Glass Mosaic Artist Allison Eden Studios Pivots Into Fashion With Face Mask Line

Yellow face mask with diamond design
Allison Eden Studios’ Mod Circles Face Mask uses a pattern derived from her mosaic tiles.

World-renowned interior design glass artist Allison Eden has repurposed vivid mosaic patterns for use in high fashion face mask line. Allison Eden’s colorful mosaic and mirror designs have been used in leading interior design projects throughout the world. “It was a natural pivot for our business,” Eden said. “My designs make people happy and I love fashion, so our face masks will hopefully brighten your day during these difficult times.”

Eden is a well known veteran of the tile and stone industry with over 20 years experience. Her custom mosaic line is represented through dealers in every major US city. Eden’s glass artwork can be found in hotels, restaurants, casinos and cruise ships. “Not many people know that i graduated FIT and started my career designing sportswear,” she said. “I’m so excited to re-enter the fashion business with my mosaic patterns and contribute to the battle against COVID-19.”

Allison Eden’s fashion face masks are currently available in 5 styles with more to be introduced June 1 on https://www.AllisonEdenFashion.com

More information on Allison Eden’s mosaic artwork for interiors, textiles, carpets, and wallpapers available at https://www.AllisonEden.com

Congress Considering Extending 8-Week Requirement on PPP Loans

PPP loan

Among the issues with the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans are the requirements that the loan be used in the 8 weeks following initial disbursement of the loan and that 75% of the loan must be used on payroll costs. Congress is considering changing those requirements. 

A bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX-21) that would permit businesses receiving PPP loans to use the funds for 24 weeks, not just the 8 weeks in the current law. The bill would also remove the requirement that 75% of the loan be used for payroll expenses, and would extend the period for paying back portions of the loan that are not forgiven from two years to at least five years. Furthermore, the bill would hold harmless employers for any inability to bring employees back to work. A vote in the House is expected next Thursday, May 28th.

In a separate effort in the Senate, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) put forth a proposal this week to extend the current 8-week usage time period to 16 weeks. The Senate bill would also extend the program’s existence from June 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020, although it would not provide any additional funds to the program. The proposal would allow businesses to use PPP loans to purchase personal protective equipment for their employees. The the Senate proposal is expected to will be voted on when the upper chamber returns from their recess week on June 1st. The two bills will then need to be reconciled and a final bill passed by both houses and signed by the President. These bills are separate from the HEROES Act passed last week by the House, which has seen much partisan debate. 

Notice: The information contained in this update is abridged from legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel. 

A new hope: Louisville contractor transforms shop bathroom with Star Wars shower mosaic

Stanton’s Chinese manufacturing partners took great care in creating the Star Wars mosaics. Luke Skywalker’s lips used about 12 colors alone. 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…..Jonathan Stanton was born, the same year that the blockbuster phenomenon Star Wars soared across the silver screen, and changed film history forever.

The year was 1977, and the galaxy was actually our very own Milky Way. Over the intervening years, the force awakened as Jonathan grew up learning the tile trade from his father. In 2002, he established Jonathan Stanton, Inc., in Louisville, Ky., specializing in stellar residential installations. 

Flash forward, and Jon and his wife have two sons, 14 and 10 years old, and a 4-year old daughter – and they all LOVE Star Wars. 

So, inspired by his children, he set out to transform the crumbling outdated bathroom in the shop he bought several months ago into a homage to the Star Wars legend, and an example of creative themed bathrooms that designers could attempt for their clients. “I wanted to take a fun approach and be the cool dad,” Stanton said. “I wanted to do something that wasn’t like anything else out there.”

It took Chinese artisans two weeks to create the mosaic of Yoda’s face. 

Stanton amassed his crew of three men to work on the 1,200-square-foot Jedi Unisex bathroom, on weekends, amounting to about two months of framing, electrical, plumbing, and all the tile work – which alone took two to three weeks.

Meantime, he was in touch with companies he’s developed partnerships with in China to create five mosaics of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Yoda for the shower, derived from online images of the characters. “It took almost three months to have the murals made on mesh sheets, and Yoda’s face alone took two weeks,” he said. “Hundreds of colors of glass were used. The lips of Luke Skywalker alone use about 12 different colors.” The company shipped the mosaics in pieces, designed to lock together, along with extra glass tiles for repairs or to fine tune the installation.

Stanton was careful to check into the licensing ramifications of his bathroom. Since it was for his own use, there was no infringement of using the likenesses of movie characters in his project. 

Installing the mosaics in the Star Wars shower.

