ProFast Commercial Flooring, LLC has been in business since 1998. It has a dedicated, knowledgeable and professional staff both in the office and field to provide the best installed product in the commercial flooring business. ProFast covers a wide range of flooring from ceramic tile, porcelain tile, marble, granite and limestone to any special-order material throughout the world.
The company’s number one focus is large mall retail renovation work. Clients include Simon Properties, CBL Properties, Westfield’s, Forest City, Taubman Companies and General Growth Properties. Another area of specialty is hospitality; currently ProFast is working on a high-end hotel in Fells Point, Md., for Sagamore Development which is owned by Kevin Plank from Under Armor fame. This project is a cut-to-size, high-end Italian stone job, opening this month. ProFast also recently tiled the indoor pool at the historic Watergate Hotel.
“I have met a few of the Five Star Contractors along the way and am looking forward to meeting many more,” said Kevin Killian, president of ProFast Commercial Flooring. “I know that being a Five Star Contractor will benefit ProFast in numerous ways, especially with the experience and knowledge that the Five Stars have individually and as a group. I look forward to continuing meeting many more of our industry professionals at upcoming events,” he said.
Boatman and Magnani, Inc., located in Capitol Heights, Md., has provided the Washington metropolitan area with ceramic tile, terrazzo, and natural stone work since 1960.
Throughout the company’s 56-year history, Boatman and Magnani has earned an enduring reputation by delivering the area’s leading architects, general contractors, and owners the highest quality material and craftsmanship in a timely fashion.
Boatman and Magnani has established a long list of satisfied clients and continues to strive for excellence in an ever-changing industry. As leaders in the tile, terrazzo, and stone industry, Boatman and Magnani owes its success to a great deal of hard work, dedication, intelligence and determination. It aims to give the client what they want, and do the best job possible. The company likes challenging work, and jobs that are unusual, big or small.
Boatman and Magnani performs work for the federal government, District of Columbia, state governments, general contractors, and at times directly for architectural firms. For proof that no job is too large or too small, one needs to look no further than Boatman and Magnani‘s project list: the woman-owned tile, marble and terrazzo union contractor has supplied and carried out over 8,500 projects in its 56 year history. Some include intricate large-scale projects such as The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, MGM Casino, The African American History Museum, U.S. Marshall Service, The New Doha International Airport, The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (Federal Triangle), Tyson‘s II Mall, The Willard Hotel and Office Building, International Square, The Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, The President’s Guest House, and Postal Square.
Boatman and Magnani also continually coordinates and executes smaller projects including: many of the area elementary, middle and high schools; high-end finish tenant spaces and law firms; hospitals, hotels, and private and public office buildings. The company prides itself in having the expertise and ability to tackle large, complicated private residences, where it has provided expert coordination and installation of tile, terrazzo, stone, marble, brick, and mosaics in some of the area’s premier homes. It currently employs 65 BAC/IMI Local 1 Union-trained tile, terrazzo and marble workers.
Boatman and Magnani employs a very loyal, creative, knowledgeable staff of office/ senior project managers, estimators, draftspersons, and administrative personnel. It also takes pride and highly values its superintendents and skilled union labor force of foreman and field tile setters, terrazzo workers, and stone masons. When it finds someone with proficiency, the company knows it’s important to keep him or her on board. Some of Boatman and Magnani’s employees have over a 25-year tenure.
Because of the close combination of employees at Boatman and Magnani, the company is able to be diversified and maintain stature at the forefront of the industry. The office is equipped with a state-of-the-art drafting and estimating department that takes pride in returning accurate bids, and generates shop drawings with precision. Boatman and Magnani is also equipped with a natural stone fabrication shop, employing talented, expert craftsmen and creating custom fabrications. The quality of craftsmanship that Boatman and Magnani’s field forces produce speaks for itself.
Boatman and Magnani has earned a multitude of Washington Building Congress (WBC) Awards, including the WBC Star Award for Technical Excellence for The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Project (which is one of the largest projects completed by Boatman and Magnani, Inc.) in Washington, D.C. It was also awarded the WBC Star Award for Excellence in the Face of Adversity for the Tyson’s II Project in McLean, Va., and the WBC Star Award for Technical Excellence for the Sports Club/LA Project at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Another large project completed by Boatman and Magnani was the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (Federal Triangle) in Washington, D.C. The work of over 150 valued employees was not unnoticed when Boatman and Magnani was awarded the prestigious Terrazzo Job of the Century by the National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association (NTMA).
Boatman and Magnani continues to make its mark using time-honored principles and exceptional craftsmanship and looks forward to new installation challenges in the future.
