Creating excellence for Northern California Tile & Stone

Custom logoNorthern California Tile & Stone, with offices in Sacramento, Calif., and Reno, Nevada, has been in business for about 20 years, with a tradition of excellence and high compensation. 

“Like a professional sports team, everyone is highly compensated and expected

Roger Leasure, NCTS President

Leasure

to perform well,” said Roger Leasure, NCTS President. “It’s not uncommon for the office to be open and people working at 5:30 a.m., or for staff to be answering or sending emails on the weekends. The field operations on jobs are getting things done over weekends because of the size and scope of our jobs. We authorize overtime almost weekly, and the aggressive installers eat it up.”

Northern California Tile & Stone logoThis high-paying company had several tile setters break the six-figure mark on their paychecks in 2018, excluding benefits. “We work to identify our top players and make sure they are happy and content while identifying our bottom players and replacing them,” Leasure added. “We are constantly looking for energetic, well-qualified individuals to add to the team; we like to look at it in terms of building a ‘Super Bowl team’ around here,” he said. 

The company specializes in large, complex, fast-paced commercial projects – mostly mall renovations and expansions, casinos, hotels and resorts, multi-family, government courthouses, spas and high-end commercial workout facilities. NCTS also focuses on thin-brick veneers, thin-panel porcelain, cut-to-fit solid surfaces, and honeycomb slab stone veneers. 

NCTS became a NTCA member five years ago, with a desire to up its game during a period of explosive growth. “We realized we don’t get paid for estimates or how much paper we push,” Leasure explained. “We emphasize that we only get paid by how much tile and stone gets installed on a monthly basis. We use this idea as a mantra inside the company to keep people focused on where we are putting our energies on a daily basis. In that regard I try to put the field workers above other aspects in the company hierarchy because they are your business. If they are not installing a quality product consistently, you are not in business.”

Benefits of NTCA and CTEF

Leasure said The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) are doing a great job of educating owners on the importance of properly training their installers, and of providing the necessary schooling. 

“We saw enough of an impact from the CTEF and NTCA education that we decided to start our own in-house school,” he said. “We tailored our concept based on what we saw in the CTEF courses because one thing is true — when your installers know how to do a quality job and perform well on projects for your clients, your work begins to sell itself.”

In 2018, NCTS joined the ranks of the best of the best, the NTCA Five-Star Contractor community, calling the continuing education that NTCA Five-Star Contractors are privy to, “priceless.” The education offered in Nashville during the 2018 NTCA Five-Star Contractor Summit provided a big boon to business.

“The class ‘How to Put Yourself in a Better Position Contractually’ opened my eyes to how we were leaving beneficial items on the table and not pushing risk off our plate,” Leasure said. “Prior to this class I was resigned to the fact I should just blanket sign every contract a general contractor gave me, and if we performed fast and clean, they would treat us fairly. Since the class I have developed a list of 35 items and clarifications on our proposal that gets incorporated into our contracts as an attachment. We have had great success in crafting beneficial deals, which can take months of negotiation. Although it’s sometimes tough and contentious work, it gives us leverage on the critical items that come up on all jobs like labor rates, change order processing, reasonable billing times on change orders, payment terms, and jobsite scheduling/coordination.”

Leasure added, “It’s easy to get caught up working IN your company instead of ON your company and the time with the NTCA Five-Star team and other business owners allows you to work ON your business. It’s also easy to think you have it all figured out…and that the way you manage your logistics, prep and plan your projects, or even float your decks is the only way. When you talk to other business owners and if you have an open mind you will find they have some slick ideas and tools that you never thought of.”

Increasing excellence

The recently completed renovation of the Cache Creek Spa.

The recently completed renovation of the Cache Creek Spa.

NCTS employs CTEF Certified Installers (CTI) with a goal of identifying 5-10 installers annually, and encouraging them to get certified.  “We started the process a few years ago and we believe that this is a critical part of any tile company that wants to consider themselves as quality,” Leasure said. “This process has benefited our company by setting an example to other installers of what it means to be quality. It sets a standard that others want to aspire to, as long as you focus on weeding out the low performers and adding new blood to the ranks on a yearly basis. Our clients see the quality of expertise and knowledge of the installers. When it comes time to recommend a tile contractor for their high-end or difficult projects, they want you to be that contractor.”

