Five Star Contractor Spotlight – October 2014

custom-sponsorKemna Tile, Inc.
Dallas, Texas
Since: 1985

NTCA5starcontractorKemna Tile, Inc. is a commercial tile installation company founded by Barry Kemna in 1985. Barry is a second-generation tile professional, who not only grew up in the business, but also worked nationally on many large commercial tile projects. He’s been a Five Star Contractor since April 2009.

Kemna_logoThe company motto is “Small enough to know you, Big enough to serve you,” a realistic statement the company takes great pride in. One of the factors in the company’s successful growth has been associating with quality general contractors and construction managers whose projects demand very high standards in both the worker and the work being performed, holding Kemna Tile personnel and crews to their best, and commanding personal attention from the company president to each tile installer and helper.

barry_kemnaKemna Tile is large enough and financially strong enough to be bondable on any of its projects that require it, which is also a reflection of the company’s dedication to top quality and personal service. The company also is equipped to help with preliminary budgeting or alternate material selections, supporting its contactors budgeting to finish construction.

1-5star_1014In 1999, Kemna Tile created an in-house stone division, and in time added the availability of residential stone work. The company procures, fabricates and installs custom items of granite, marble, soapstone and limestone, including counter tops, desks, boardroom tables, fireplaces, sills, walls, etc. Kemna Tile’s highly skilled, confident, and artistic stone-working craftspeople mean that the project is only limited by the imagination.

Kemna Tile prides itself on being one of the best in its industry, crediting its people with the heart and soul of its business. People who are considered experts in the industry, with skills, talents and the caring to make a project happen.

2-5star-1014The company prides itself in sensing and producing quality in every one of its projects, taking care to layout, align and install tiles with absolute precision. The secret of Kemna’s work is in the details, spending time and energy to plan and execute the smallest details that other companies may not even think about. With Kemna Tile, tile and stone in every project fits right every time.

In addition to being commercial fabrication specialists and tile installers, Kemna Tile also does granite countertops, terrazzo, mosaic, marble, limestone and soapstone, providing full service in nearly any tile and stone finishing a project demands.

Five Star Contractor Spotlight – September 2014

custom-sponsorFive Star Contractors rise above competition with dedication, knowledge, credibility

By Lesley Goddin

NTCA5starcontractorWe take a break in the long-running line of NTCA Five Star Contractor spotlights to talk with a few of our Five Star Contractors about the benefits they find in being part of this elite group.

And an elite group it most definitely is. “Five Star Contractor” is not a token designation. This is a reflection of dedication and commitment on the part of the contractor to adhere to a range of criteria, including being a Certified Tile Installer and obtaining Advanced Certifications for Tile Installer (ACT) credentials, as well as committing to furthering their knowledge and education by attending at least two designated industry events a year.

To be accepted, the contractor must submit recommendations from customers, suppliers and peers and have active membership in NTCA. And NTCA Five Star Contractors also maintain a current and active safety program in their businesses.

Five Star Contractors are way above their competition in terms of proven competency, knowledge, skill and dedication. These are the contractors you want to handle a job that will feature new technology like large thin porcelain tiles or a complicated commercial job.

But how does being a Five Star Contractor benefit these contracting companies themselves?

jan_hohnFive Star Contractor Jan Hohn, of Hohn and Hohn, Inc., of St. Paul, Minn., and the first female Certified Tile Consultant, said “It has given me another creditable aspect to my business. It does help to distinguish me from the others. Adding that I am a Five Star Contractor to a conversation with a prospective client has raised the awareness of the quality of work they can expect.”

Scott_heronScott Heron of Precision Tile, West Columbia, S.C., cites exclusive information and education that Five Star Contractors are privy to as an incentive to be part of the program. “The availability of a vast source of information and special events for Five Stars only has given me an edge against my competitors. Once it is explained to my clients what it entails to achieve the designation, then I have more creditability, and they are willing to pay a higher price point. Five Star Contractors have a larger and broader knowledge base that benefits the client with a superior end product ,” he said.

Frank_cantoFrank Canto, a Five Star Contractor in Tampa, Fla., is in the process of bidding on a commercial project that involves large thin porcelain tile that was specified by Gensler Architects. The Quality Assurance portion of the spec requires use of a Certified Tile Installer and recommends a Five Star Contractor or Trowel of Excellence (union shop) contractor.

Due to his company’s qualifications, Canto Tile is bidding at $10,000 to $12,000 higher than his competitor. “I made the general contractor aware of the specification for the Five Star and Certified Tile Contractor specs. My competitor admired that we have those designations, but said his boss won’t invest in these credentials. But it might be a hammer to the head if I wind up winning the bid, at $12,000 more than his bid.”

