Year Award in 2001. 

He is survived by: his wife, Joann; his sons, Jim Bates of Washington, Okla., and Chris Thompson of Mo.; his daughters, Karra Sparks of Bentonville, Ark., and Rachel Thompson; his grandchildren, Ashley Deskin, Kynsey Bates, Shelby Bates, Luke Barton, Noah Sparks, Cole Thompson, Christopher Thompson, Jesse Thompson, Taylor Thompson, Noah Thompson and Dallas Thompson; his great grandchildren, Delayney Deskin, Dallas Deskin and Henry Ford Thompson. He is preceded in death by his parents, and his siblings.

NTCA’S Executive Director Emeritus Joe Tarver also counted Thompson among his friends. “Albert Thompson was a dear friend and a staunch supporter of NTCA,” he said. “His talents reached far beyond the ceramic tile industry. Albert was also a guitarist, a singer and played regularly in a band. He was never too busy to answer a call for assistance from anyone related to the entertainment or tile industries. 

“When the decision was made to clad the NTCA building with new tile, Jim Isaminger of DMI Tile and Marble came in from Birmingham and did the installation,” Tarver added. “Albert answered the call and came to Jackson and grouted the installation with silicone. That was a unique talent that Albert possessed, and he did the entire building by himself. You will be missed my friend by all who knew and respected you.”

Coverings comes to The Big Easy, April 20-23

Making a return to the Ernest N. Morial Center for the first time in nearly 20 years, Coverings attracts visitors from every facet of the tile and stone industry. Incomparable educational events, networking opportunities, and a chance to see nine miles of the best in new tile and stone product are paired with fabulous food (both in NOLA itself and at many booths of international exhibitors at the show), culture and the 51st New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival running April 23 through May 3. You have every reason to travel to NOLA for bettering your business and packing in a little fun at the same time.

Every year Coverings gets bigger and better and offers more inspiration, education and opportunity for those in the tile and stone industry. The educational program is completely free, and offers a massive number of sessions (find a schedule of speakers and sessions here: https://bit.ly/2sP1043). There are also products, installation demonstrations, and events to attend. 

Here’s a brief rundown of the event that will take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center – visit www.coverings.com or stay tuned for the Coverings issue of TileLetter coming to your mailbox in March for more information.

Live Installation Demonstration Stage – These live “how-to” classes offer attendees an up-close look at how top contracting pros handle a variety of challenging tile installations, using a wide variety of new products and techniques to make tile and stone installation more successful. Sponsored by TCNA and NTCA.

Installation & Design Experience (IDE) – Among the aspects of this show feature is a showcase of best practices across a range of tile installations, demonstration of why tile is a great product choice compared to other materials, and information on how to become and find Certified Tile Installers. CTEF will showcase the features and benefits of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program and its importance to qualified labor as found in the TCNA Handbook and also contained in the Avitru (formerly ARCOM) MasterSpec for construction specifications. The IDE Lounge will be home to lunch, happy hour, giveaways and a game show in the late afternoon as well as other activities, such as the Brand + Business Building Zone.  

Brand + Business Building Zone – A new complimentary attendee feature for Coverings 2020. Come have a professional headshot taken, create a video pitch for your social media channels and website, and get tips and tricks to amplify your presence and profile across the web and social media for promotion. This is located in the Installation & Design Experience. 

IDE Booth Tours – Make the most of your time with an IDE Booth Tour! Embark on a super-efficient, super-informative guided tour of NTCA sponsor booths – see over 10 booths in one hour. Sign up in the IDE Lounge. 

Tiler EventBot – Another new feature, Tiler, Coverings’ very own EventBot, will be available via attendees’ smartphones to answer any questions about Coverings. 

Educational sessions – Coverings will home in on three key tracks relevant to today’s industry professional: Installation & Fabrication, Workforce & Profits, and Materials & Trends. Coverings’ robust educational offerings span all industry segments, many offering CEUs. And, Coverings provides all learning benefits at no cost. For a full schedule of sessions, visit
https://bit.ly/2sP1043. 