His job also utilized Repel Systems XPS closed cell extruded polystyrene foam building panels – 1/2” board on the wall, 5’ x 3’ linear presloped shower pan with tileable drain cover, and solid foam curbs and shower header. Stanton wrapped exposed iron pipes and built shelves with 1.5” thick Repel panels. Stanton owns Repel Systems, with product manufactured to meticulous standards in China. Repel Systems recently joined NTCA as an affiliate member.

Positive partners

Stanton’s work with Chinese companies has been a positive, and the partnership he has cultivated with his Chinese partners has opened the door to not only new business opportunities but to outstanding work done to his exacting standards. “A lot of people think Chinese goods and craftsmanship are a negative connotation,” Stanton said. “I’ve had to peel back the layers and work through some of that…what you buy needs to be done with such care. Initially, mosaic orders were filled quickly but they weren’t what I wanted.” After some discussion and direction, his manufacturing partner met and exceeded his expectations. 

Similarly, Stanton and Repel Systems (repelsystems.com) Chinese manufacturing partner Xuancheng JIT New Materials Tech. Co., Ltd., spent 1-1/2 years before even launching the system. “I’ve asked for emissions reports so we are dealing with only the best of standards for the environment,” he said. “We tested it to make sure we have a top quality product.” The products have UPC certificates through IAPMO Research and Testing, and shear strength that surpasses the U.S. ANSI A 118.10 standard.

Foam building panels from Repel Systems formed the shower, shelves, curbs and other elements. 

Stanton has built strong connections and relationships with his partners and their families, and is in touch with them seven days a week. “I was sad to have to recently cancel a trip to China for a wedding due to the Coronavirus,” he said. And he is still dealing with an additional 25% tariffs on products imported from China. But despite that, the connection, quality, and cost of products he’s developed in partnership with Chinese companies is worth it. 

Walls and floors

In addition to the stunning mosaics, Stanton used Emil America Italian Tele Di Marmo Statuario Michelangelo Lappato Lucido porcelain 24” x 48” tiles for the bathroom walls, and 12” x 24” Emil America Tele Di Marmo Calacatta Renoir Lappato Lucido porcelain installed in a modern herringbone on the floor. The black and white palette reflected the Rebellion versus Dark Side theme throughout the films. 

Stanton’s crew poured almost a 1-1/2” of self leveler before snapping electric floor warming wires into the 3/8” Repel Heat Board. 

About 300 square feet of large-format, rust-look Emil Ergon Metal Style 12” x 24” Revival tile clads the outside of the bathroom envelope, transforming it into something you might find on Tatooine. Emil product was sourced from Patria Coverings Co., in Indianapolis. 

LATICRETE setting materials were used throughout, from TRI-LITE mortar for floors and walls, and MULTIMAX LITE mortar – rated for glass – for the murals. SPECTRALOCK epoxy translucent grout was a must for the murals, Stanton said, since the translucent material “takes up the inner tones of red and blues in the glass tiles, and helps blend in the color.” PERMACOLOR SELECT was Stanton’s choice for grouting porcelain floors and walls. 

To level the “out of whack” subfloor prior to installation, Stanton’s crew poured almost a 1-1/2” of self leveler before snapping electric floor warming wires into the 3/8” Repel Heat Board. 

Stanton created a custom light fixture in the shower with Repel board, with rounded corners and tiled with mosaic. It provides light and the shower head runs through the middle of it. 

Another challenge that presented itself was the toilet, sunk into the wall beneath piping. Stanton chose to strike back by working around the old cast iron pipes, designing shelving around the toilet that is integral to the design of the space. 

As of this writing, the project is nearly complete, waiting for door hardware on order from China that’s been delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

As a finishing touch, the bathroom is accented with actual Disney Star Wars light sabers and Resistance and Empire helmets. 

This contractor’s vision, professional connections and dedication turned an outdated, tumbledown shop bathroom into a new hope, full of fun and delight for years to come. 

As a finishing touch, the bathroom is accented with actual Disney Star Wars light sabers and Resistance and Empire helmets. 

Why proper substrate preparation is critical for tile and stone installations

If you are an attendee of our NTCA online free webinars, this title may sound familiar. That’s because back in February, ARDEX Technical Manager Mark Pennine presented an NTCA Webinar on this subject. And since it so perfectly fits the planned topic for this month’s Technical section, we decided to excerpt parts of this talk to address the issue of substrate preparation. An initial talk on the subject was offered in September. Want to watch that webinar or review the material in this article? Visit the NTCA YouTube channel and peruse our archived presentations there: http://www.youtube.com/c/NationalTileContractorsAssociation. – Ed. 

Proper substrate preparation has long been an essential aspect to a successful tile or stone installation. But today’s tile trends of large-format and gauged porcelain tiles and panels (GPTP) make flawless substrates even more critical. 