Heron has had a similar experience. “I am told by my competitors that when we bid the same jobs I usually am awarded the contract even with a higher price.”

Opportunities Canto has had through the Five Star Contractor program have positioned him well to do the work with Calacatta 6mm large thin porcelain tile from Iris and StoneLite® natural composite stone panels for the Gensler job. He’s attended a workshop with Iris and one with the Five Star Contractor group at Crossville.

“I’ve watched videos and educated myself on these products,” Canto said. “I have a better feel for what the job will take than my competitor, who has never been to a workshop.”

Five Star Contractors enjoy other benefits as well, such as exclusive manufacturer discounts, conferences, and vouchers. But access to peer experts and manufacturers are the top benefits for Hohn. Networking offers a couple of pluses, she said. “First, networking with the other contractors throughout the country, and second, the networking with the different setting material manufacturers. When one calls or has a concern, I have found they will get back to me within a very short time, giving me more credibility as I can get answers quickly.”

Heron sums it up, saying, “The access to the knowledge base of other Five Star Contractors is immeasurable.”

Does the Five Star Contractor Program sound like it’s for you? Contact NTCA assistant executive director Jim Olson for more information at 601-939-2071 or email [email protected]

Five Star Contractor Spotlight – Rheinschmidt Tile and Marble







Rheinschmidt Tile and Marble, Inc., based in Burlington, Iowa, is a dedicated, tight-knit, family-style traveling troupe of expert installers that comb the country together for months at a time, installing mall floors in the wee hours of the morning wherever opportunity strikes.

five starThis family business got its start when Walter and Erma Rheinschmidt entered the flooring business in 1935. In 1969 Larry Rheinschmidt, Sr. (son of Erma and Walter) took on the family’s first shopping center project in Iowa. Soon after, his customers were dragging him from state to state to put floors in new malls all over the country.

Today the firm is managed by Larry Rheinschmidt, Jr. along with Darya Rheinschmidt, Robert O. Jones, Jr., and Jeffrey Crowner. With the help of their road warrior staff of 130 people or more, they still travel from state to state putting floors in malls.

Rheinscmidt_famiy_1935One of the most unique aspects of this company is the quality and dedication of its staff. These traits may not be unique in themselves, but considering the demands of a traveling contractor, these characteristics are exceptional.

Rheinschmidt’s average projects are four to six months long. Once the job gets started, most of the crews only visit their home once every six to eight weeks. That puts them on the road for more than 11 months out of the year. It is a life in hotels and away from their friends and families. Not only are they away from home, but in the shopping center world, 90% of the work is renovation work, which is all performed at night. Working from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. means rarely getting to see the light of day.

Even though the work is physically demanding, and the conditions difficult, Rheinschmidt Tile and Marble has assembled one of the most loyal groups of hard-working individuals you could imagine. Several of the employees have been working on Rheinschmidt projects for over 40 years. This really means their home has been more “on the road” than that of their postal address.

At one point, most of the traveling employees were from the company’s home base in Iowa. Since the company started traveling, it has been picking up quality setters and helpers from every state where it works. This crew comes from as far Northwest as the state of Washington, and as far Southeast as Florida.

It takes more than the average setter to want to work nights on the road all year long. Because of that, it has taken years to assemble a traveling family this big. However, the company is still growing, and is always looking for more talented individuals. Not everyone makes the cut. The company is known for its quality, so only above-average setters become traveling members of the team.

Rheinschmidt Tile and Marble is a family business in more ways than one. There are six Rheinschmidt family members currently involved in its operation. In addition to that, several Rheinschmidt employees bring their families on the road. However, in the case of Rheinschmidt Tile and Marble, the term “family business” refers to the fact that the people of the company feel like part of the family, related or not. The road warriors at the heart of this company are a family like no other.

Rheinschmidt Tile and Marble, Inc. is a big believer in participating in the NTCA and being a part of the Five Star Contractor program. This program provides access to a great source of technical information, and the Five Star Contractor group is a great community to learn from. Whenever a Five Star Contractor member poses a question to the group, the answers that come back demonstrate a wide range of knowledge and experience, and a great willingness to help each other succeed.

Rheinschmidt-1Westroads Mall, Omaha, Neb.

The Rheinschmidt team recently finished the Westroads Mall project in Omaha, Neb., consisting of over 120,000 sq. ft. of Italian porcelain tile in a pattern that included 18” x 36”, 24” x 24”, 16” x 24” and 12” x 24” tiles from three different collections. Tiles for the majority of the project have a lappato finish, which has some texture to it with a polished look and feel.