The company joined NTCA and pursued Five Star Contractor status to be considered part of a group of organizations that exemplify quality and integrity in the tile industry.
Relationships built through NTCA involvement led Willoughby to relocate to Portland to join the Hawthorne Tile team
By Ryan Willoughby, project manager, Hawthorne Tile
This is a brief story about how participation in the NTCA fostered the relationships to turn my whole life upside down, for the better.
It was February 2015, when Martin Brookes of Heritage Marble and Tile – then the NTCA Northern California Regional Director – had just returned from a Five Star Contractor presentation at Ann Sacks Tile and Stone in Portland, Ore. I was the NTCA State Ambassador at this time and had called him up to see how the presentation had gone.
Ryan Willoughby (l.) with Dirk Sullivan of Hawthorne Tile. Relationships built through NTCA involvement led Willoughby to relocate to Portland to join the Hawthorne Tile team.
Martin and I had become good friends through our participation in the NTCA. He had been a mentor to me since our companies were based in the same area, and we would typically see each other a few times a week. After hearing the skinny on the presentation, he shared about how much he had enjoyed his time in Portland with his co-Five Star presenter Dirk Sullivan of Hawthorne Tile. I told Martin that my wife, Roz, and I often toyed with the idea of moving our young family out of the Bay Area and that Portland was on our short list.
Roz and I had grown up in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate from San Francisco, and witnessed both the escalating prices and pace of life, making it difficult on a young middle class family. I’m a first-generation tile contractor and in 2015, had been self-employed for five years. While business was good, I wasn’t so established that relocation was completely off the table. With our oldest starting kindergarten the following year we knew our window for moving couldn’t be better.
But, even with all of that, if you had asked me then if I thought I was ever going to leave I’d probably have told you no, and that all the evenings I spent scouring the internet for information on other cities’ construction markets and housing were just a lark.
Then one day the phone rang; it was Dirk. He had been speaking to Martin earlier and heard that I was considering a move. Hawthorne Tile had a great reputation and was the only Five Star Contractor in the city. As Portland grew, Hawthorne’s opportunities did as well, and Dirk was looking to add a project manager to his team. He thought that I might be a fit, since we had met briefly at Total Solutions Plus the previous year.
After a long talk with Roz, Dirk and I scheduled a week that summer for me to come work with the Hawthorne team and explore the city with my family. Roz fell in love with the city; I felt comfortable with the team. So with both fear and excitement, we made a decision. Eight months later I had closed down Willoughby Tile, put our home on the market, and we had gotten pregnant with our third. If you’re going to turn your whole world upside down you might as well give it a really good heave. So, off we went on this new adventure.
As I sit here writing this in October 2016, eight months have passed since I started working for Hawthorne and I’m just now starting to feel the whirlwinds of change subside. I’ll be honest – a new city, new job, new home, and new baby have all been wonderful, but certainly not without their share of anxiety. I’ve never vocalized it but during that first month I certainly questioned my decision since I was perpetually humbled by being “the new guy” in every facet of my life. Comically, during that period I remember thinking in one moment how lucky Hawthorne was to have me, only to be followed moments later with doubts about my own abilities. Thank goodness for me that as time passed, so did my own neurosis. Today I just want to be the best member of the team I can be.
I have to say that from day one the men and women of Hawthorne Tile have made me feel welcome and an immediate member of the family. I may be biased, but I think our project management team has to be the best around, bar none. Each one of us brings to the table a unique set of assets, and the level of support we have for one another is refreshing. This is a direct result of Dirk’s vision and the culture he is growing here. Sitting at a table with three others and a shared passion of our trade really puts us in a unique position of growth.
This vision and passion, combined with continued education and staying at the forefront of the industry through participation with the NTCA really has me excited to see where we can go. I’ve always been taught that the more I gave to something the more I received and this has absolutely been true with the NTCA.
Sense of family extends from business to industry, with membership in NTCA
Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., got its beginnings back in 1946 when David Nichols started his career as a helper for Art Mosaic in Nashville, Tenn. After a leave of absence to join the Army, he returned from the Korean War in 1953 with a Purple Heart, and rejoined the private sector working on and managing out-of-town large commercial terrazzo projects. In the early 60s he left, and enjoyed two different partnerships with Glenn Arrington and Bob Dudley before starting Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc. in 1973, with his wife Juanita anchoring the office.
At Coverings 2016, NTCA’s Jim Olson (r.) presented Brad Denny with a Special Recognition Award for his efforts in promoting NTCA through social media and helping the association increase its membership.