Smaller tiles, like 6” x 6”, 8” x 8” or even 12” x 12” format, allow for conforming to inconsistencies in the substrates much easier. Massive GPTP products don’t offer room for variances in the substrate and need a flatter, smoother substrate. Tolerances for these products are tighter. For instance, substrate tolerance for tiles with all edges less than 15” in facial dimension is 1/4” in 10’ and 1/16” in 12”. But for large-format and gauged porcelain tiles and panels, the tolerance is inverse to the size – the larger the tile, the less the acceptable tolerance: 1/8” in 10’ and 1/16” in 24”is industry standard. Natural stone has always required more stringent surface flatness tolerances. Gauged porcelain panel recommendations are following those guidelines.

Installing large-format tiles is much more manageable and stress-free when self-leveling has been done ahead of time. Gauged porcelain panels installed on a properly-prepared substrate results in a beautiful clean installation, with a monolithic look. 

Plan for performance

There is no room for shortcuts when preparing a substrate. When the job is well planned, substrates are prepared to industry guidelines and the installation is performed by qualified labor, the result is beautiful long-lasting installation.

Closely evaluate floor before beginning installations and remember this phrase: “Prior proper planning prevents painfully poor production.” By following proper prep guidelines, you will maximize long-term performance while reducing installation costs. And you will minimize costly callbacks and enhance your reputation as a quality installer. 

The five keys to a successful installation are:

  • Attend training. Be educated. 
  • Substrate preparation – it’s always at the top of the list
  • Using the right tools
  • Use your resources
  • Use Trowel & Error (bitly.com/trowelanderror)

Preparing the substrate: weak or soft top layers

ANSI A 108.01 general requirements mandate that substrates must be:

  • Clean, structurally sound and solidly bonded
  • Free of bond-breakers (sealers, curing agents and form release)
  • Flat and smooth
  • Free of excess movement

Soft or weak top layers pose problems in structural integrity and bonding and must be removed to achieve a strong, lasting bond. The most effective way to remove a weak top layer or contamination from concrete is by mechanical means. When mechanically preparing a substrate, be sure to use proper tools and protective equipment and prepare joints in wood subfloors prior to the installation of self-leveling materials. 

Bond breakers

For concrete substrates, always mechanically remove:

  • Release agents (tilt up construction)
  • Paint
  • Drywall mud
  • Sweeping compounds
  • Oil/grease
  • Asphalt/tar

For wet or moist cured (burnished) concrete where no curing compounds have been used, and superficial contaminants have been removed, you can use the appropriate primer to prepare the substrate. 

When you are dealing with sealing compounds on concrete, you must be able to determine what type of sealer was used and how to proceed before priming. 

  • Acrylic or epoxy compounds – remove superficial contaminants 
  • Urethane compounds – remove down to clean, absorbent concrete 
  • Acrylic non-dissipating curing compounds MUST be defined as “ACRYLIC”. There’s no mechanical prep necessary – just remove superficial contaminants and prime as necessary. 

You can only remove adhesive residues on concrete. The adhesive must be scraped down to a well-bonded thin layer or residue. But if the adhesive is water soluble, it must be COMPLETELY mechanically removed before proceeding. Don’t use adhesive removers or solvents, since these will then become bond breakers. If your substrate is plywood, you can’t remove adhesive residue and then install on that plywood. You must remove the plywood with the residue and or apply a new layer of plywood over it before installation. 

Sweeping compounds you may encounter at construction sites commonly use wax or are petroleum based. They can leave a bond-breaking residue on the concrete surface, and must be removed. 

Tilt up wall construction utilizes parting/release agents to prevent concrete wall from sticking to concrete slab, and act as bond breakers. They must be mechanically removed before proceeding. 

If there is material on the concrete that will affect the bond and you can’t identify it, err on the side of caution and mechanically remove it. 


Priming is a critical step before self leveling since primers prevent porous substrates from drawing moisture out of the product, enhance bonding and extend working times of self leveling products. They are also bonding agents and will help setting materials bond to certain non-porous surfaces they would otherwise struggle to bond to on their own. Primers will usually be single-component acrylic or epoxy. Check with manufacturers for proper primer for your material, and the installation procedures. 

Self-leveling underlayments

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that self leveling products are structural repair products – they’re not. They are surface repair products that prepare the substrate for the installation of finish flooring. But the substrate itself must be structurally sound. If structural repairs are needed, be sure to consult a engineer. 

FLAT AND SMOOTH: In most cases, flat and smooth is what is required, but level is not always needed. If level IS required, be sure floor is plotted and leveling pins are installed, then pour sufficient material to achieve level.

Self leveling is ideal for flattening and smoothing large areas. Some floors may require only 1/8” – 1/4” Others may require 1/2” up to 1-1/2”. Always use the proper product for the application. 