SFA Cage – The Stone Fabricators Alliance will once again be presenting “The Cage,” a dynamic, wet fabrication area contained within the exhibition floor. Sponsors of the SFA will showcase new products that you can try yourself, and members of the SFA will have ongoing “Mini-workshops” where fabricators can get hands-on demonstrations on various fabrication techniques like top polishing, mitering, etc.

Cafe du Monde by Paul Broussard

Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards – celebrate outstanding achievements in the design and installation of tile and stone in both residential and commercial projects. Awards will be presented at the annual reception, Monday, April 20, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. All are welcome!

Coverings Rock Stars, An  Emerging Leaders Program – This program recognizes and engages the best and brightest young talent in the tile and stone industry.

New Product Showcase: Don’t miss the New Product Showcase available on the Coverings website and mobile app. Discover the new products and trends exhibitors are bringing to Coverings 2020. Mark your favorites and visit those booths on the show floor.

Show Floor Happy Hours – Relax and network on the show floor from 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Monday through Wednesday. 

Art Tile Courtyard – Visit the TCNA Art Tile Courtyard located in the heart of the Art Tile Village at Coverings 2020 and enjoy beautifully tiled doghouses provided by TCNA members. These decorated doghouses are wonderful displays of creativity using tile. After Coverings, the doghouses will be donated to a local New Orleans pet charity that will be onsite during the show with canine companions.

Quickfire sessions – Experience short, 20-minute single focused presentations on the latest in tile and stone trends and installation. 

Engage Interviews – Learn from one-on-one interviews with trend-setting industry leaders in design and installation
innovation.  

NTCA Awards Night – Join NTCA for its annual Awards Night on Wednesday, April 22 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Immediately after the awards event, NTCA will host a sponsored party till 10 p.m., featuring musical entertainment from NTCA members! 

NTCA Workshops offer layout training in 2020

If you are a tile contractor, one of the most basic – and important – aspects of the job is being able to design a tile layout in a given room with the specified tile. But as contractors have come to take the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exams, one of the sticking points has shown itself to be time management and accurate layout.

“We see it as a big issue,” said Becky Serbin, NTCA Education and Curriculum Director. “It all started with the CTI exams, where time management is biggest issue. Often we see contractors laying a dry pattern on the floor next to it because they don’t know how to do a grid pattern on the module.” This slows down the process.

“The Ins and Outs of Layout” uses principles from the ANSI A108.02 manual.

Serbin said that a lot of people don’t understand basics of layout: making a layout centered and balanced and squaring the room. Contractors struggle with where to start when creating a pattern with tile, or establishing a focal point.  “How do you make sure that focal point is correct, and how do you lay out around a kitchen island so you don’t have small cuts on one side and big cuts on the other?” Serbin said.

NTCA is going to be addressing this issue with a third option in its workshop roster, “The Ins and Outs of Layout”. The two existing topics: “Failures – Could it be Me?” and “Tile Matters – Best Practices for the Pros” have been in rotation for NTCA Workshops for a couple of years now. Workshop hosts select the topic that will be presented at their location. This year, NTCA started offering hosts the option of “The Ins and Outs of Layout” – an AIA/CES-registered program for continuing professional education – to teach contractors the basics of layout that they will use every day, beginning with workshops in January. For those who are planning to take the CTI test, perfecting these skills can mean the difference between passing and failing. 

Creating clean corners is addressed in the new NTCA Workshop.

The program draws on layout requirements from ANSI A108.02. It addresses ways to center the design, using the middle of the tile or the grout joint, and centering on a 45-degree design, while avoiding excessive numbers of cuts. The program presents a range of patterns to consider such as straight, running bond/brick, herringbone, checkerboard, diagonal and chevron patterns, and guidelines for working with those patterns. It also addresses managing warpage and avoiding lippage in tile layout patterns with traditional and large-format tiles.

