Woody Sanders, founder of Marietta, Ga.’s D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting, grew up in the tile industry. In the early 90’s, Sanders, had a seven-year tenure in technical services operations at Custom Building Products, getting a first-hand look at the difference between a well-executed, detailed tile job and a failed one. Valuing this technical perspective, and wanting to get back to the creative side of tile and stone installations, D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting was born in 1994 on a part time basis, then moving to full time in 1996. Today, the company specializes in large residential stone and tile projects in both new and remodeling sectors, plus specialty cladding projects.
The strong technical underpinning of the company shows up in its motto, “Craftsmanship by the standards.” Sanders said, “It is not just about making the work look good; it is the whole installation system that makes it last. What sets us apart in the market is that we strive to be a forward-thinking company. We strive to always grow and be better than we were the day before, from recruitment to the training of our employees, to how we proactively communicate with our customers, architects, and designers and cover every detail on the job site.” To that end, Sanders said that the company in planning a mobile app this year for all of its job documents, deduction logs, and safety documents.
Sanders has a long history with the NTCA, starting with his grandfather, A.W. Cook, who was an early member of STTMCA, as NTCA was known years ago. A few years after establishing his company, Sanders joined NTCA in 1997, and rejoined in 2013, to be “a part of something bigger than us,” Sanders said. “We are, for the most part, local and regional. NTCA makes you a part of a national tile organization, looking out for the installation contractor.
“Bobby White, a contractor I worked with, said to me many years ago, ‘Show a tile contractor how make his job easier and he will be your partner for life.’ That is what the NTCA does through training and addressing issues we face as an industry and as individuals,” Sanders added.
One of these issues will be labor force in the future, which Sanders is tackling along with fellow NTCA Five Star Contractor, Rod Owen of C.C. Owen Tile Company, Inc., in Jonesboro, Ga. Sanders and Owen met up at Total Solutions Plus in 2016, and Owen introduced Sanders to involvement with the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) this past March.
“As a sponsor in the recruitment of young people into the tile industry, we think this is a stepping stone in the right direction to ensure the future of the industry,” Sanders said.
Five Star status
The conversations of like-minded people at Total Solutions Plus last year lit a spark in Sanders to pursue this elite company of contractors.
“We believe that by being a Five Star Contractor member, we have set a high standard for the company and the employees,” Sanders said. “For our employees to learn and work alongside other Five Star Contractors, will only make us a stronger and more profitable contractor. While we do not bid commercial work, we see the ability for Five Stars to present CEU’S (Continuing Education Credits) to architect and designer continuing education in our area will keep our name in the forefront as the ‘go- to’ company.”
Sanders also was excited about the Five Star Contractor requirement of having Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) on board. “Two of my tile setters and I took the test this year,” he said. “It was the hardest and most satisfying 25 sq. ft. you will ever set. We are awaiting the ACT schedule this summer and Scott [Carothers, from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation] has promised to hold spots for myself and my men to take. We plan to have all of our setters become CTIs, as well as our apprentice setters in the future. Certification for us opened up great discussion, and put the office and field on the same page.
“In the residential side of tile, we rarely receive specs or TCNA Handbook details, so we are forced to create our own series of specs based upon construction practices in our region,” he added. “While we estimate calling out TCNA methods, the CTEF certification process further solidified what and how we should be looking at our projects.”
Sanders takes the work he and his company does to heart, filled with pride for the work done, and the people working together to accomplish the task.
“Our places of work are in the most immaculate homes in America, some historic and some over the top,” he said. “We are trusted to construct lasting beauty with our own flair. People get to see what we do and what we represent, and I get to accomplish this with people who are much more than employees, they are friends.”
D.W. Sanders conducted a complete remodel of the master bath. All walls throughout bath were set with large-format tile with the floor and feature wall set in 24” x 24” matte black porcelain tile. The contractor made its own bullnose of the through-bodied porcelain.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) recognized industry leaders at its fifth annual awards ceremony during Coverings 2017 in Orlando. Among the awards presented were the Five Star Contractor Grand Prize awards for both commercial and residential tile installation projects.