SLUs for tile and stone installations can help save time and money by speeding up installation and minimizing effort and repairs due to undulating and uneven surfaces. Most SLUs can be walked on as soon as three to four hours, allowing installers to start their layouts. Troweling can usually occur in six hours. 

SLU OR TROWEL GRADE PATCH: Sometimes a trowel grade patch is all that’s needed. Other times, patching will take place before self leveling to fix cracks or spalls in the concrete. 

Figure out if you need 1/8” or less to remedy the out-of-lane substrate. If it’s less than 1/8”, use a trowel grade on smaller jobs, and for larger jobs, use a high-flow SLU or patch. If your substrate is more than 1/8” out of grade, use a SLU. SLUs have exceptionally high flow and will heal even when installed at thin applications. 

Do you need a slope? If the slope is greater than 2%, use a trowel grade material, and use a self-leveler if less than a 2% slope is needed. 

Know your self leveler! They are not all the same. Some may be limited to certain types of substrates, or limited in thickness or take longer to dry. Use the product recommended for your application. Consult the technical person of the manufacturer of your choice. And since SLUs are very flowable, be sure to close off all openings before you begin pouring. 

TOOLS: Some essential tools make self leveling easier and more efficient. Two popular tools designed to place and break the surface tension when using self levelers are:

  • The spreader – the cleats on bottom allow for adjustments to determine how much material is applied to the floor.
  • The spike roller breaks the surface tension. 

RADIANT HEATING: Self levelers are the best way to encapsulate floor heating wires. Once the SLU has cured, the installer can work on the floor without worrying about damaging the heating wires. And gypsum based SLU is ideal for use over in-floor hydronic heat tubing. 

UNDULATED FLOORS – An undulated floor covered with cement board is still an undulated floor. A SLU offers a bondable surface and a flat and smooth finish. 

Installing over existing tile installations

Installing over existing tile installation is becoming more popular since it eliminates costly tear-outs and health risks from the resulting dust. Be sure to investigate primers that are designed for non porous surfaces if you are tiling over tile, and make sure existing tile and stone – which will become your substrate – is well bonded. Another step you may need to take is to strip all wax and allow surface to dry thoroughly. Be sure to consult the manufacturer to determine suitable substrates and best product recommendations, and prime as necessary with a product designed for the porosity of your substrate. 

SLUs have come a long way

The first self leveler was introduced to the market in 1978. Today, there are a range of application devices and pumps that use up-to-date technology and provide easier workability. 

For small jobs, you can use manual barrel mixing. It’s very important to measure water capacity and to use proper tools to be sure right amount of water is added every time. 

Additional tools and resources help the job run smoothly, such as a cart for the mixing barrel, a spiked roller to break surface tension, dust control system and leveling pegs. 

For larger jobs, new technologies range from portable small capacity pumps to medium capacity pumps that are modular or trailer mounted, and high capacity pumps perfect for urban applications. Evaluate your needs to choose the appropriate pump for your needs. 

What could go wrong?

SLUs may seem miraculous – but they are not foolproof, and in some instances, they are just not an option. For instance, you’ll run into trouble with a self-leveling compound installed over thick layer of weak adhesive, since that will result in a cracked unbonded self leveler. 

Overwatering leads to weak top layer and noticeable discoloration. 

Disbonding can occur as a result of poor substrate prep and pouring over a contaminated substrate can lead to failures.

Final considerations

  • Substrate prep is key to all tile and stone installation success
  • There’s always a “right way” solution
  • Stay in tune with industry trends and best practices
  • Be aware of the inherent challenges
  • Use your resources – industry guidelines, manufacturer technical services, supply partners, etc. 

Schluter: creativity, craftsmanship, and a complete installation system lead to stunning project

This project feature reinforces our understanding of some market trends, while demonstrating unique installation methods and the timeless value of craftsmanship. It begins with an addition to an older couple’s home that includes a spacious new bathroom. The modern appointments of a tiled shower and heated floors are to be found, but there are some twists that make the project particularly interesting.

Corona installed the Schluter®-DITRA-HEAT system to provide floor warming throughout the bathroom and ensure a lasting tile application.

The builder and the tile contractor

Case Builders LLC of Lutherville, Md., specializes in design, consultation, and fine construction. They manage a multitude of projects of varying levels of complexity throughout the Mid-Atlantic and represent their clients’ construction interests throughout the United States and abroad.