The existing substrate was all double-tee precast concrete, which leaves a potentially moving joint every six feet. The substrate was also far from flat enough to handle large-format tile. After the existing tile was removed, the floor was flattened with a quick-setting, self-leveling underlayment, then the entire floor was covered with a flexible, thin, lightweight, load-bearing, fabric-reinforced “peel-and-stick” crack-isolation membrane to handle any movement inherent in the double-tee construction. The large-format tile was installed with a premium, rapid-setting, non-sag medium-bed / thin-set mortar.





NTCA Five Star Contractor program continues to make strides

By Bart Bettiga

NTCA5starcontractorNTCA recently announced the Grand Prize Winners in our Five Star Contractor Installation Awards at Coverings in Las Vegas. Congratulations to Collins Tile and Stone of Aldie, Va., and Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile Co., of Mesa, Ariz., for their winning residential and commercial project submissions, respectively. I urge all of our Five Star Contractor members to take photos of your best projects and submit them for consideration next year. Both recognition and a $2,500 cash prize can be yours when winners are announced at Coverings in Orlando.

In addition to award recognition, the NTCA staff organizes and partners with Five Star Contractor Program sponsors to host educational and networking events. At times, we schedule events in conjunction with shows like Coverings and Total Solutions Plus. In other instances, our sponsor will host a training program at one of their manufacturing facilities or training locations. For example, Crossville recently hosted over 40 NTCA Five Star Contractors and TCAA Trowel of Excellence members at their headquarters in Tennessee.

Tennessee is quickly becoming the manufacturing hotbed for domestic tile production. Crossville and StonePeak Ceramics have been producing quality porcelain tile for many years in Crossville, Tenn. Florim USA, our newest Five Star Program sponsor, is in nearby Clarksville, and Del Conca USA unveiled its beautiful new plant this spring in Loudon, Tenn., near Knoxville. Add to that impressive list the announcement that Daltile will be building a new plant in Dickson, Tenn., and that Florida Tile is nearby in Kentucky, you can see how this area is exploding in ceramic and porcelain tile production.

1-5star-0714Thin porcelain tile was the primary topic of conversation at our networking event held at Crossville. The NTCA, TCAA, IMI and IUBAC recently released a statement on thin tile, asserting our recommendation to installers to not accept projects with floor applications for thin porcelain tiles less than 5.5 millimeters thick until product and installation standards are developed. The attendees discussed everything we have learned to date about installing thin porcelain tile, and shared ideas related to training and the development of certification. We are all excited about the opportunities that thin porcelain tile present, but we want to ensure that the products are sold in the right applications, in order to prevent failures that will hurt the future of this exciting technology.

2-5star-9714In addition to technical discussions at our Five Star events, we often retain the participation of strong business speakers, and we hold Best Practice discussions among our peers on subjects such as project management, financial and strategic planning, estimating and bidding procedures, and more.

Efforts to promote the Five Star Contractor Program are beginning to pay dividends. Many project specifications contain language referring to the program in the quality assurance section, generating interest from both NTCA members who have not applied for Five Star Contractor recognition as well as contractors who are not members of the association.

3-5star-0714Florim USA’s recent announcement to offer a rebate program to Five Star Contractors was met with sincere appreciation by our members. In a short presentation to the NTCA Board of Directors, Stefano Rabaioli, vice-president of sales and marketing, gave an overview of the company’s goals and objectives and indicated its intent to grow a stronger presence in the commercial sector of the industry.

In addition to Florim USA, we are finalizing a program sponsorship with Schluter Systems that will be announced in July. These companies join a growing list of supporters who either offer volume rebates or product vouchers to support the investment that contractors make for this recognition.

4-5star-0714The NTCA Five Star Contractor Program is gaining momentum. NTCA members who feel their company can benefit from this recognition should contact Jim Olson of NTCA at [email protected]

Five Star Contractor Spotlight – Memphis Tile and Marble Company

custom-sponsor5 star mtm logoWhen Thomas Cox was 19 years old, he moved his newly-wedded wife, Dianne, to Memphis from Jackson, Tenn., for a life off the farm. With no college education, he went to the Tennessee unemployment line to search for a job. He eventually landed at Hugo Marble and Tile in Memphis, where he did whatever Mr. Hugo wanted or needed – from taking out the trash to delivering tile wherever the job was that day.