Corners can present a special challenge and this program provides instruction on perfecting folded, mirrored, and folded and mirrored corners. Joints are an important part of the layout and the program deals with determining the proper size grout joint and also how to configure different types of non-linear movement joints. 

Techniques to make sure the layout is centered and balanced and how to square a room are taught.

Squaring the room and ways to determine the focal point of the room are taught in this program, as well as how to utilize a grid system for layout, and what to do when two layouts meet. In addition, the program covers how to create smooth floor to wall
transitions. 

“We will have a mockup of a room, and contractors will do a layout with foam blocks to simulate a kitchen island, to help them figure out how to install around it,” Serbin said. 

Contractors will get to see examples of acceptable and non-acceptable cuts in creating layouts.

Some tips and techniques, such as using storypoles and framing squares, are also taught, as well as the benefits of creating mockups before embarking on the
installation. 

“The methods they will learn will translate to many tile sizes,”
Serbin said. 

Interested in “The Ins and Outs of Layout”? Visit the Training and Education tab at www.tile-assn.com or go directly to the Community Calendar at https://bit.ly/39sPoTk to see what workshops will be offered in your region, then contact the host to determine if the layout program is being offered at that workshop. 

NTCA sponsors CEFGA CareerExpo

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, is sponsoring the World of Tile Pavilion at the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) CareerExpo, taking place at the Georgia World Congress Center on March 12-13 in Atlanta, Ga.

Image courtesy of Allen Allnoch and CEFGA.

CEFGA was founded in 1993 by construction leaders who recognized a need for quality construction skills training in Georgia. The CEFGA CareerExpo links students directly to professionals in the areas of construction, utility contracting, highway contracting, electrical contracting, mechanical contracting, energy, mining and more. The event features hands-on displays that allow students to engage with industry leaders, equipment and materials and tap into their unique skills and interests. 

According to Rod Owen, president of NTCA Five-Star Contractor C. C. Owen Tile Company, Inc., the organization held its first career fair in 2005, but the tile trade wasn’t represented until 2008 when Owen asked for a space in the expo.

C. C. Owen Tile, leading tile manufacturer Daltile, and installation materials supplier LATICRETE International will be co-sponsoring the Pavilion with NTCA. Together, the four entities are working to promote the ceramic tile industry as a leading career opportunity to consider for high school age students at the 2020 event.

Image courtesy of Allen Allnoch and CEFGA.

Owen believes the CareerExpo is a great avenue to display the opportunities that are available in the tile industry, and is planning for an impact far beyond the day of the event. While he knows many students who come to the expo may use it as an excuse to get out of class, he hopes the experience will educate some of the students or their teachers about the opportunities available. “[After attending the expo], there might be that construction teacher that listened and understood the opportunities, and is now back in the classroom counseling students and advising them about their potential in our industry,” Owen said.

NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga agreed the event is a good opportunity to expose students to the tile industry. “Helping to recruit the next generation of tile setters is a part of the NTCA mission,” Bettiga explained. “High school students may not know yet what career path they want to take. If they haven’t been exposed to the tile industry, they may not know what a lucrative career it can be and how many options it holds. At events like this, we can show students how they can become our future industry leaders.”

The CEFGA CareerExpo also features the SkillsUSA state championships, a competition in which students showcase their skills in a number of construction-related disciplines. This CareerExpo continues to grow each year and, in 2019, drew a record 8,615 attendees.  

Louisville Tile Distributors receive recognition at TSP

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) recognized long-time supporter Louisville Tile Distributors at Total Solutions Plus (TSP), held at the end of October in Nashville, Tenn.

During the TSP award ceremony, NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga presented Robert DeAngelis, President of Louisville Tile, with an award recognizing the distributor’s support of tile industry training and education programs.