NTCA member Corona Marble & Tile of Woodbine, Md., is a family-owned tile and stone contractor established in 1985, that serves the Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington D.C. areas. Led by second generation owner/installer Mike Corona, the company takes pride in its ability to collaborate with owners, builders, designers, and architects and successfully complete intricate projects that demand the highest attention to detail. This commitment to quality and longevity is evident in Corona’s employment of Certified Tile Installers (CTIs). For more information on the CTI program, you can visit ceramictilefoundation.org.

floor warming was installed throughout, using 3-2-3 cable spacing to maximize the warmth provided by the system


Calacatta Gold stone tiles supplied by Chesapeake Tile & Marble of Owings Mills, Md., were installed throughout the 15’ x 9’ bathroom, including the
6-1/2’ x 5-1/2’ shower. This white marble with deep gray veining produced a classic look that was very much at home in the open space with large windows and abundant natural light.

Heated floors

One of the primary homeowner requirements was to ensure comfort by incorporating a floor-warming system under the tiles. The addition was built over a crawl space so the system helps to mitigate transfer of cold from the space below. 

The framed shower floor area was built 2-1/2” lower than the rest of the addition to allow the mud bed floor to be flush with the bathroom floor.

Corona installed the Schluter®-DITRA-HEAT system to provide floor warming throughout the bathroom and ensure a lasting tile application. The DITRA-HEAT-DUO uncoupling membrane features studs on the surface that secure heating cables without the use of clips or fasteners and a thermal break attached to the underside. The cables were placed wherever heat was desired and the tile was installed directly over the membrane without encapsulating the cables in a self-leveling underlayment, thereby significantly reducing installation time. The sub assembly consisted of engineered wood joists covered with a 3/4”-thick AdvanTech® subfloor, and 1/2”-thick plywood underlayment to support the stone tile installation.

Curbless shower 

The entire shower base was covered with the Schluter®-KERDI waterproofing membrane after the floor warming system was installed, per Schluter Systems instructions.

Curbless showers continue to grow in popularity for both practical and aesthetic reasons. They can make a space feel more open, and the ease of entry can help homeowners age in place if desired. Since the bathroom space was part of an addition to the house, the builder was able to plan for this from the outset. He recessed the floor joists within the shower area 2-1/2” to allow for slope to the drain without requiring extra buildup of the floor outside the shower. Corona floated a mortar bed sloped to the Schluter®-KERDI-DRAIN in the center of the shower. Since there would be no curb, it was simple to continue the DITRA-HEAT-DUO membrane and heating cables across the shower entrance and over the surface of the mortar bed. While the uncoupling membrane is itself waterproof and the heating cables are rated for wet applications, the entire shower base was covered with the Schluter®-KERDI waterproofing membrane per Schluter Systems instructions. The walls were constructed using Schluter®-KERDI-BOARD as a lightweight and easy-to-install alternative to backerboard covered with a membrane.

Floating shower bench 

The floating bench is a 76” long 3 cm-thick marble slab supported by hidden steel brackets.

Shower benches serve practical purposes in tiled showers, and the sleek appearance of a floating bench can make for an elegant design feature. The owners desired a single piece of stone spanning the full length of the 76” wall without visible supports. 

Corona met this challenge using a clever approach. An approximately 12” wide strip of foam board was removed from the length of the wall and iron L-shaped brackets, 12” long on each side, were fastened to solid blocking within the wall framing. The previously-removed board was routed using the brackets as a guide and re-installed so that it would again sit flush with the rest of the wall. Special care was taken to waterproof the area around the brackets and prevent any water infiltration into the wall cavity. A 3 cm-thick marble slab with 4” deep mitered face was installed, with the underside subsequently covered with a layer of foam board and porcelain tile. The brackets provide the necessary support and are invisible within the final application.

Supports for the slab bench were anchored to the framing and then covered with Kerdi-Board building panels that had been routed to fit flush over the brackets.

Arched entrance

Field tile was cut and aligned to fit the underside of the arch and maintain the veining for a seamless, dramatic effect.
There are knee walls on either side of the opening, with an archway above that nearly reaches the ceiling

Perhaps the most striking visual feature of the shower is the entrance itself. Corona is particularly proud of this aspect of the project and rightfully so. There are knee walls on either side of the opening, with an archway above that nearly reaches the ceiling. He painstakingly cut and aligned field tile to fit the underside of the arch and stone chair rail to form the casing. The tile was installed so that the veining in the Calacatta Gold follows the arch to dramatic effect.


This project is an excellent example of how homeowners, builders, and tile setters can work together to produce something really special. The clear communication of requirements by the homeowners, followed by excellent planning and execution by Case and Corona Marble & Tile was the key to success. Using a complete system per manufacturer instructions, combined with plenty of creativity and craftsmanship helps empower tile setters to produce functional, durable, and beautiful results, all within a profitable business.