NCTS takes tremendous pride and receives great joy in the art of the finished product. Leasure said, “I just took the wife and kids to dinner at a big casino and was showing them the 1” x 1” glass mosaic, stone counters, and large format floors, with pride. The entire casino was covered in our products. We just finished a large spa in another casino that was highlighted on a local news report. It was fun to see all the emails flying around with links to the story. Everyone gets excited when their work gets recognized, especially when they put in so much hard work in an effort to complete a high-end project with over 30 different types of tile and stone.  

“The fact that we completed a million-dollar scope of work in 35 days and to see the level of quality of the finish product, fills me with pride and confidence that our installers can tackle projects that give the GC and the office staff concern,” he added. “There was a lot of project management and pre-planning before we even started, so we knew we had a challenge with the install on our hands. We love a good challenge!”

Cache Creek Spa

This recently completed renovation of the Cache Creek Spa saw the space expand from 5,000 sq. ft. to over 12,000 sq. ft. NCTS installed over 50 different tiles and stone, including a 12.5 ft. high pink Himalayan salt block wall. Many of the materials had to be shipped from overseas, which was one of the major difficulties.

Cache Creek Spa Cache Creek Spa

Sacramento contractor strikes out on his own after recession; invests in certification

Russell Laird, of A+ Tile & Stone in Sacramento, Calif., (aplustileandstone.thebluebook.com) has made a name for himself in the tiling world, aiming for excellence in his typically commercial, public works projects. 

“Quality is what sets me apart from my competition,” Laird said. “I personally oversee every project and train my employees to do an excellent job so we don’t ever have any patch work or callbacks.” Though his company considers itself a commercial contractor, it applies this same level of quality to residential work for friends and family. 

It wasn’t an easy start. When the recession forced the company Laird was working for to close, he decided to go out on his own. “It was slow going at first,” he explained. “I had to bid very low to land work, but managed to grow each year. Now I am doing large commercial projects for the big reputable contractors like Turner and pricing has bounced back to a respectable level. I hope it stabilizes for a while.”

Laird’s firm foundation allowed him to springboard into his own company in 2010. “I starting doing tile in 1989 for Custom Tile in Oroville where I learned residential (mud work) and some commercial,” he said. “Around 1994 I started working for companies in Sacramento, where I learned larger commercial, which I prefer, and have found my niche today.”

For this pool deck in the San Francisco Bay area, A+ Tile & Stone floated an entire deck that was stamped concrete to make it flat enough to receive large format 12” x 24” tiles. The crews used uncoupling membrane over the entire floor and expansion joints per EJ-171. They finished off with stainless steel edge trim at pool edge and bottom of skirt.

About six years ago, Laird chose to join NTCA, “to be associated with like-minded people who constantly strive to improve and learn. The greatest value from being a member is meeting and learning from other members.”

After three years of association membership, Laird decided to pursue NTCA Five-Star Contractor status. 

“What led me to seek Five-Star is striving to be the best in my field,” Laird explained, adding, “It levels me with union companies as far as some bidding opportunities, and allows me to bid on some commercial projects that I would otherwise be excluded from. It has benefitted my company by allowing me to bid these projects – and I really like including the Five-Star logo on my company shirts.”

Laird is a big believer in the strength of qualified labor, and has made it a goal to get his installers credentialed. “We currently have four installers certified, which is 100% of my full-time installers including myself,” he said. “We all took our test at Surfaces in Vegas, which is about a 10 hour drive for us.” Laird himself is CTI #1091 (See TileLetter’s Qualified Labor story in December 2015, for details), and passed his exam in January, 2015.

“Every year I try to take one person to Surfaces to get certified,” he said. “I took two in 2016, one in 2017 and missed 2018. But I believe I have one ready for this year.”

Being a tile contractor holds many benefits for Laird. “The greatest joy I get from being a tile contractor is I get to pay my bills,” he said.  “Each job is different, so it’s not boring – and I am passing on my knowledge to my two sons so they can take over my company some day when I retire, if they choose. It is also satisfying to see the completed project – which completely transforms the area – and have satisfied customers.”

This lobby at Truckee Public Utility Office features an inlay of Donner Lake with blue tile and river with pebble stone. This remodel had an existing slab that varied 1-1/2“ in elevation, so Laird and his crew ground 1/2” off the high spots and floated everything level to that. They chose this strategy because the elevator was at that elevation and not movable. The floor angled down to the front door to meet that elevation, bending at a grout joint. The contractor employed a tile band saw for some of the radius cuts.