Submissions were judged based on project size, challenges involved, resolution of challenges, design and overall presentation. “When we are reviewing all the amazing submissions I feel immense pride in the proficiency in which our Five Star Contractors achieve. These projects are not only technically complex but artistically beautiful as well,” said NTCA Five Star Program Director Amber Fox.
Heritage Marble and Tile of Mill Valley, California received the Five-Star Grand Prize for residential tile installation. The firm was tasked with the Ratner Residence, a project consisting of handmade glass made by Fireclay Tile of San Jose. The project was challenging in the fact that the install involved a curved wall, soaking tub and an integrated shower stall with a curbless application. With oversight from the homeowner, a qualified crew of CTI and ACT certified installers exceeded expectations.
The Five-Star Grand Prize for commercial tile installation was presented to Grazzini Brothers & Company of Eagan, Minnesota for the completion of their project, the 1.75 million square foot U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. The installation incorporated 56 different types and sizes of tile, from the marble stairs, to the glass walls and porcelain plank flooring. Having multiple architects on a project this size gave crews the opportunity to showcase their skills from layout to install of different ideas and design under one roof.
Both Five Star winners were awarded $2,500 in prize money, sponsored by Daltile Corporation.
Collins Tile and Stone, David Allen Company collaborate on commercial fabrication showroom install
When Marble & Granite Express, a Cosentino Loyalty fabricator in Chantilly, Va., decided to completely redesign and remodel its DC-area customer showroom and design center, only a beautiful floor that would perform under the most extreme foot-traffic conditions would do. Because this customer is a Cosentino Dekton Certified fabricator – working daily with Dekton for countertops, fireplaces, exterior kitchens, showers, facades and other interior and exterior applications – it knew that Dekton, of course would be the perfect solution for the 2,000 sq. ft. showroom floor.
Dekton is a breed of surfacing material unto itself. The website (www.dekton.com/usa) explains that Dekton “employs exclusive Sinterized Particle Technology, a high-tech process which represents an accelerated version of the metamorphic change that natural stone undergoes when subjected to high temperatures and pressure over thousands of years.” The material has zero porosity and is super strong, lacking micro-defects in other materials that can cause tension or weak spots and it resists heat, frost and thawing. It’s also super flat, with 1/4000th of an inch tolerance.
To best show the value of Dekton, Cosentino has chosen to partner with highly-skilled NTCA Five Star Contractors. These contractors have a proven ability to expertly handle Dekton’s hardness and its size with specialized techniques and equipment necessary to work with the material. That’s why Larry Mazzola, who runs Cosentino DC, turned to Collins Tile and Stone in Ashburn, Va., and David Allen Company (DAC) in Raleigh, N.C.
Stellar collaboration from Five Star Contractors
Both NTCA Five Star Contractors – an industry-recognized measure of excellence and accomplishment — Collins and DAC have had a long professional and personal friendship, born of mutual membership in the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). Buck Collins, president of Collins Tile and Stone is dedicated to employing installers with Certified Tile Installer (CTI) credentials, an industry-recognized measure of validating tile setting skills. Buck, along with wife Dana, has a superior reputation for performing high-end
residential installations with unrivaled customer-satisfaction. In addition, the company is involved in serving the industry and always learning more. Buck was the NTCA Region #2 director until last year, and was the first Northern Virginia NTCA Five Star Contractor. He also is a member of the NTCA Technical Committee.
Chris Walker is vice president of the David Allen Company, NTCA vice president , and chairman of ANSI A-108 and the new A-108.19 gauged thin tile panel installation standard. And it turns out that both Collins Tile and Stone, and the David Allen Company are inaugural members of the Cosentino-Dekton family.
The project got started when Collins Tile and Stone was contacted by Mazzola because of Collins’ regional reputation for high quality installations and commitment to customer service. After evaluating the needs of the project, Buck decided to call on Chris and DAC for collaborating on the job. David Allen Company – one of the nation’s largest contractors — brought experience with installing several gauged thin porcelain tile and large panel projects to the table. Since these sintered ultra-compact Dekton Zenith materials on floors were 56” x 56” x 8 mm thick, DAC’s experience was invaluable in ensuring a smooth installation process.