Robert Roberson, David Allen Company

David Allen Company Chairman (DAC) Robert Roberson is a two-time President of the National Tile Contractors Association and has been with the firm for 63 years. DAC celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2020. 

David G. Allen established his tile, marble, and terrazzo company in 1920. Allen, an exceptionally-skilled craftsman in the masonry arts, was often called on to perform the most difficult, challenging, and complex projects. His commitment to excellent quality and ethical business practices quickly drove his small company to become the preferred tile, marble, and terrazzo company in the region.

Robert Roberson, the current Chairman of the Board, began his career with David Allen in 1957, and purchased the company in 1967. Knowing the value of David Allen’s foundation of high standards and ethical business practices, Roberson and his leadership team remain committed to David Allen’s beginning principles, the result of which has placed the company as one of the largest and most-respected tile, marble and terrazzo companies in the nation, with offices in Raleigh, N.C., Washington, D.C., South Florida, Columbia, S.C., Birmingham, Ala., and Charlotte, N.C. 

The company’s work – in airports, museums, hotels, hospitals, coliseums, schools and universities – has received more industry awards for workmanship and professionalism than any similar firm in the U.S. Today, David Allen Company continues its commitment to excellence as an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) company, instilling pride and ownership at every level. 

David Allen Company has a long standing history of supporting industry associations and affiliations. It is one of the few remaining charter members of the National Tile Contractors Association, joining what was then the Southern Tile Contractors Association in 1947. In fact, Robert Roberson is the only person in NTCA history to be named President of the association at two different times, serving in 1971-1973 and again in 1989-1991. 

As the company celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020 as a leading tile industry contractor, we caught up with Mr. Roberson in an exclusive TileLetter One-to-One interview. 

What are the main factors that have allowed the David Allen Company to thrive as a leading tile installation contractor for 100 years? 

Roberson: From the beginning, the high standards of integrity, professionalism, craftmanship, and customer service practiced by Mr. David Allen himself attracted loyal customers and talented employees. 

During the first 10 years of my 63-year career with the company, I was able to witness how those values were truly lived out in Mr. Allen’s personal life as well as in his business life. 

As we continued to be authentic in those areas, the company attracted talented leaders and craftsmen. Being a trusted, responsible resource is important to contractors, developers, architects, and owners. Being a trusted employer is certainly valued by team members and potential team members. 

Beyond living our core values, I think several things have contributed to our successful longevity: 

1. We are future-focused – to see both short- and long-term opportunities and risk. 

2. We have attracted capable team members on all levels. 

3. Our ongoing education and training emphasis, on all levels, causes good team members to become great team members. 

4. We believe being financially sound is a major asset. It eliminates stress so we can focus on opportunities. We have purposely been overcapitalized.

 5. We demonstrate genuine concern for the welfare and success of all DAC team players, not just the owners and leadership. 

What steps are the leaders of David Allen Company taking to ensure that they will continue to succeed both now and into the future? 

Roberson: As it has so appropriately been said, “What got you HERE, won’t get you THERE!” 

Aware that society and business, like everything in life, are constantly changing and evolving, we not only accommodate change – we advocate and capitalize on change. We respect and stay true to the core values while continuing to stay focused and prepared for the opportunities, challenges and changes that are coming tomorrow and next year. Our next generation of leadership is in place and being mentored for senior leadership. Forty-five percent of DAC (David Allen Company) ownership is ESOP owned – making everyone an owner. 

The David Allen Company has a long history of support of trade associations in the tile and construction industry, including support of the National Tile Contractors Association. How has having the leaders of your company get involved in national and local associations benefitted David Allen Company? 

Roberson: Beginning with David Allen himself as a charter member of NTCA, the company has actively participated in the associations that represent tile, marble, terrazzo, and the construction industry. We would never have achieved the level of success and professionalism that we enjoy today had it not been for our significant involvement with those associations. Much of our standing in the industry and certainly much of our knowledge resulted from our association involvement and from our interaction with association members. 

To illustrate, DAC has provided four of NTCA’s presidents. I served as president on two occasions, Don Scott and Martin Howard are past presidents, and Chris Walker is the current president. 

In 1985, I was appointed Chairman of what had been a three-person technical committee that had reported no activity for the previous three years. I immediately appointed 20 technically-knowledgeable industry members and scheduled quarterly meetings. We promptly started producing documents designed to guide the contractor through the maze of new and challenging installation methods and products. Those efforts resulted in the highly-popular NTCA Reference Manual. I served as Chairman of this committee for 13 years and was followed by Don Scott, who served for another six years. Martin Howard and Chris Walker are current members of that committee. Our team members, on all levels, have been and continue to be “association addicts.” Yes, we know the value of association involvement and recognize that we are largely who we are because of our association involvement. 