 

Five Star Contractor Meeting in Nashville

Recently, the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) hosted its Five Star Contractor Summer meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The meeting, sponsored by Daltile, and co-sponsored by Custom Building Products and LATICRETE International, attracted over 100 NTCA Five Star Contractor members and sponsor representatives, and centered on education and networking. The three-day agenda featured a seminar from Ron Meler of RW Meler Consulting, networking opportunities, sponsored programs, and education sessions that focused on contract clauses/risk, scheduling and change order processes.

The last day of the seminar also featured a tour of Daltile’s 1.8-million square-foot manufacturing plant. “It was a great honor to showcase and tour our Dickson tile plant with the elite Five Star members of the NTCA,” said John Cousins, senior vice president, Dal-Tile Corporation. “The NTCA membership feedback was phenomenal, reinforcing the industry support of high-quality and innovative domestic manufacturing for application in both the residential and commercial business. As the industry leader, Daltile is committed to expanding domestic manufacturing, tile and countertops, aligning with and supporting the needs and opportunities of our customers and industry.”

NTCA Five Star Contractors got to tour Dal-Tile’s 1.8 million sq. ft. Dickson, Tenn., manufacturing plant as part of the summer meeting in Nashville.

NTCA’s Five Star Contractor group is composed of dedicated residential and commercial tile contractor professionals that assemble to identify tile contractor challenges, provide best practices, consensus processes and create business opportunities. They work to develop training initiatives and best practices in business and in the field. NTCA members must go through a rigorous application process in order to obtain Five Star Contractor certification. 

“Our application process is based on integrity, professionalism and craftsmanship,” said NTCA Five Star Program Director Amber Fox. “This process only certifies companies that continually invest in themselves and have proven commitment to service, quality, safety and superior job performance.”

If you are a NTCA member and interested in gaining Five Star Contractor certification, contact Five Star Program Director Amber Fox at [email protected]. 

Member Spotlight – June 2018: NTCA appoints Northern California Tile & Stone, Inc. as 2018’s first Five Star Contractor

The NTCA recently announced the acceptance of Northern California Tile & Stone Inc. (NCTS), Sacramento, California, to its Five Star Program.

Founded by president, Roger Leasure, NCTS began in 2009 as a reliable subcontractor specializing in large commercial and industrial tile and stone installations. Leasure​‘s vision was that the catalyst for success was a driven, trustworthy and high-level experienced team, diligently ​working ​on each project regardless of size or scope. Since that time, NCTS has grown to be a major​ ​installer in Northern California and has expanded its services throughout Nevada, as well.

Roger Leasure

In 2014, NCTS set a goal to expand via training and mentoring employees on standards, stewardship and overall ​excellence. In 2016, Leasure put additional training into practice and implemented Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) programs for NCTS installers. CTEF certification is a total ​validation of industry skills and knowledge, offering training and testing essential in promoting industry-recognized proof of each and every installer’s abilities. These programs effectively ensure that NCTS team members are properly trained on quality workmanship, while continually raising the bar on all quality standards.

“Becoming a Five Star Contractor is the culmination of many years of hard work and attention to detail by our team of Project Managers, Superintendents and most importantly our CTIs (Certified Tile Installers),” stated Eric Witcher, Chief of Estimating at NCTS. “Through their dedication, we have positioned ourselves to be recognized by the NTCA with this classification. It is definitely a distinguished badge of honor, reinforcing to clients​ ​just why we are the best contractor
for the job.”

To obtain Five Star Contractor certification, contractors must be members of NTCA in good standing, and complete an application process that includes submitting examples of work, reviews and recommendations from peers and customers. Furthermore, they must demonstrate a proven commitment to service, quality, safety and superior job performance. Five Star Contractors are also required to certify a minimum of 10 % of their installers through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer program or, have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor. 

For more information on the Five Star Contractor program, please contact Amber Fox at [email protected] or phone 619-247-1832.

NTCA Announces Winners of the 2018 Five Star Contractor Project of the Year

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association announced the winners of its sixth annual NTCA Five Star Contractor Project of the Year Awards at Coverings 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.

NTCA’s Five Star Contractor Awards were presented for both Commercial and Residential Tile Installations. Many submissions were received and judged via the following criteria: Scope (size of project), Complexity (challenges), Technical Soundness (resolution of challenges) and Design & Presentation (overall appearance, layout and artistic value). 