In 1974, Nichols’ stepson, Billy Denny, joined the company straight out of college to help with the estimating until he could find another job. “He jokes that he has yet to find anything,” said Bradford (Brad) Denny, Billy’s son, who came on full time as an installer in 1998, after working four years as a helper when not in school. Billy’s daughter, Amber Hunter, started working in the office in 2001 and has gradually taken over the responsibilities of her grandmother.
Today, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., in Joelton, Tenn., is a NTCA member, focusing on commercial specialty projects and large custom residential, and has branched out into thin porcelain tile, while enjoying the challenge of large mortar beds, pools, fountains and waterproofing. Brad Denny, now project manager, serves the association as the NTCA Region 6 Director. He also moderates the online NTCA Members and NTCA Regional and State Ambassadors Facebook groups, and introduced NTCA to the Tile Geeks Facebook page, through which NTCA has gained new members. He was honored at Coverings 2016 as one of the Coverings Rock Stars, a group of some of the best and brightest young talent in the industry, and received a NTCA Special Recognition Award at Coverings for his constant voice in promoting NTCA in all forms of social media.
This project was a vignette for a manufacturer displaying at a hotel industry conference. It received a People’s Choice Award for best display.
“For many years and three generations our company has had the reputation for doing work that is technically sound and well installed,” Denny explained. “Our clients note their satisfaction with our attention to detail and their schedules. All of our advertising is word of mouth. Many of our competitors respect us and have reached out to us for help with difficult projects. We enjoy great relationships with our local distributors, and that has been an excellent help through the years. We are a tight-knit family – all employees included – and we look to work with others who reflect similar qualities. We strive to be fair and wise with the blessing to be able to work together and make a living from the works of our hands.”
From STTMAC to NTCA
Nichols Tile & Terrazzo was a member of NTCA’s precursor, STTMAC back in the day, but Denny said, the company “did not take advantage of the benefits of actively participating in the organization.” The company re-upped in 2010, through the influence of Tom “Hammy” Hambrock, who was then serving as NTCA Middle Tennessee State director.
This 3,000 sq. ft. commercial kitchen was challenging due to the height restriction and over 35 drains. Pictured is Mario Bertoli, whose family has a rich history in the Nashville tile industry.
“We had met through the John Bridge Forums, and Hammy was adamant that I should join at a local workshop we attended together,” Denny said. “If you know Hammy, he was a force of nature and difficult to say no to, although I had been eyeing the benefits of the organization and admired the work they were doing for the industry.”
In 2005, many things started shifting for Denny. He married his wife Nicole, and became more interested in the overall workings of the family business as he considered the future of his own family. Through his new laptop, he discovered johnbridge.com and a community that was passionate about tile. Many professionals he encountered were connected or spoke about NTCA and it “sparked a desire to become a part of that.
Under this stunning mosaic is a heated floor. The sheet-mounted material did not enjoy staying together and many of the small mosaics were installed piece by piece.
“In the fall of 2014, after being a member and attending a few trade shows, I called Jim Olson to ask if I could anchor Hammy’s former position after we lost him in February of that year,” Denny said. “After a year of serving as a State Director, circumstances opened up a need for a board member in late 2015 and I was approached about filling the seat. After speaking with my family and realizing the honor and opportunity, I accepted and will serve as the Region 6 Director until the end of 2018 and possibly for another two years if needed.”
Denny has the highest praise for the opportunities afforded by NTCA, crediting it for helping him grow as both “an installer and businessman. Through relationships with others that are at a place we’d like to be as a company, all the while helping those who’d like to be where we currently are, the NTCA provides a network of contractors that are interested in continuing what is essentially an ancient art form, that can be profitable for many families,” he said.
Pictured is Chris Martin, a longtime Nichols Tile & Terrazzo employee, cleaning up the pool decking and coping the company installed to complement the new surrounding wall tile. This remodel was a major updating to the historical first indoor pool in Tennessee. It involved a very detailed slope design to the mortar bed in a cramped space, new floated columns, and waterproofing to protect the space below it.
Thin tile is something Nichols Tile & Terrazzo has become comfortable with, to the point of tackling difficult projects. Pictured here is a green marble overlay with epoxy mortar.
“The work that the NTCA does to represent the contractor speaks directly to what we see as most important, protection of those close to you,” he added. Sharing experiences in tile setting with others on the same path, “really gives us a common thread that can be knitted together for a common good,” he said. “I feel like the NTCA is the perfect vehicle for that. From methods and standards to benefits and networking, the NTCA is something we are using to join our family with the larger family that is present.”
Denny is also keen on being credentialed, having obtained his Certified Tile Installer status (CTI #1190) at TISE 2016, and is looking to gain ACT certification in 2017. Others at Nichols are also seeking CTI status in the coming year as well.