Mr. Hugo eventually kicked Tommy out of the nest and encouraged him to start his own ceramic tile contracting company. In 1968, Tommy Cox started Memphis Tile and Marble Company (MTM). He immediately set out to attract new business and quickly make new contacts in the residential builder market. Around 1975, he joined the STTMCA, headed by none other than Joe Tarver. Tommy quickly learned that understanding and implementing quality installation standards into his company was essential. Hosting numerous “lunch-and-learns,” as we call them today, he invited all of his competitors to attend.

tommy_cox_picTommy’s youngest son Ricky joined the company in 1993 to try his hand in the tile contracting business. His first two weeks on the job were spent chopping wall mud and carrying it up two flights of stairs to the tile mechanic. Tommy thought for sure that the work would drive him back to college. The tile mechanic was very weary of the boss’s son but soon realized that he might work out. The mechanic taught him everything he knew and Ricky eventually started installing. After several years of installing, Ricky started managing jobs and learning the business side of tile contracting. In 2002, Tommy and Ricky attended their first NTCA conference together in Charlotte, N.C., and Ricky realized the quality of the tile installation that Tommy was promoting.

From 1975 to 2014, Memphis Tile and Marble has been a proud NTCA member, and owes a lot of its success to the association. Tommy served on the board of directors and was named NTCA’s Tile Person of the Year in 2008. Ricky has served four years on the board and has made close friends from all over the country. As an NTCA Five Star Contractor, Memphis Tile and Marble supports certified tile installers. It currently has four Certified Tile Installers, with industry-recognized credentials from CTEF.

Ricky became the company president in 2013 after Tommy’s retirement, leading MTM’s 10 employees to excel in new residential, remodeling, and light commercial work. The company has been members of the West Tennessee Homebuilders Association for decades and supports local and national homebuilding.

Many close relationships have formed over the past 46 years with different tile contracting companies, suppliers, and manufacturers. Memphis Tile and Marble would like to thank Joe Tarver for his leadership over the years, Bart Bettiga for his dedication to the association, and all of the NTCA staff. Thank you for what you do!

MTM featured project: bath-centric challenge

This project consisted of eight baths, three powder rooms, several fireplaces, a potting room with tile from floor to ceiling, pool house with kitchen and bath, and a fountain that was waterproofed and tiled. It also featured an old barn on the property that was transformed into a caterer’s kitchen for parties. The 15,000-sq.-ft. house took three years to complete.

The master bath was tiled from floor to ceiling with 18” x 18” Italian Brown marble. The shower consisted of Crema Marfil with a medallion centered on the back wall. The lobby floor was also installed with Crema Marfil laid on Schluter DITRA.

The sauna and lap pool area featured 1” x 2” glass tiles on the water feature wall with wainscoting throughout.

The bathroom floor in the barn was installed with 8” x 8” handmade tiles that portrayed a rug once installed. A piece of petrified wood was selected and made into a trough sink basin that MTM floated and tiled with river rocks.

MTMC-1 mtmc-2 mtmc-3 mtmc-4 mtmc-5

Five Star Contractor Spotlight – Syverson Tile & Stone


Syverson Tile & Stone

Sioux Falls and Rapid City, S.D.;
Fargo, N.D.

five starSince: 1932

Specialty: Wholesale distribution to trades, stone fabrication and tile installation



Syverson Tile & Stone is a third generation, family-owned distributor, fabricator and installer of tile, stone and associated products. Syverson Tile & Stone is wholesale to the trades with locations in Sioux Falls, S.D., Fargo, N.D., and Rapid City, S.D. The company has over 600 active accounts in a territory of more than 150,000 square miles, serving a population base of 1.7 million people.

In addition to the Syverson distribution network, the company provides stone fabrication with shops in the Sioux Falls and Fargo markets as well as tile installation in the Sioux Falls area.

The company was founded from humble beginnings in 1932 in Sioux Falls by Ray G. Syverson, Sr. and his wife Ruth Syverson. Ray had learned the trade in his youth. After taking the train to Sioux Falls from Chicago, Ray walked to construction sites with his bucket of tools in hand, and asked the builders if they needed any tile set. He began to earn a reputation as a reliable, high-quality installer with great attention to detail.

Ruth (Brooks) Syverson grew up on the family farm near Philip, S.D. After working as a bookkeeper, she moved to Sioux Falls where she met and married Ray. The company took a fateful turn when Ray had an allergic reaction to Portland cement and had to stop setting tile. He trained his cousin and one of Ruth’s brothers; then with Ruth at his side, started their own contracting company in 1932 in the midst of the Depression. Hard work, high standards and much perseverance earned Syverson the distinction of being the largest tile contractor between Omaha and Minneapolis by the mid-1940s, a distinction they still hold today.