This year’s judges included: 

  • Kent Klaser of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Inc., San Diego, CA
  • Gregory Mowat of Forensic Tile Consultants, San Diego, CA
  • Richard P. Goldberg of Professional Consultants International, LLC, Avon, CT

Sponsored by Daltile, NTCA Five Star Contractor Grand Prize Award winners received a custom plaque and were awarded two round-trip airfare tickets and a two-nights hotel stay in Atlanta for the Coverings Show.

GRAND PRIZE – COMMERCIAL
By Christian Brothers Flooring & Interiors, Lakeside, Calif.

The Mesa Commons installation in Irvine, CA resulted in a striking visual appearance, design and layout, and the complex environmental challenges overcome during construction are those a NTCA Five Star Contractor could solve easily with its specialized training. To bring this spec to life, Christian Brothers had to overcome constraints caused by weather conditions up to 100 degrees and soaring exterior heights.  The project was also exemplary in the use of porcelain tile to integrate interior and exterior design with common palette of colors, textures and features.

GRAND PRIZE RESIDENTIAL
by Visalia Ceramic Tile, Visalia, Calif.

Workmanship and artistic qualities brought the Hoffman Residence in Fresno, CA to life. A challenging mixture of both natural stone and ceramic presented the opportunity for Visalia to showcase its Five Star Contractor skills. This residential project showcased new product and installation technologies, as well as the unique capability of tile assemblies to integrate other underlying building systems such as radiant heat and building envelope waterproofing.

 

GRAND PRIZE
COMMERCIAL ELITE
By David Allen Company

David Allen Company of Raleigh, NC was the recipient of the Five Star Grand Prize Award for Commercial Elite Project of the Year (over $1 million). Nearly 80,000 square feet of marble and tile were meticulously installed in the new Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Of the many complexities which presented themselves working in a metropolitan area, the narrow doorways offered a unique opportunity for this contractor to showcase its innovative thinking. The team built custom narrow crates and stocked all of the materials required for each guest room into a single crate; saving time and labor on the job.

A trusted Five Star Contractor was preferred and required to partner with the General Contractor to address these many challenges, because the technical challenges associated with this project would need the involvement of an industry-leading trained expert.

NTCA Five Star Contractor Residential and Commercial Project of the Year Achievement of Excellence Awards were also presented. These included:

Residential

  • Floorology for Nature-Made Bathroom
  • W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting for Classic Inspiration with Modern Luxury for Her Bathroom Remodel

Commercial

  • David Allen Company for Chancery of Morocco
  • J&R Tile for the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
  • Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co., for Arizona State University Memorial Union

Commercial Elite:

  • ProFast Commercial Flooring for Sagamore Hotel
  • California Tile Installers for Apple Campus 2 Gateway Tunnel

 “We would like to thank our contest judges and sponsor for their support and of course, all of the Five Star Contractor Members who submitted incredible projects.” stated Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the NTCA. “Each of these winning installations, as well as the other submitted projects, clearly demonstrates the value of engaging an NTCA Five Star Contractor in such complex arenas. Job site issues such as a confined urban site, mixed product media, material delivery and staging restrictions, new technologies, creative coordination with other trades, and solving problems quickly are exemplary traits of our Five Star Contractors.”

Call for Entries for the 2019 Five Star Contractor Awards will begin January 15, 2019.

NTCA APPOINTS ​2018’s FIRST FIVE STAR CONTRACTOR

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, announced the acceptance of Northern California Tile & Stone Inc. (NCTS), Sacramento, California, to its Five Star Program.

Founded by president, Roger Leasure, NCTS began in 2009 as a reliable subcontractor specializing in large commercial and industrial tile and stone installations. Leasure​’s vision was that the catalyst for success was a driven, trustworthy and high-level experienced team, diligently ​working ​on each project regardless of size or scope. Since that time, NCTS has grown to be a major​ ​installer  in Northern California and has expanded its services throughout Nevada, as well.

In 2014, NCTS set a goal to expand via training and mentoring employees on standards, stewardship and overall ​excellence. In 2016, Leasure put additional training into practice and implemented Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) programs for NCTS installers. CTEF certification is a total ​validation of industry skills and knowledge, offering training and testing essential in promoting industry-recognized proof of each and every installer’s abilities. These programs effectively ensure that NCTS team members are properly trained on quality workmanship, while continually raising the bar on all quality standards.