Good thing too – “The biggest challenges…were the size of the tile,” Collins said. “While the tools we used made that easier, we were still setting 21.77 square foot per tile!”
Another key member of the team was LATICRETE’s Kurt Webber, who worked with Collins’ Concrete Coatings crew to facilitate self-leveling necessary for the project.
“Since a perfectly flat floor is instrumental to successful tile installations — particularly large panel installations — significant floor preparation was required,” Walker said.
“The prep work took three days and the tile installation itself was eight days,” Collins said. Collins Concrete Coatings personnel used diamond-
wheel concrete grinding equipment in concert with a survey by DAC to identify areas that needed grinding or filling, Walker added. After grinding, crews installed LATICRETE NXT Primer and leveled the floor using LATICRETE NXT Level. In addition, two coats of LATICRETE Hydro Ban were installed for its crack isolation properties.
To facilitate moving and handling of the Dekton, European Tile Masters’ Brian Runkle reviewed the latest installation techniques and equipment with the installation crews.
The installation crews featured three Certified Tile Installers: Collins Tile and Stone’s Oscar Cardenas, CTI # 1007, along with two from David Allen Company: superintendent Marcos Castillo, CTI #552, and Edgar Martinez, CTI #1257.
Crews used LATICRETE 4-XLT large-format mortar to bond the Dekton and LATICRETE SPECTRALock Pro Premium to grout it.
In addition, Collins Tiles and Stone’s experienced finisher Arpad Bereczki (who is on track to take his CTI exam soon) and DAC’s Hugo Gonzalez also assisted with the installation (Hugo is enrolledin the NTCA University’s Apprentice training program). Buck Collins noted that the Marble & Granite Express was “absolutely thrilled” with the installation.
And the added benefit for Collins Tile and Stone and nearby David Allen Company is that there is now a “2,000 sq. ft. showroom in our backyard.” A true win-win for everyone involved.
Among the many events and parties taking place during Coverings 17, April 4-7, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., will be a very special celebration for NTCA on Thursday night, April 6 from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. On this night, NTCA will mark its 70th year in 2017 as a leading association for tile installers.
NTCA will recognize leaders who have made a difference over many years of service to the association as part of this stellar event. In addition, the prestigious Tile Person of the Year will be honored, and the Tile Council of North America will present its award winners.
Also a part of the 70th Anniversary Awards show will be the Five Star Contractor Project of the Year, the Tom Ade Scholarship Award recipient and the Grand Prize Winners of the Coverings Design and Installation Awards. This is a time to celebrate YOUR association!
In addition, former NTCA presidents, Tile Persons of the Year, and Ring of Honor winners will be invited to the event. NTCA will also recognize sponsors and contractors who have supported the Gary Sinise Rise Foundation program. A party to celebrate this 70th Anniversary year will go until 9 p.m. after the presentation. Don’t miss it!
NTCA offers congratulations to Christine Kotara, CEO of Five Star Contractor J&R Tile in San Antonio, TX. Christine was awarded a 2016 Women’s Leadership Award from the San Antonio Business Journal.
When asked for leadership advice, Christine told the Business Journal, “Give your employees tools for success–whether it’s transportation, education, or just somebody to hear what’s on their mind. Walk along with them. Your employees need to know that you have their back at all times.”
Christine’s hard work and leadership have helped J&R Tile lead the way in San Antonio, and meet the standards required to become an NTCA Five Star Contractor. Congratulations, Christine!
To read the San Antonio Business Journal feature on Christine, click here.
All American Design and Construction LLC
After working for different vendors for a series of years, Karl Parker reached his limit, vowing to never work for anyone else again. In 2009, he founded All American Design and Construction LLC (www.aadnc.com) in Albuquerque, N.M., targeting clients who wanted kitchen and bathroom remodels.