The company grew over the years and added products and services along the way. By 1961, Ray Syverson Jr. was involved in the company working alongside his parents, starting on the tile crew. The company purchased a Cardinal hand crank saw to cut stone so it didn’t have to wait for distant fabricators to create pieces needed to finish its tile jobs. The company also expanded its tile inventory, establishing a relationship with the largest producer of tile at the time, American Olean. The company began to distribute complementary products like brick, veneer stone and fireplaces.


Steve (l.) and Dave Syverson run Syverson Tile & Stone today, carrying on the tradition of their grandparents and company founders Ray and Ruth Syverson, pictured in the painting.

By 1979, the company, under the leadership of Ray Jr., had outgrown the facility in Sioux Falls’ industrial park, so a new parcel of land by Interstate 229 on Western Avenue was purchased and a new facility built, which is the company headquarters today. Ray’s sons Steve and Dave also joined the company in 1981 and 1993, respectively.

Fueled by growth in distribution, the company opened its second location in Fargo, N.D., in 1995 and its third location in Rapid City, S.D., in 2009. In the midst of the expansion of the distribution and fabrication businesses, the company has stayed true to its founders’ dream of having the best tile crew in the Sioux Falls area. Today under Steve and Dave’s leadership, Syverson Tile & Stone continues to set the standard for quality products installed the proper way.

Syverson Tile & Stone is proud to be the only NTCA Five star contractor in its market, which assures its clientele that their project will be handled professionally, promptly and within budget. Syverson Tile & Stone has the largest and most experienced installation crew, many of whom have followed family members who have worked for the company or the trade. The company trains constantly and continuously to keep up with the changes in the marketplace. The high standards of installing each job as if it were their own project is something that still holds as true today as it was when Ray Syverson Sr., was a setter over 80 years ago.

Featured project: Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.


The Denny Sanford Premier Center, currently under construction, in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Denny Sanford Premier Center project is currently under way in Sioux Falls, S.D., with the expected completion date of August of 2014. Syverson Tile & Stone performed the work on the original Sioux Falls Arena and Convention Center site building back in 1961 and is excited to be involved on the new $120 million, 12,000 seat, state-of-the-art events center addition, which was designed by Koch Hazard Architects in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Sink, Combs & Dethlefs in Denver, Colo.


Syverson Tile & Stone crews in the process of setting Lea Slimtech tile around a concession stand in the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

The project consists of nearly 70,000 sq. ft. of tile and stone products, including a unique application of nearly 14,000 sq. ft. of 20”x 40” Lea thin tile with another 3,600 linear feet of 6” base. The majority of the thin tile product is being installed on a 105’ radius wall on the south end of the facility using the MLT removable clip system from Mid America Tile.

Syverson Tile & Stone is also fabricating all the Ajanta Engineered Quartz tops from Hanstone in the suites and loge boxes, as well as the 3cm Cambrian Black honed granite top from Cold Springs Granite in the bar areas. The architects also selected some unique native materials, like Rose Quartzite veneer stone from Jasper Stone Company and Autumn Flame slate ledgestone from the Black Hills of South Dakota, supplied by Hebron Brick Supply.


Rose Quartzite from Jasper Stone Company is one of the unique native materials used for the project.

The Denny Sanford Premier Center will be a signature project for Syverson Tile & Stone since it involves both large scale production work combined with the highest level of quality installation work, using the best products available in the industry, for the region’s newest and most luxurious facility.

Five Star Contractor Spotlight – Battles & Battles Tile

custom-sponsorfive starAlthough the name Battles & Battles Tile sounds as though two people named Battles run this company, the name would be more apt if it were Battles, Battles, Battles and Battles Tile.

Robert Battles had been in the turnkey custom home building business in the Knoxville, Tenn., area for many years when, back in the late ’90s, he realized that his services required more equipment than he cared to own and maintain. He considered many possibilities in which to specialize, and chose flooring – specifically tile.


Robert, Damon, Maseena and August Battles (l. to r.) are in the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy on the campus of the University of Tennessee where their complex stone installation won a TileLetter Award grand prize in 2010.

“I chose the tile industry due to the low impact the product has on the world’s natural resources,” Robert said. “While in use and when discarded, tile causes no environmental issues. Tile makes sense to me, especially when I think about 2,000- to 5,000-year-old tile installations of ancient Rome and China still in use today. I am disappointed when there is a lack of attention to low environmental impact. Creating something that’s meant to end up in a landfill is not in my nature, period,” he declared.

In the early days of the company, Robert’s children – Maseena, Damon and August – began working at the construction sites and in the office of what was then BB Tile Service. The company purchased an old house near a major highway in Knoxville, and transformed it into a showroom and offices.