 

Roger Leasure

“Becoming a Five Star Contractor is the culmination of many years of hard work and attention to detail by our team of Project Managers, Superintendents and most importantly our CTIs (Certified Tile Installers),” stated Eric Witcher, Chief of Estimating at NCTS. “Through their dedication, we have positioned ourselves to be recognized by the NTCA with this classification. It is definitely a distinguished badge of honor, reinforcing to clients​ ​just why we are the best contractor for the job.”

To obtain Five Star Contractor certification, contractors must be members of NTCA in good standing, and complete an application process that includes submitting examples of work, reviews and recommendations from peers and customers. Furthermore, they must demonstrate a proven commitment to service, quality, safety and superior job performance. Five Star Contractors are also required to certify a minimum of 10 % of their installers through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer program or, have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor.

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NTCA is a non-profit trade association serving every segment of the industry, spearheading education for the professional installation of ceramic tile, natural stone and allied products.  For more information, please contact NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga at [email protected], via telephone at (601) 939-2071, or visit www.tile-assn.com. For more information on the Five Star Contractor program, please contact Amber Fox at [email protected] or phone 619-247-1832.

Five Star Contractor Spotlight – March 2018

Premier Tile & Marble, Gardena, Calif.

 

High-profile projects get a professional Five Star Contractor touch

Greg Games, the owner and president of Premier Tile, began his career in the tile industry in the late 70s working for his father, Ray Games. The senior Games owned Orange County Tile, which focused on residential tile installation.

Greg Games joined the union and became a journeyman in 1982 while working for Venetian Tile. Soon, he began estimating and eventually became vice president until its owner retired.

In 1993, Premier Tile & Marble (www.PremierTile.com) was established in Gardena, Calif., with many field and office employees who had worked together for many years. This family-run business prides itself on employing second and third generations of highly-trained craftsmen, who have helped build Premier Tile into one of Southern California’s leading commercial tile installers.

2018 marks Premier Tile’s 25th year providing the highest-quality commercial tile and stone installation that clients have come to expect. The company’s reputation in the industry comes from its dedication to professionalism and strict adherence to the highest standards. The company is proud to have played integral roles in the building of many high-profile projects such as: the award-winning Oaks Mall; The Brickhouse at Playa Vista; Disneyland; Los Angeles Football Club; USC; UCLA; Entrada at Santa Barbara; Glendale Galleria; Santa Monica Mall; Westfield Century City Mall; PetCo Park; Kodak Theater; Del Amo Mall; Kaiser Hospitals; Torrance Memorial Hospital; Great Wolf Lodge; Los Angeles International Airport; LA Federal Courthouse; Waldorf Astoria; Rady’s Children Hospital and many more.

Premier Tile joined NTCA initially in 2010, re-upped in 2017, and recently became a Five Star Contractor. “Collaborating with the NTCA gives us the avenue we need to keep our finger on the pulse of our industry,” said Greg Games. “We believe the Five Star program is very reputable, and a good tool for contractors to use in hiring subs. We are proud to have qualified for the program. We believe that being a member of the Five Star program will set us apart from other companies, and general contractors will choose a company that merits this certification.”

All Premier Tile employees are either enrolled or have graduated from the Local 4 (previously Local 18) apprenticeship program, which helped qualify the contractor for Five Star status. “We encourage all our apprentices to compete in the annual contest, and we are pleased to say that Premier Tile employees have won that contest many times,” Games said. “We require our key personnel to take and pass the UofCT program offered by The University of Ceramic Tile & Stone. Other construction-related areas of education include: OSHA Training, Forklift Certifications, Scaffolding Certifications, ICPI Concrete Paver Installer Certifications and First Responder Certifications. Employees are always encouraged to continue their education and share their experiences with their fellow employees.”

As California continues to build and grow, Premier Tile forecasts continued growth and expansion.  Currently it is in negotiations with many general contractors for a variety of large and exciting projects. The evolution of products in the tile industry has opened many new avenues and Premier Tile is at the forefront of new and innovative installations, looking forward to another successful 25 years!

“After being in business for 25 years, we proudly look back at many successful projects,” Games added. “We have helped build a city where our families live and given employment opportunities to many long- time employees.”

Memphis Tile and Marble Co., celebrates its 50th anniversary

Today, February 7, 2018, Memphis Tile and Marble Co., celebrates its 50th anniversary.