Robert DeAngelis (l) with Bart Bettiga at the Total Solutions Plus award ceremony.

Robert DeAngelis (l) with Bart Bettiga at the Total Solutions Plus award ceremony.

Louisville Tile, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is a leading distributor of tile installation products and sundry items for tile installers. Currently, the distributor has 13 showrooms, located in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

“NTCA realizes that without the support of distributors and manufacturers we would be limited in what we do to positively impact the industry,” Bettiga said. “It’s because of this reason we decided to thank and honor the leaders at Louisville Tile Distributors for their continued support of our programs.”

For several years, Louisville Tile has hosted and sponsored NTCA workshops at all of its locations. At many of these events, the distributor goes a step further by purchasing copies of the NTCA Reference Manual and the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation and the offering them to attendees. DeAngelis said he felt it was important that attendees left with these resources saying, “That puts the power of first-hand knowledge in their hands.”  

DeAngelis said while it was nice to be recognized for Louisville Tile’s efforts support NTCA, he felt in reality it was NTCA that was supporting Louisville Tile in its education efforts. Two years ago, Louisville Tile leaders decided that in addition to being a workshop sponsor, they would also sponsor and host NTCA Regional Training Programs in effort to expand the ways they provided specialized training to local installers and their customers. Louisville Tile even added an additional member to its team in order to be able to offer more training. “By adding Marc Mularoni –our Director of Technical Sales– as a full time technical person, we added a person with the dedicated ability to step up our educational offerings in partnership with NTCA, CTEF, and other industry resources,” DeAngelis said.

Bettiga offered the distributor his sincere thanks for its support and efforts over the years and hopes its example will encourage other distributors to do the same. “Louisville Tile offers us an example of the difference an independent distributor can make in the industry through its support of installer certification, training and education,” he remarked.

DeAngelis also commented about the importance of being an industry education sponsor. “Our business is driven by the tile installation trade and businesses,” DeAngelis noted.  “It is more than a contribution to our industry; it is a necessity for continued health, growth and improvement of the tile trades that support our industry.”

Woelfel Receives NTCA Ring of Honor Award

Nyle Wadford (r.) presented Woelfel with the NTCA Ring of Honor during the Awards Lunch at Total Solutions Plus in Nashville.

During the tenth annual Total Solution Plus conference in Nashville, Tenn., the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) awarded James Woelfel, President of Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Company in Mesa, Ariz., the NTCA Ring of Honor.

The NTCA Ring of Honor is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes NTCA contractors and associate members whose efforts have helped grow the association and assisted in achieving its objectives. Recipients are chosen by NTCA executive officers. 

Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the NTCA, said Woelfel was chosen because of his dedication to the association and the tile installation trade. “James has provided leadership and passion to our association. He has been a constant advocate for the professional tile contractor in the development of standards and methods and is a staunch proponent of qualified labor. He has served on the executive committee for many years and is most deserving of this prestigious recognition.”

Along with Bettiga, industry leaders such as Butch Woelfel of Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Company, John Cousins of Dal-Tile, Noah Chitty and Mark Shannon of Crossville, Inc., Mary Yocum of Schluter Systems, Rod Sigman of Custom Building Products, John Cox of Cox Tile, Eric Astrachan of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Service, and Martin Brookes of Heritage Marble & Tile participated in the video honoring Woelfel for his achievements and this prestigious honor.

In the video, Bettiga, who was last year’s NTCA Ring of Honor recipient, commended Woelfel’s service to the association. “I can’t think of anyone in my 18 years of being with the NTCA that has done a better job as a volunteer than James Woelfel of Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Company. James has chaired our technical committee for many years, has been our president, and has represented us all over the country in presentations and in training and education programs.”

Among his accomplishments, Woelfel has been the chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee since 2007 and is a voting member of the TCNA Handbook and ANSI A108, 118, and 137.1 Committees. He served as president of the NTCA from 2015-2017 and was the 2011 recipient of the NTCA Tile Person of the Year Award. Woelfel is also an NTCA Recognized Consultant and a highly rated speaker at industry shows such as Coverings, The International Surface Event (TISE), and Total Solutions Plus.