“My goal is to provide excellent customer service and a quality product at a reasonable price,” Parker said. The attention to detail Parker invests sets his company apart – “not just in craftsmanship, but in relationships as well,” he said. “I believe that quality comes from being attentive to personal relationships with my employees, clients, and distributors. I work to make sure there isn’t a breakdown in communication and that we fully understand what each one of us needs from each other. “
All American Design and Construction holds a GB98 commercial general contracting license. “Throughout my experience in construction I have really fallen in love with the detailed work of kitchen and bathroom remodeling,” Parker added, emphasizing that the company tends to focus on those areas even though it can perform other services.
Parker said that he doesn’t shy away from difficult projects. “The bigger the problem, the messier the job, the more I’m into it,” he explained. “I love a challenge. When a client has a vision of what they want, we discuss how we can make what they want happen. If we need to adjust the goals, I will discuss what options we have. I educate my clients about our capacity and what solutions would work the best for their homes. All American Design and Construction LLC reflects a lot of my personality. For one, I’m OCD! I have great attention to detail. All of my work reflects a high level of attention and care.”
His perfectionism has paid off – All American Design and Construction LLC celebrated its fifth year running as an Angie’s List Super Service Award recipient.
Although Parker has only been a member of NTCA for a little over a year, he already has signed on as a State Director for New Mexico. He was inspired by the values NTCA espouses. For instance, he said, “I value networking with likeminded people and believe that everyone can benefit from bouncing ideas and issues off each other. I also believe in qualified labor (Parker himself is a Certified Tile Installer) and that those in our industry should be properly trained. When providers know the dos and don’ts of the industry, our reputation as an industry grows and helps everyone. Personally, I value education, information about products and continued growth as a business owner.”
Peer support is a key benefit from NTCA membership, according to Parker. “I have created new friendships, and the education that I get from other members is invaluable,” he said. “Through NTCA, I have the opportunity to come out and start the Continuing Education Program. Without the leadership of NTCA and my role as the State Director, I would have a harder time uniting people in the industry.“
Parker’s Continuing Education Program launched earlier this month, with a focus on uncoupling membranes. “This is the first time an event like this is offered in the state of New Mexico and we look forward to having more,” he said. Parker plans three to four annual workshops that will team manufacturers and distributors to present smaller-scale technical programs and hands-on demonstrations for the tile industry as a whole: inspectors, installers, sales teams, designers and more. “These are planned for neutral territory where anyone and everyone can feel comfortable showing up.”
Paperface challenge produces stunning results
Pictured is the company’s very first paperface mosaic installation, that was very detailed and problematic at times, according to Parker.
“We needed to find a thinset that cured a pure white since our client was in love with the color of the tile and was concerned with the hue changing,” he said. “We were to follow the design and wainscot the entire bathroom. There were several issues with the framing of the walls being out of plumb and the tiles coming off the paper as they were cut. We had several areas where the tiles had to be scribed to fit and not look odd.”
Parker’s team spent countless hours hand setting individual 1” x 1/2” tile up the walls in tight areas. Parker and the customer were happy with the results – and working this project expanded Parker’s expertise. “We learned a lot from this install, and now have a better idea about how to attack a similar project like this in the future,” he said. “It certainly raised and tested our skills, and we are very happy to have been able to take this project on.”
Since 1985, Tom Cravillion has operated his business in Plymouth, Wis., just a stone’s throw from Kohler, Wis., and the Ann Sacks Showroom, with whom Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC has built a close working relationship.
The contractor specializes in tile and stone work for high-end residential homeowners that are either by referral or are satisfied customers. Cravillion said, “Over 80% of our business this year alone was previous customers.” In addition, the company does small commercial projects as well as new homes and renovations.
True craftspeople, Cravillion Tile & Stone specializes in dry-pack mud floors over hydronic heat tubes that involve marble or stone finishes.
Cravillion got his start in tile at age 12, when he began working with his father Gene – an architect – doing tile projects for family home remodeling jobs. At the age of 15, he started contracting jobs, being dropped off at various job sites. Cravillion took to the work with excellence and craftsmanship, so much so that at the tender age of 18, one of his jobs was featured in Better Homes and Gardens!
In 1982, Cravillion volunteered doing work on the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, N.Y., similar to the course that Isaac Homza took (TileLetter June 2015). When he returned to Wisconsin in 1985, he founded his business, developing close personal working relationships.