David Allen Company currently has two representatives serving on the NTCA Executive Committee. Martin Howard (third from left) is the current Chairman of the Board and Chris Walker, (far right) is President. 

In comparing today’s construction environment and tile trade to the beginning of your career, tell us a little about the changing world we live in. What was easier about being a tile contractor in the beginning of your career? What was more challenging back then as compared to now? 

Roberson: Change is often uncomfortable, but I believe change sustains. None of us wish to return to what we often call the “good old days” when we soaked glazed wall tile in galvanized tubs of water for hours before installing, applying a scratch coat, a leveling coat, and a bond coat, each with its own formula, and rushed to apply the tile before the mortar hardened – and considered installing 60-80 square feet a day as good production. Tile installations were very labor intense. 

In those times, the required craft skill was much higher, and the technical skill was much less than today. If one claimed to be a journeyman tile setter with less than a four-year apprenticeship, he would be laughed off the job. There was a high sense of pride among the most gifted craftsmen. It wouldn’t be unusual to see a craftsman, as he finished his work, step back and observe his work, just as an artist may do in critiquing his painting. 

Relationships were more likely to be personal and far less likely to end in a legal contest. Contracts were also more likely to be verbal or just one page. Many of my contractor customers were also my friends. 

Most commercial tile contractors purchased tile directly from the manufacturer since distributors didn’t exist in most areas. In the 1950s, it was not unusual for tile – especially trim pieces – to be shipped in barrels packed in sawdust. 

For many of my earlier years, much of our installations were confined to toilets, bathrooms, and commercial kitchens. As a result of changing and improving installation methods, ever-increasing innovative tile designs and sizes, and effective marketing, we now often are the feature of many buildings. We have moved from the toilet to the lobby! 

Communication with the job site usually required a visit since only a few of the larger jobs had phones on site. There was far more conversation about workmanship than about scheduling and production. 

There were no copy machines, fax machines, computers, electronic devices, or Makita saws. The closest thing to an electronic device was a mechanical calculator with more than one hundred keys. The solution to most issues and problems back then was just “plain common sense.” 

Share with us a few of your favorite or most challenging projects you were involved with during your illustrious career. 

David Allen Company headquarters construction and its tile and stone installations are favorite projects of Mr. Roberson’s career.

Roberson: In today’s construction arena, all large projects are very challenging with demanding schedules, short time frames, tight budgets, difficult coordination of trades, and accessible work areas. We master all of those challenges every day. 

The project I enjoyed most was our own 25,000-square-foot office building. We were fortunate that it occurred when we didn’t have a time frame or a budget. I took the architect on a 10-day trip to Italy to be sure he understood what I was trying to accomplish. The contractor built the building in nine months, and it took me over a year and a half to do the finishes. From the day we started construction, the job site became my office. I enjoyed working alongside our artist, Vickie Wilson – creating mosaics and marble patterns, resourcing materials, and watching the building that I had built in my head come to life. 

You have been leading the David Allen Company for many decades. What are you most proud of as you look back on the success of the company? 

Roberson: In 1957, my first year with the company, our annual billings were $358,000. During the first 10 years, I was working 12 hours or more a day, and six days a week. In 1967 – the year I purchased the company – billings had not reached $600,000. 

David Allen Company is one of the few remaining charter members of the National Tile Contractors Association. Robert Roberson (l.) worked closely with NTCA Executive Director Emeritus Joe Tarver (r.) to form the NTCA Technical Committee. He chaired this committee for 13 years, followed by Don Scott (seated) for the next six years. Mr. Roberson and Mr. Scott are both previous recipients of the NTCA Ring of Honor Award. 

In 1969, Don Scott joined my one-person team in our tile operations. Don was an education major and had just finished his first year of teaching high school math. He had no previous experience in tile, marble, terrazzo, or business. His impressive character was obvious, and I thought he had tremendous potential. Then, in 1971, David Roberson joined our leadership team in our terrazzo operations. Like Don, David was fresh out of college but had no prior working experience. They were fast learners and hard workers, reinforcing everything that was valuable to our company’s success – a strong commitment to our core values, long hours, sacrifices, and 100% loyal and productive leaders. Don became the President and David is now the CEO. 

For me, that was a turning point. Don and David liberated me. I began focusing more on vision and leadership. As things began to change, I was able to attract more very talented and committed people who enhanced our values. 

Phil Halcomb joined the team in 1986 and established our highly-successful D.C. office. In 1992, Art Odom, a CPA, became our company CFO. Art is now the President of the company. Following Art, Martin Howard became an important part of our leadership team and is now Executive Vice President and a past president of NTCA. Martin oversees our tile and stone operations and our seven branches. 