For Denny, the artistry and longevity inherent in tile setting is part of the satisfaction of his craft. “I personally love creating something that is beautiful to the eye that will last for many years,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge of executing a design, the transfer of an idea from the mind and to physical reality. As a contractor, we enjoy providing the opportunity for a livelihood that is rewarding to individuals and families, all while satisfying our clients.”
This is another example of a difficult thin tile project. These concrete columns, in the middle of a preferred member lounge in a NHL arena, were clad with narrow strips of 3+ thin tile panels. Through training with one of the major manufacturers, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo was able to come in and finish this project started by another contractor.
About 16 years ago, Justin Kyle was working as a helper for a small tile company in Pennsylvania. What he didn’t know then was that all the installations by this company were being done incorrectly. Oops!
But Kyle started learning and teaching himself correct methods of tilesetting. “I started reading anything and everything I could on the subject of tile installation,” Kyle said. “The John Bridge Forum was a wealth of information for me, and I quickly realized that just about every project I had helped on was being done wrong. My concerns fell on deaf ears.”
Three years later, he left Pennsylvania for the beaches of Delaware to establish his own business.
“For the first five years after resettling, almost all the work I did was through a well-known, reputable, local tile shop,” Kyle said. “Through bouncing information off of their other installers I perfected my methods.”
Today, Kyle’s Tile is a strictly residential business, with 80% of jobs being renovations and 80% of these renovations being bathrooms. Kyle’s dedication to keep learning and staying on top of methods and products sets him apart from his competition. “I stay active in the industry, and through Tile Geeks and the NTCA, I have built up a great relationship with other very knowledgeable installers and company representatives,” he said.
Kyle joined the NTCA about a year ago. “I joined the NTCA mainly based on comments and suggestions given by other installers that I have a tremendous respect for,” he said. “They are members and if they think it’s good for them, I’m inclined to follow them.”
Kyle sees a range of values in being a NTCA member. “Obviously, there is the networking that is crucial in doing business in this day and age,” he said. “I am a one-man operation and always focused more on the craft than the business. The NTCA has helped me in balancing my focus between the two more equally. Running a business isn’t just about producing a great product. One has to learn the best ways to get that product out to clients in a way that is beneficial for both them and the installer – thus, learning the business side of the industry.”
Kyle dove in right away to give back to his industry through becoming a NTCA State Director. “I became a state director for two reasons,” he said. “First, when I joined the NTCA there were only two or three other NTCA members in my state. In becoming a State Director, I thought I could help in getting information about the organization in the hands of those who might be interested in it.
“The other reason was because of the need for qualified labor,” he explained. “I figured if I could get shops, designers, architects, and builders to become aware and understand the NTCA, we might be able to reduce the number of failed installations. In my area, the median home value is well over $500,000. We have good finish craftsmen but seem to lack qualified tile installers. Often, the tile portion of a project is the most overlooked and undervalued part of a build.”
Although Kyle is not currently a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) through the CTEF, clearly, that’s an important issue for him. To that end, he is actively working to bring a CTI testing session to his local area.
Being a tile installer is about independence, craftsmanship, creativity and satisfaction for Kyle. “In being a tile contractor, I get to be my own boss,” he said. “More importantly, I get to take a vague idea from a client and create something from it that outshines what they had envisioned. Being able to exceed their expectations is something that would make anyone smile.”
A quality job means executing a well-thought-out plan of action
By Lesley Goddin
Hutcheson Tile & Stone in Eagle River, Ak., prides itself on working directly with end users and helping them through the “sometimes difficult process of a renovation,” said Don Hutcheson, owner. The company has done commercial work, but Hutcheson explained, “Our pace and goals are more suited to assisting homeowners and designers execute a well-thought-out plan for a functional and aesthetically pleasing project.”
Hutcheson started out in 1997 with Local 1236 right out of high school. This was a soft-good union, but it didn’t take him long to recognize he needed a more artistic challenge than soft-goods installation could provide. With the motto, “stick with what you know,” in mind, Hutcheson focused in on the tile trade, starting his own business in 2003 and his own tile company nine years ago in 2007. “Tile was a part of the trade that required more skill than just a warm body,” he said. “You cannot – in our line of work – do a better job by just adding more people. Finishing a job does not require you to turn up the radio and sweat more; it takes a well-thought-out-plan of action and an understanding of what the last cut will look like before you set your first tile.”
Don Hutcheson with daughters (l. to r.) Elizabeth, now 6 and Emma, now 2. The new addition to the family this year is Evelyn, born May 17.