“Receiving the Ring of Honor shows that James’ peers have recognized the years of meaningful work he has done for the NTCA,” said Bettiga. “There is nothing more honorable and laudable than what this award represents.”

Woelfel credits his wife, Chris, for much of his success. “I owe a ton of credit to my wife; she pumped me up when I was down and kicked my butt when I needed it. She showed me how to set and attain goals. She made me spend time in the industry and she took on all of the responsibilities for our family and work while I was out of town. She has an incredible professional background but she immersed herself in our industry and took it upon herself to learn everything she could so that she could support me and our family in making our business stronger. I love and appreciate my wife so much; she is the main reason I have achieved this dream.”

Woelfel said being chosen as this year’s recipient was humbling. “My first thought was how lucky I am to be associated with the other Ring of Honor recipients, people like Tom Ade, Bob Roberson, John Cox, Dan Welch, Bart Bettiga and, of course, my father Butch Woelfel.”

Woelfel’s father was the 2007 NTCA Ring of Honor recipient recognized for his career contributions to the association. The Woelfels are the only father and son to both receive the NTCA Ring of Honor recognition. 

“In 2007, when I presented the ring to my father, Butch Woelfel, I was amazed at the work he had put into the industry over many years that led to him getting the honor,” Woelfel said. “My wife, Chris, asked me if it was a goal of mine, as well, to earn the Ring of Honor. I told her that my reasons for being involved in the NTCA were to make the industry stronger and support tile contractors who often don’t have the necessary and strong voice at the table…and in doing that, if I ever received the Ring of Honor, it would be amazing.”

NTCA 2019 Review and Industry Forecast

As we look to close out 2019 and look forward to a new decade starting in 2020, I would like to use one word to express how I feel as NTCA Executive Director about our industry and our association – GRATITUDE. There is so much to be thankful for, and it starts with a dedicated board of directors and executive committee and ends with enthusiastic support from members around the country and a dedicated staff of association and industry leaders. Thanks to all of your efforts, NTCA continues to make a positive impact on the ceramic tile industry. 

NTCA’s formal acceptance into the National Apprenticeship System from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

Highlighting NTCA’s 2019 year was the announcement that the U.S. Department of Labor approved our application for Federal Apprenticeship Guidelines, allowing us to assist our members in training and recruiting new workers. These same guidelines can potentially enable members to apply for workforce development funding assistance in their state. To help in recruitment efforts, NTCA introduced several new videos and promotional materials to support members to promote the ceramic tile trade in their community.  

The biggest impact NTCA makes in our industry usually centers around the training programs we provide for our members. In 2019, we embarked on our most ambitious effort in our association’s history, adding multiple regional training events and roundtable membership meetings, in addition to continuing our traditional workshop seminars. The trainers at NTCA do an incredible job in educating installers and industry professionals, and in 2019, NTCA pledged to help grow the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and Advanced Certified Tile Installer (ACT) programs.  

Membership growth continues to be a focal point of our association. NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein with new member Gabriel Hanceri at a NTCA workshop in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

2019 was not without challenges. Leading the way this year is a growing concern that plastic-based materials, like LVT and others, are taking industry market share. Rising tariff costs, concerns that economic growth is slowing down, and the continued lack of trained and certified tile installers are still at the forefront of challenges our industry faces. NTCA is committed to addressing these concerns but is additionally forging ahead to promote new opportunities that will help our members continue to thrive in the years ahead. We see the ceramic tile market as one with endless potential, with products helping us to grow per capita consumption for walls and floors and in interior and exterior applications.  

Membership continues to grow thanks to strong support from an active board of directors who helps to spread the word about the value of NTCA to their peers in their region. We will continue to add value by introducing new programs and benefits, and we hope to continue on our path towards 2,000 members in the next few years. 