Battles & Battles Tile grew over the years, with a big commercial department working closely with architectural firms, the University of Tennessee, and many large and small construction companies.

Education and training are essential to Robert, so he requires his employees to attend any and every pertinent training opportunity available.

“When we began learning about the efforts of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation to improve the tile trade in the U.S. with a program of education and testing, we wanted to support them in any way we could,” said Robert. “We’ve been more than happy to host the Certified Tile Installer course and are proud to have had other professionals in the area come to us for the test and for advice.

“And becoming the first company in East Tennessee to be known as an NTCA Five Star Contractor was our biggest milestone ever,” Robert added. “Once a potential customer understands what this means, they have confidence in our dependability and know-how, and it helps them understand why they might pay a higher price for our work.


This Breccia Paradiso and Daino Real stone spa features a tub custom-made by Damon Battles. The tub was formed from a large block of rigid foam; the tub cavity was reinforced with wire and rebar before smoothing the final surface with mortar to accept the flat pebble tile.

“We want to give our customers not only a beautiful tile job, but one we can stand behind – and prove, over the long term, we’re saving them money because of the installation’s longevity,” he said.

Residential jobs have always been a big part of the company’s efforts, and that’s where the skill and artistry of Robert’s youngest child, August, has blossomed.

With more than 15 years of tile and stone installation experience and a natural artistic ability, August has become the Knoxville area’s elite home spa specialist.

He sometimes spends weeks on a bathroom makeover, depending on substructure work and complexity of the design.

“I like to do all of the work from the beginning, because I know how I want the finished tile layout to work out,” August said. “For instance, an inch or two of difference in a partial wall can cause it to end up with a sliver of tile. I can avoid problems like that if I’m the one installing the framing. I always have the finished look in mind, starting with the first draft of drawings,” he said.

“I make sure the customer thinks about where they may want a grab bar, and where they want to reach for the handle of a plumbing fixture,” August added.” And if a user has physical limitations, I want to be sure they can manage the use of their shower space. All of these details must be carefully worked in to the design before we start,” he concluded.


Schluter’s linear drain with a tileable grate enables the artisans at Battles & Battles Tile to make a shower drain practically invisible.

Behind the scenes, Maseena, Bob’s daughter, fills the role of comptroller, keeping a close eye on the financial health of Battles & Battles Tile.

“Cash flow is king, and my biggest challenge is making sure billing is correct and current. This is critical, especially when a commercial project exceeds $100,000,” said Maseena.

Maseena first started in the company showroom, leading the residential sales and design team. After working toward a degree in nursing, she decided to stay with the company after graduation.

“Battles & Battles may be Bob’s ‘baby,’ but I feel like it’s my other kid,” she adds.

So what does the future hold for this second-generation family-owned company? It’s hard to say what the ‘kids’ will do, but the third generation, Maseena’s son, Caden, now 12, and Damon’s son, four-year-old Gage, are regularly at the shop, hanging out with Papaw.


The success of a steam shower installation depends on a partner in the glass business who does excellent work. Battles & Battles Tile recommends only a tried-and-true local company.


This contemporary shower with a “floating” bench is one of August Battles’ recent accomplishments in precision tile installation.

Five Star Contractor Spotlight – Performance Tile and Marble Co., Inc.

custom-sponsorPerformance Tile and Marble Co., Inc.

LaPlace, La.

Since: 1989

Specialty: Custom residential, light commercial, high-risk waterproofing projects (i.e. decks, balconies, showers, steam showers), ADA-compliant projects.

five starWebsite:

Performance Tile and Marble Company was founded in 1989, located in LaPlace, La., near New Orleans, and services all of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. With vast technical knowledge of the tile industry, Performance Tile is sought out by contractors, designers and architects throughout the Southeast as problem solvers. As one of the original NTCA Five Star Contractors – and the only one in the state of Louisiana – it has always been committed to excellence.

Performance Tile supplies and installs all types of tile and stone – using only premium setting materials – and not only meets, but exceeds industry standards.

Todd Duhe is the president of Performance Tile and Marble Company. His wife, Gina, runs the office and the showroom. They are both committed to advancement of the tile trade. Todd is one of the NTCA Recognized Industry Consultants (InspecTile Consulting), and mitigated over $9,000,000 in damages due to poor installations in one year.

Todd Duhe is certified in mold remediation, mold inspection, and asbestos-abatement projects to manage hazardous work situations that involve mold and existing asbestos floor coverings, and to protect their customers and employees from any health or safety risks.