“We began to find our niche in doing what others said could not be done,” Cravillion said. “Early on, we began following NTCA, TCNA, and ANSI guidelines. We grew to eventually have over 12 employees and a fleet of trucks, servicing eastern Wisconsin, even doing work in Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota, Florida, Michigan, Connecticut and New York.” In 2006, Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC earned the First Prize Commercial Spectrum Award for “The Women’s Room”.
The economic downturn of 2008 forced the contractor to make some changes, reducing work staff and overhead down to five full and part-time employees.
This year marks the 16th year of NTCA membership for the contractor, which joined in 2000.
“While attending a NTCA work shop conducted by Dave Gobis back in the late 1990s, we were introduced to the NTCA and began to see the value it offered,” Cravillion said. “In 1999 while attending the Coverings show in Orlando, Fla., we cemented the commitment. Because of this we began to see how we could set ourselves apart from the rest of the crowd. We are not always the lowest price in a competitive bid, but specialize in doing the job right according to TCNA guidelines and ANSI standards.” One way the company sets itself apart from others, is by setting up a cleaning schedule and maintenance program that they follow through with on a yearly basis with customers.
Cravillion considers the greatest value in NTCA membership to be the networking with other contractors and industry leaders throughout the country: “people like Jim Olson, Bart Bettiga, John Cox, Michael Whistler, Isaac Homza, and well as many others,” he said. “We have benefited from the training seminars at Coverings, Total Solutions Plus, Daltile and setting materials manufacturers. As a NTCA State Director for Wisconsin, my goal is to bring this wealth of knowledge to those who are willing to participate. We also value the voucher program that is provided each year.”
Cravillion took his professionalism up another notch by becoming Certified Tile Installer #1116 on April 14, 2015. “It was a tremendous accomplishment, yet highly stressful test, being judged by your peers not just the customer,” he said.
Integrity is key to Cravillion. “When we know we have shown integrity, done the best we could, and have a satisfied customer – that is the reward, large or small,” he said. “It’s not about the money or income but knowing you did your job right and did not take any short cuts.”
Projects of excellence
Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC completed this circa early 1900s carriage house project over the summer of 2015, for a repeat customer. It entailed a linear drain system, mud-pack floors, and waterproof membrane system with polished white Thassos/Ming green mosaics.
This bathroom renovation was also completed in 2015, featuring a mud-pack floor over hydronic heat tubes, waterproofing over mud pack, and waterjet-cut pattern stone in Calacatta and Emperador marble. A linear drain was installed with curbless access. The project featured floor to ceiling marble with base and crown in matching stone.
California Flooring Ltd.
California Flooring LTD was founded back in 1993 by Kevin Insalato. The company was (and still is) 100% referral-based, servicing new construction, residential and commercial work.
At first, Insala to used subcontactors for all installations on flooring sold: ceramic, carpet, wood and vinyl. But after about a year, he “grew irritated with the quality of the subcontractors in all areas.” Instead, he decided to hire employees with no experience in floor covering and train them himself.
In 1996 he hired two installers who became his top employees: James Carr and Rafael Lopez. Both are now Certified Tile Installers and obtained their ACT certification in Large-Format Tile Installation at Coverings 2015.
Besides his tile certifications, James Carr is a woodworking craftsman, and a top remodel supervisor. Rafael Lopez has also qualified as a carpet installer, is a perfectionist, and are model supervisor. Lucas Turrell is the company’s other CTI and can install all types of flooring.
Insalato said, “This is an example of our company goal to train and certify everyone in as many areas as possible.”
This small company has grown to employ six installers, with Insalato’s wife Renata handling billing, payroll and bill paying, in addition to her regular full-time job. Insalato himself handles all the sales, scheduling and training, miraculously managing to invest 40% of his day in the field working with his installers. The next goal for the company is NTCA Five Star Contractor status, currently in the works.
This one-stop shop is true to its name, handling kitchen and bath remodel fully in-house, including basic plumbing, electrical, drywall and painting needs.“ This allows me to design and sell the work, but more importantly schedule from start to finish,” Insalato said. Converting tub surrounds to luxurious showers with seats, niche and glass door and panels is the biggest percentage of the company’s remodel work.