In an effort to increase value for membership and serve our industry, NTCA added benefits programs for health, life and supplemental insurance, dental and vision plans, 401(k) plans, and more. We urge you to check out the NTCA website for detailed information on all of these programs.  

As NTCA Executive Director since 2002, I am honored to continue to serve this vibrant and growing association. 

NTCA Board Advisor Dan Welch in Michigan taking part in recruitment and training efforts to high school students.

NTCA has committed to a stronger level of support to the CTEF. NTCA and CTEF staff with CTI test takers.

Callewaert accepts Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year Award

Lee Callewaert (l.) with NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga at the Awards Lunch.

During the Awards Lunch at the 10th annual Total Solutions Plus in Nashville, Tenn., the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) awarded Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc. the Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year Award.

As part of his award, Callewaert received an all-expenses-paid trip to Total Solutions Plus. He and his wife, Jane, were also recognized at the NTCA Annual Meeting.

Over 20 candidates were nominated for the award. Requirements included a letter of nomination, a career summary, and descriptions of three to five projects the nominee has worked on. Nominees were required to be NTCA members, have a minimum of 15 years of installation experience, and still be active tile setters at time of nomination. Judges evaluated nominees based on their artistry, technical accuracy, problem solving skills, continuing education, and mentorship or leadership of others. 

In his nomination letter, Dragonfly customers and apprentices stressed Lee’s commitment to the next generation of tile setters, saying he leads by example and teaches his students the importance of continually obtaining more knowledge in order to improve their skills.

During the NTCA Annual Meeting, Jan Hohn of Hohn & Hohn, Inc., talked about the Dragonfly apprentices’ nomination. “Lee did not know that he been nominated for this award. His apprentices took it upon themselves to nominate him, and they worked with his wife, Jane, to get the application in. Lee did not know until the phone call came. That’s how dedicated his apprentices are to him, the industry and the craft that they took it upon themselves [to nominate him].”

Examples of Callewaert’s custom work.

Callewaert, who has been setting tile for over 35 years, is the co-owner and senior craftsman of Dragonfly Tile located in Grafton, Wis. He began his career as an apprentice in Tennessee. Later, he moved to Wisconsin and where he started as a journeyman tile setter and later became foreman. In 2003, Callewaert founded Dragonfly Tile with Jane. By this time, he found his niche in custom tile and stone designs and installations. 

Callewaert said he started his own business in order to make a difference. He believes the trade is more than just setting tile. “There are a lot of people like me who want to bring the professionalism and the artistry back to this trade. It isn’t about just setting tile. It’s a craft with a proud history and that history should be preserved and built upon,” Callewaert said.

He also stressed that his success would not the possible without the help of his wife. “I could not do what I do in the field without my business partner and wife, Jane. She is as committed to this journey as I am. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have someone who can handle the other side of the business. There is no way without her that I could have achieved what we have achieved. She is as valued as I am by our employees and clients.”

Jane said she was honored that Callewaert and Dragonfly Tile were being recognized by NTCA. “Being recognized by industry leaders and peers is a great honor. But it’s also very motivational. It feeds your passion and commitment. I’ve seen this first hand.”

NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga echoed Callewaert’s sentiments about he and his wife working as a team. “I’ve been executive director for 18 years and I’ve been working with tile contractors for 35 years and what [Callewaert] just said is exactly what this industry is all about. We have a great association of husbands and wives that run family-owned businesses.” 

Currently, Callewaert specializes in highly technical and challenging commercial and residential tile and stone installations. Additionally, he is a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and dedicates a portion of his time mentoring the emerging setters on his team.  

Lee vowed to continue to pass his knowledge and the craft on to the next generation of industry professionals. “All of us started somewhere and we are indebted to those who launched our careers and supported us throughout the years. I’m so honored and will continue to pass it on.”

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