Other industry involvements include the National Association of Home Builders, American Concrete Institute, Construction Specification Institute, International Code Council, Southeastern Mold Institute, Forensic Expert Witness Association, The Ceramic Tile Institute of America, NTCA Technical Committee, and the NTCA State Director of Louisiana.

The market in which Performance Tile serves has over the last several years been struck with several hurricanes. Along with the devastation came large numbers of less-knowledgeable contractors. Cheap pricing and unskilled labor have resulted in a large number of projects that needed to be totally torn out and redone. This is where most of Performance Tile’s efforts are centered. Unfortunately, it takes a failure and a substantial amount of money for some customers to realize that “cheap” costs plenty. According to Todd, “Price is your initial investment on a project. Cost is the total cash outlay of your original price plus the thousands of additional dollars to correct failures.”

Performance Tile is committed to never cutting corners or standards just to get a job. Over 60% of its work load is re-doing water-related damaged tile installations caused by unskilled contractors. The company’s motto is “It costs less to do it right, than to do it over.”

Dedicated to supporting the industry, Todd is always willing to help anyone who asks. He has an overwhelming drive to educate anyone in the industry, including competitors. “Good competition among skilled labor and friends will eventually drive our industry forward, leaving the less qualified behind,” he said.

Featured Project

performance_tile-5star-1This 8,000-sq.-ft. home in New Orleans is owned by a large commercial roofing contractor. The homeowner had several custom showers and a flagstone balcony. Since he roofs commercial skyscrapers for a living, he has first-class experiences of the importance of proper waterproofing techniques.

Another obstacle was installing 3,000 sq. ft. of Crossville polished porcelain tile over a post-tensioned slab. Performance Tile and Marble used an uncoupling membrane over the post-tensioned concrete and mudded and waterproofed the showers. The project also included an exterior balcony.



The project included an exterior flagstone balcony.

Five Star Spotlight – Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc.


San Diego, Calif.
Since: 1972
Specialty: Providing impeccable quality and service for commercial and high-end residential installations, predicated on long-term relationships with clients; exceeding expectations through accountability to project schedules; and upholding the highest technical standards.
Employees: 60


The Wirtz family has been a solid fixture in the tile industry in San Diego for three generations. It all started with John Q. Wirtz, who would bring his two-year old son John David along with him to work. Years later, the father and son team – along with spouses Wanda and Cookie, respectively – officially started their family business, a two-bucket company, in 1972.

After growing up in the family business, John and Cookie’s daughter Amber Fox decided to officially join the company in 1997. As she made her way up through the company, she became a Ceramic Tile Consultant, and she is currently serving her second term on the NTCA Board of Directors. Her current position at Wirtz is vice president. Fox aspires to run the company one day.

Under her tutelage, Wirtz Quality Installation, Inc., (WQI) won the Coverings Installation Awards First Prize Tile for a Commercial project for the Palomar Medical Center West in April 2012, and a 2010 TileLetter Awards Commercial Installation Award of Merit for the Se Hotel in San Diego.

wirtz-employeesThis family story does not end here. The 60 employees of WQI have been with the Wirtz family for an average of 14 years, ranging from over 30 years to those who joined just last year. This company has always taken pride in its goal of treating each person as a member of this family and not just an employee. These employees – along with their depth of experience and the culture of teamwork – give WQI the confidence to take on so many diverse and intricate projects. All of the company’s key positions are filled with long-term employees. The Wirtz family knows that these employees are what make the company stand out.

WQI strongly believes in not becoming complacent, and holds its employees to this same standard. WQI not only stays involved in adapting to industry changes, it also makes sure that employees have the necessary training that will better them as individuals. For example, WQI sent nine installers through the CTEF Certified Installer Program, all of whom passed with excellent workmanship.

One employee who Wirtz considers the heart of the company is Steve McMurphy. He joined the WQI team back in 1982 and has been moving the company forward ever since. As field supervisor he is in charge of all the installers and the scheduling.

wirtz-restroomAs Steve is the heart of the company, Frank Echols – who has been with the company for 25 years – is the backbone. Echols is WQI’s senior estimator.

“You will not find a more thorough and detail-oriented person,” explained Amber Fox. “When we turn in a bid, we have every confidence that it is correct and complete. Anyone who has done commercial work knows how important estimating is to having a successful project.”

Project manager Justin Kylstad is amazing at keeping WQI jobs organized, running smoothly and coming in on budget – not an easy task in this unpredictable monster called construction.

Warehouse manager, Pablo Murillo, Jr. has had the challenge of handling Wirtz orders shipments and deliveries for the past 27 years.