“We are excited about the milestone and look forward to many more years serving Memphis,” said Ricky Cox, president.  “We have some of the most loyal customers and are blessed to be able to help build our city.  The NTCA has been a part of the majority of my life in some form or another.”

Ricky Cox

Memphis Tile and Marble Co. Inc.,  specializes in high-end, high-quality residential and light commercial work, offering expert craftsmanship in a range of tile installation, including Mexican, porcelain and brick pavers, as well as bathroom vanities, cultured marble tops and natural stone products. It provides skilled installation of whirlpool tubs and radiant floor systems for the Memphis and Midsouth areas, as well as full-scale kitchen and bathroom remodels.

Founded in 1968 by Thomas Cox, the company now employees 12 full-time employees and in addition to installing tile, fabricates counter tops. Several years ago, Thomas’s son Richard (Ricky) Cox took the CTI certification at BPI in Memphis in order to separate himself from the competition, and put the company on the road for its status as a NTCA Five Star Contractor, a credential of installation excellence in the tile industry.

“Memphis Tile and Marble  has been a strong member of NTCA for many years,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “Tommy Cox was our association Tile Person of the Year in 2008, and they were approved as a Five Star Contractor early on in this program. Tommy’s son Ricky has actively supported our training programs in his region and served two terms on our Board of Directors. We congratulate them on this milestone!”

Amber Fox, Five Star Program Director for NTCA added, “With Memphis Tile & Marble’s high quality installations and dedication to our craft it is no surprise that they are one of our longstanding contractors who have been part of our Five Star Group since 2009.  Congratulations on your prosperous 50 years and we look forward to being a part of your future successes!”

Cox said, “The contacts and friendships that I have made through the NTCA have helped Memphis Tile and Marble succeed in the tile contracting world. Here’s to another 50 years!”

50th Five Star Contractor Member – Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co.

Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co., Inc., was founded in 1929 by Earl J. Trostrud Sr., originally concentrating primarily on residential construction as it worked hard to create a solid reputation.

At the end of 1939, with the outbreak of war in Europe, the company temporarily closed, and Earl Trostrud Sr. went to work making aircraft engine parts, and in the construction department of Kraft Foods. In postwar 1946, Earl Trostrud Sr. reopened Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co., Inc., still focusing on the residential market and building its reputation for quality and craftsmanship.

In 1957, Earl Trostrud Sr. started pursuing commercial contracts and was awarded several gas station projects. These successful projects whetted the appetite for more commercial work.

In the spring of 1958, after graduating St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Earl Trostrud Jr. joined his father in the tile business and they both pursued commercial contracts, with the same ethics of quality workmanship, integrity and honesty that the company was founded on. They committed to treating everyone – no matter your role in the company or as a business partner – the way they would want to be treated.

In the summer of 1975, Earl Trostrud Sr. retired from the tile business. Ten years later – after graduating from University of Wisconsin Stout with a major in industrial design/product design and a minor in graphic design, and working in these fields – his grandson Brad Trostrud decided to give estimating a six-month try, working alongside his father Earl Trostrud, Jr.

Brad relished the opportunity to work with his father and to strengthen the bond. By now the company, based in Wood Dale, Ill., had grown to be 15% high-end residential and 85% commercial. It turned out to be a rewarding decision for both of them. Earl, now in his early ’80s, is still working every day, and holds the title of president. Brad is the vice president.

Earl and Brad have always been very active in the Ceramic Tile Contractors Association of Chicago (CTCAC) and Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), both serving in every position. Earl helped found the Chicago Tile Institute promotion fund to uphold the value of union-installed tile and stone. Earl is also the chairman for the Pension and Welfare fund since 1990, and served as a Zone Director for the TCAA in the ‘70s. In 2013, Earl was awarded the Carl V. Cesery Award that recognizes distinguished service to the tile industry.

Brad serves on The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Technical committee and Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook committee. Brad was also involved in the creation of Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT), a certification program to provide a level of consumer confidence for installation procedures that exceed ANSI Standards and TCNA guidelines. Brad has also served as director, treasurer and now is president elect for TCAA.

Joining NTCA

Brad came to NTCA through a Trowel of Excellence/Five Star Contractor meeting at the Crossville plant a few years ago, where he met Artcraft’s James Woelfel and David Allen Company’s Chris Walker.