In 2010, Chris Walker joined the DAC team as Vice President, Northeast Region. Chris is the current president of NTCA, and many others along our 100-year journey have left their indelible and valuable mark. 

But back to your question: What am I most proud of? It is not the most monumentally challenging job we ever successfully completed. Nor is it some artistically created masterpiece. Rather, it is the leadership and the team of quality, talented, and committed individuals who have made our company what it is today and who will continue to keep our company exceptional and relevant. It is the people who are David Allen Company – yes, that is what I am most proud of

Tile of Spain companies present the latest in products and innovations at the 38th edition of CEVISAMA

Tile of Spain manufacturers returned to Spain in February to bring their latest productions and innovations to CEVISAMA, the International Fair for Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings. This year’s annual show took place from February 3rd to February 7th, 2020 and was held the Feria Valencia center in Valencia Spain. 

State of the industry

During the Tile of Spain Press Conference held at CEVISAMA (pictured), Vicente Nomdedeu, the president of The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association (ASCER), highlighted the 2019 production, sales and exports figures that reflect the strength of Spain’s industrial sector.

The Spanish tile industry surpassed the levels of success of those obtained in 2018 with overall sales increasing by 4%. With approximately 75% of all sales made abroad, Spain currently exports to 185 countries worldwide with a total export growth of 3% since 2018. 

Featured trends for 2020

The 38th edition of CEVISAMA saw 800 exhibitors showcase their new collections to over 90,000 industry professionals from all over the world. With no shortage of new styles to inspire interior and exterior design, following are the most prominent trends and innovations on display by Tile of Spain USA’s featured companies at CEVISAMA 2020:

Modern metallics 

Neutral tones enhanced by metallic motifs will shine strong this year. The iridescent reflections seen in the Akila collection from Azteca (pictured), Stardust collection from Fanal, Iron 4D collection from Museum and Grespania’s Patina collection bring an edge of luxury and reflect natural light to visually expand a space.

Artful inspirations 

Geometric patterns and eccentric graphics make their way back to the forefront of tile design after years of toned-down styles. Whimsical looks including Vives’ art deco-inspired Pop collection (pictured), Aparici’s Altea collection, and Arcana’s uniquely-designed wood-look collection Komi, make bold statements and turn spaces into true works of art.

Calming colors 

Soft pastels and soothing hues were in abundance at CEVISAMA this year. Travel from Emotion Ceramics, Clash by Rocersa, and the Bow collection from Harmony (pictured) gradually shift away from the neutral color palette that has been in high demand over the past few years and subtly bring color to interiors. Muted pinks, blues and greens visually enrich environments and lend a relaxing atmosphere.

Three dimensional details 

Not just colors and patterns are making waves in 2020. Curved ridges and beveled surfaces to concaved details, manufacturers are experimenting with texture and dimension that quite literally raise the bar in interior design. Wall tiles like the Donna collection by Peronda, the Underground collection from Keraben Grupo (pictured), and Natucer’s custom D’Autore series expertly portray this unique trend to create a one-of-a-kind look.

Resurgence of shapes and decorative tiles

Iconic and bespoke-shaped tile stood out among its conventional counterparts at CEVISAMA. The shapes featured in Cevica’s Chintz collection (pictured), Roca Tile’s Rockart collection, Apavisa’s Intuition collection and Onix’s Hex XL collection allow for more interesting layouts and bring a sense of sophistication to designs that have not been seen in recent years.

A return to traditional formats

In contrast to unique shapes, traditional formats were in abundance with a return of subway tile in small and square formats. New collections including Pierre by Small Size, Delice by Gayafores, and Antiqva by Equipe (pictured) offer both interior and exterior solutions for all types of surfaces.

To view a brief video highlighting these trends and more from CEVISAMA 2020, visit https://bit.ly/320TI8W

Trans-Hitos exhibit

The Trans-Hitos Exhibition of Ceramics for Architecture celebrated its 15th anniversary at CEVISAMA in a series of three impressive projects entitled “IDENTITY”. The annual Trans-Hitos exhibit was sponsored by the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Association (ASCER) and coordinated by the Habitat Area of the Instituto de Tecnología Cerámica (ITC).

“IDENTITY” (pictured) reflects on the use of ceramic tile as a material for global use in architecture since the 18th century. Ceramic tile serves as a link both culturally and technologically, accomplishing a relevant role as a functional and aesthetic material that has left a legacy in the history of art and architecture grandiose works that still, to this day, are reference points for the whole world. 

More information on the Trans-Hitos exhibit is available at http://bit.ly/TransHitos2020. For more information on CEVISAMA and Tile of Spain manufacturers, visit http://www.tileofspainusa.com.

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