“While he takes his work very seriously, his personality has everyone laughing at the same time,” Fox said.

wirtz-bathroomOffice manager Bernadette Reyes is the sunshine in the company, keeping all of the office on track, and keeping staff and employees all in line. She has the pleasure of processing contracts and their insurance needs as well as accounts payable.

Ryan Wilson is the latest addition to WQI office. “We are thankful every day for Ryan,” Fox said. “He goes above and beyond for this company. He makes sure that our projects are not only paid on time so this company can continue in this economy, but he is a wizard at all of the billing requirements for the different general contractors.”


WQI foremen, Phil Reyes, Albert De La Vega, Dan Gilstrap, Joel Martinez, Victor Fox and Sal Contreras have seen and done it all. They have led numerous tile projects throughout San Diego, including – but not limited to – hospitals, office buildings, condo high-rises, hotels, restaurants, and casinos. And these are just examples from WQI’s commercial division; the foremen feel just as at home in high-end custom homes as they do in a large commercial project. They are the foundation for the company and the excellent relationships and repeat business that Wirtz has with its general contractors today.


What the family of employees brings to the mix are core components of holding to WQI’s mission statement: “We create long-term relationships with our clients, exceeding their expectations through our accountability to project schedules, upholding the highest technical standards, and providing impeccable quality and service.”

Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc., is very fortunate to have the next generation in place in all the key positions. This group is all in their late 30s and already has over a decade of experience. With their enthusiasm and interest for the industry, it looks like Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc., will have a bright future.

Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc., lives and breathes its motto every day: “Work hard but laugh harder.” Having a treasured family of employees makes living that dream a reality.


Five Star Spotlight – Precision Tile Company Inc.

custom-sponsorPrecision Tile Company, Inc.
West Columbia, S.C.
Since: 1982
Specialty: Residential remodel projects; hard tile, marble and granite installations

five starAfter his service in the Navy relocated Scott Heron to Charleston, S.C., from his home state of Michigan, Heron decided to start his own renovation company. It didn’t take long for him to fall in love with setting tile.

scott_heronAfter moving to Columbia, S.C., in 1987, Heron decided to specialize in hard tile, marble, and granite installations; thus Precision Tile Co. was born. Being the new kid on the block posed quite a few challenges in the early years. With word-of-mouth referrals moving only among the established, generational tile setters, it was tough to break into a new market. But Heron equipped himself with knowledge and education to best serve his customers.

Precision Tile takes great pride in transforming someone’s idea into a long-lasting installation, of which both Heron and the homeowner can be proud. For Heron, there’s no better compliment or feeling than when a former customer calls to say how pleased he or she still is, and that they would like him to work on a new project. Repeat business is not only the best mark of a quality installer, but it serves as its own stamp of quality on both an installer and his/her business.

With a desire to know as much as possible about the tile industry and to be better able to create a quality job for his customers, Heron regularly attends Coverings, Total Solutions Plus, and reads as many industry publications as he can get his hands on. Therefore, Heron’s customers are able to discern – from their first meeting – how passionate he is about setting tile and how knowledgeable he has become.

Being certified by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and achieving Five Star Contractor status has made a tremendous difference in the amount of business that has come Heron’s way. Having a pedigree has opened doors to new jobs, new builders, and new educational avenues. It has given him the chance to expand his reach in the industry, as well as help to direct the future of the tile industry. Heron also likes having access to the other Five Star Contractors across the country, in case he comes across a new problem. “Having a qualified pool of people from whom I can ask questions is invaluable,” he said.

As chairman of the HBA of Greater Columbia Remodelers’ Council, Heron’s wisdom and expertise is often sought by builders and other installers. He regularly gives advice to contractors and homeowners alike, to the point of giving homeowners his cell phone number, in the event a DIYer hits a snag. Heron has visited many a job site to review the work and help homeowners get past stumbling blocks, without charging the homeowner or contractor for his time. While business and jobs are important, teaching people how to properly set tile is Heron’s number one focus.

Featured Project

Renovating and restyling a bathroom is easy compared to updating one within the original style of the home.

The Browns needed to have leak damage repaired, but also wanted to add some upgrades to their master and guest baths. The challenge was selecting “just the right” material and installing it to look original.

As you can see, neither of these challenges posed any difficulty to Precision Tile.

The new tile selected looks original to the 1930s art-deco style of the home, but updated layouts, fixtures and vanities give the project a more contemporary flair. A clean grey and white motif was used in the master bathroom while the guest bath, which is also used by the children, has a warmer and more durable material selection and color palette of browns and beiges.


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