“James and Chris are two of the sharpest minds in the tile industry I have ever known,” he said. “By the time I left Tennessee, I felt like we were all old friends. “

Brad also met Welch Tile & Marble’s Dan Welch, David Allen Company’s Martin Howard, Cox Tile’s John Cox and CTEF’s Scott Carothers in 2013, at the first Total Solutions Plus to include TCAA in Scottsdale, Ariz. “What a group of wonderful gentlemen, not afraid to share the great knowledge they have acquired during the years in our industry,” he said. “Getting to know them over the years has been a great blessing. So after a time, I felt compelled to join their NTCA.”

Since union setters and finishers go through an extensive apprenticeship program, CTI certification wasn’t a requirement for Trostrud’s Five Star Contractor status – NTCA’s 50th Five Star – but the company has five ACT-certified setters nonetheless, one of whom was tapped by the union to be the Chicago-Midwest head instructor for the BAC IMI.

Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co., Inc., has been honored with various awards over the years, most notably the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Craft Award for Best Mosaic in 2015 and best Tile Project in 2008. It also received TCAA’s 1st Place Commercial Project award and achieved Trowel of Excellence certification in 2012. It contends that it employs the best union trade installers in the business. The company – which has grown to 90% commercial – holds as its top priority providing the best tile installations
possible.

“We are not interested in being the largest or the least expensive tile contractor – we will not compromise on quality – we just want to be known as the best,” Brad Trostrud said.

The building blocks of a NTCA Five Star Contractor

Amber Fox, NTCA Five Star Program Director

As I wrap up my first year on the job as the NTCA Five Star Contractor Program Director I have been reflecting on some of the items that we are implementing for 2018. One of the first items that comes to mind is the update to our application. This has great significance because it is essentially a roadmap on how to become a Five Star Contractor.

Our new application incorporates the building blocks to a Five Star Contractor: Integrity, Professionalism, and Craftsmanship. In order to build a firm foundation, your company culture must value continual investment in itself. So how do we find companies that have this culture imbedded on all levels, and how do we evaluate them for acceptance into our group?  These are the questions we asked ourselves when we updated our application.

I will touch upon some of the key elements of the application process in the hopes that you can recognize greatness in your own company, and if not that it can inspire you to rise to the challenge.

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, and the state of being whole and undivided.

All applicants must show proof that they are contracting under the local laws of their state, which means that they carry all licenses and insurance needed.  Stability is important, which is why they must attest that for the last five years:

  1. They have operated under the same company name
  2. The company has not filed for bankruptcy
  3. There have been no federal or state tax liens filed against the company
  4. The company pays all federal, state and local payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, unemployment, FICA, etc. for all employees.

As a Five Star Contractor, you are part of something bigger, which is why you are also required to have been an active NTCA member for at least three years. Active membership does not just mean that you have paid your dues; we are seeking out leaders who get involved and want to help shape our Industry. That’s why you will always see our Five Star Contractors out in force at events like TISE West, Coverings, and Total Solutions Plus.

ProfessionalismExhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.

This sums up how you do business as a whole. We request resumes for your designated company representative as well as a project manager to help us understand the background of your company. The backbone of all companies is their employees and we want to know that you value them and invest in them. That’s why we require that you have an active Safety Program as well as an Employee Manual/Handbook.

Each day contractors need to interact with many partners such as material manufacturers and distributors.  Successfully navigating these relationships is imperative, so we require that you gather three reference letters from your vendors/suppliers attesting to your professionalism in the tile industry.  How your client sees you is the best judge of all, so we also require three letters of recommendation from your client base such as architects, designers, general contractors, or owners.

CraftsmanshipOne who creates or performs with skill and dexterity especially in the manual arts.

Now we address the heart of our contractors – the artisans. It is our belief that it takes one to know one, so two letters of recommendations from peers or competitors are required.

Since our group encompasses national membership, we needed to find a way to evaluate skill level. To that end, it was decided that at least 10% of your field installers must be Certified Tile Installers through the CTEF or have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor. Although it is required that 10% be certified, many of our Five Star Contractors have fully embraced this program and are far above the minimum needed.

The Five Star Contractor Group is comprised of contractors of all sizes and specialties but what they all have in common is an unwavering drive to exceed expectations, upholding the highest technical standards, and providing impeccable quality and service. Because of this commitment to excellence on every level, I see our group as industry leaders who are creating the change we want to see in our industry. It is my

hope that others see our efforts and are inspired to join us.

If you would like additional information about the NTCA Five Star Program, please reach out to me at [email protected].

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