California Flooring LTD also stocks the porcelain, glass tile and travertine tiles it uses the most. “Our customers can view past jobs and then feel and see the actual tile used in those gorgeous photos, not as a sample, but as several tiles laid out in their home,” Insalato said. Together with its CTIs and ACT-certified installers and a fair price, its competitors have a hard act to follow, Insalato said. “Service and a genuine love for what I do usually will clinch our sale,” he added.
California Flooring LTD started out in a small, rented 1,200-sq.-ft. commercial space with showroom, office and warehouse all in one. In 2001, it purchased and moved onto a 10-acre farm in Manteno. The company has a two-story building with a 5,000 sq. ft., heated warehouse, private showroom, office and living quarters. A second building holds cold storage. It can store up to 90 pallets of tile, underlayment, borders and building materials.
The influence of NTCA
Insalato joined NTCA in January 2008, at the height of the recession and when the company was in terrible financial straits, he said. “I first talked to Jim Olson at the NTCA booth at Surfaces,” he explained. “He was so professional and passionate that joining made sense, but spending the money did not. Once he explained the vouchers, I said, ‘I can’t resist this,’ and joined.”
Insalato’s interest was piqued in 2014 when membership was renewed at Surfaces, and the company received an invitation to visit the Schluter facility as part of a joint workshop with NTCA.
“The trip was educational, but I was so impressed with the dedication of all the NTCA members there and how well they functioned with a large organization like Schluter,” Insalato said. “It made sense to me that if Schluter thinks this highly of our organization, I should listen and learn as much as possible. My company and our employees can only benefit from this. Later that year I was nominated and received the position as Regional Director of Region 5 and now serve on our Board of Directors.”
The emphasis on standards that Insalato has experienced with NTCA has had a positive effect on his relationship with his installers.
“Since founding the business and training the employees in all facets of flooring and remodeling, everything was always based on MY standards,“ he said. Since joining the NTCA – learning about CTEF, and meeting CTEF’s Scott Carothers – the tile and stone installation standards are now based on industry standards taught by NTCA, TCNA and the CTI and ACT programs. They provide the knowledge and I provide the execution. The ability to perform your job as a tilesetter knowing you are doing your job correctly is vital to the mission statement a company can set.“
Insalato also connects with the industry at different events. “We always attend Surfaces because of our sales and installation of all flooring,” he said. “We have attended Coverings for four of the past seven years. We attended our first Total Solutions Plus [in 2015] and found the networking extremely useful.”
In conclusion, Insalato explained his passion is teaching, and this is reflected in his business.
“To share with someone how you designed, and then convince the client that this is the design for them, is exciting,” he said. “To then be in the field and actually build and fabricate that design with your employees and explain not only the technical, but the color and texture elements that are in play to complete the room – whether it’s simple or stunning – is a feeling you want over and over. It’s addicting and you want to share it with everyone.”
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada — The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Five Star Contractors Program continues to grow and develop. As part of its strategy to offer increased business and technical education — as well as peer review and networking opportunities — the NTCA held a summer Five Star Contractor Program June 2nd-7th in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. The conference was generously sponsored by the MAPEI Corporation, who hosted the technical educational program at its plant headquarters located in Vancouver.
NTCA contractors and their spouses combined educational and networking programming with sightseeing excursions. In addition to discussions centering on the latest standards, Five Star Contractors were treated to technical presentations by MAPEI personnel addressing grout technology, large format and thin tile installations, and substrate preparation. A lively question and answer session followed each presentation.
The second day of the programming focused on business development, the NTCA utilized the resources of Ethan Cowles, professional educator and facilitator with Fails Management Institute. Five Star Contractors participated in working groups that interacted with Cowles, addressing project management, estimating, cash flow operations, and understanding in detail balance sheets, income statements, budgets, and financial statements.
The NTCA plans to offer a summer Five Star meeting every year, and is also in discussions to develop regional training opportunities for Five Star Contractor employees as well as operational analysis.