Continuing with his ethic of quality, Hutcheson joined NTCA two years ago after seeing the positive reviews from respected people on internet forums and social media who were promoting the values of being a member. “I always was confused about how to best tell someone how, or why to do something a certain way,” Hutcheson said. “Well, it is all there, right in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. I realized I had been doing some things wrong, but now I had a book that wasn’t just the text on a computer screen from who-knows-what-source, or [questionable] experience level of the person offering the information, but manufacturers and leaders of our industry who care greatly about the success of our industry as a whole.”
Hutcheson said that “One of the biggest benefits from the NTCA is the connection to other members who are equally, if not more, involved and concerned about the current state and future of our industry. The educational resources offered are amazing; with a little bit of digging around on the website, you will likely find more information than you were looking for. One of the greatest features to me, a small one-man show looking to expand, are the new training modules offered for an apprentice. Having gone through a union apprenticeship, I see value in training team members to be familiar with standards and expectations of our industry. That is a hard thing to do when you are trying to finish a shower for Mrs. Jones, but these are online classes that can be taken at any time. I think after a few years of this new program being out there we will see a significant increase in certified installers, and quality installations.”
Hutcheson is NTCA State Director for Alaska. He explained that “NTCA seems to be a good motivation for me to make myself, my business and my industry better – but there is no doubt that it can get lost sometimes in the daily grind of what we do. So after speaking with some folks who were State Directors and how that had helped them in their career, I asked about becoming the State Director for Alaska.”
The value is immense. “It is a great source of networking and I get to speak with other contractors that I meet at supply shops and tell them about the benefits of the NTCA,” he said. “I will get phone calls from suppliers or shops with questions. Those calls and conversations can come at any time and they are a great boost to morale and a reminder that we aren’t just installing a backsplash today – we are representing an industry and trying to make it better.”
Hutcheson just passed his certified installer exam on June 18th, making him the #1238 Certified Tile Installer in the country and the only one in Alaska. “It was a stressful test,” he admitted. Knowing a little about the difficulty from others who have taken the test, Hutcheson learned, “it was no walk in the park. I think that is a credit to NTCA and the CTEF for not just handing out participation awards.”
Being a tile setter is no walk in the park for Hutcheson, either. “Some days I hate this trade,” he honestly exclaimed. “Manufacturers of tile, product manufacturers, clients and peers all have different ideas what a great tile install should be. Those things are always in the back of your mind. I have never left a job that I was 100% satisfied with; I doubt I ever will. But I have never left a job that the client wasn’t happy with, either.” Hutcheson added, “When our clients are happy, they tell their friends about it and that is good for our industry. When our clients are upset with a job, they tell everybody, and those are the things that I try to avoid by being an informed member of the NTCA.”
This project entailed a curbless shower, with 6”x36” wood-look plank tile walls and floor with mirrored features on end walls. Electric floor warming was installed in the main floor, with a linear drain in the shower. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgDILsDBezg
Sal DiBlasi of Elite Tile Company in Medford, Mass., is a one man show – no employees, no shop. DiBlasi said, “I worked for a couple of companies at the beginning. In 1989, I decided to start my own business and have been at it ever since. I can’t imagine working for anyone but myself.”
Though DiBlasi has a website, his real focus is his impressive YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/saldibs. That’s where he uploads at least one video a week with varying themes. These include: how-tos, quick tips, product demonstrations and time lapse videos.
Di Blasi started uploading videos in 2006 but got serious with it a few years ago. “That is when I really started to see rapid growth of my channel,” he said. “I currently have over 550 videos online. Every video I make is linked to Facebook and Twitter.”
The bulk of DiBlasi’s work has evolved from commercial projects and a lot of new construction to tile in residential bathrooms, backsplashes, and floors. DiBlasi executes all the prep work with state-of-the-art materials or traditional shower systems when the situation calls for it, staying with a job until it is done.
“I will not rush to finish, and always concentrate on quality,” he said. “I no longer do rip outs; I am almost 59 years old and my shoulders are not in the best shape, so I have to be careful not to make them worse.”
The Lowell project involved all large-format tile with a linear drain, electric floor warming on the main floor and bench seat. One of several videos of this bathroom can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqkKeRj_Un8
DiBlasi is one of the NTCA’s newest members. “To be frank, the main reason is because your people hounded me to join at Coverings this year,” he said. “I refused to join while I was there because I wanted to think about it and not be pressured into it. Once I returned home I gave it some serious thought and decided that it really is an organization worth being a part of. I still need to discover all the things you have to offer, but so far my interactions with all the people that make up the NTCA have been very positive.”
DiBlasi has 32 years of experience. Though he holds no industry-recognized certifications, he says, “I have always tried to learn the proper installation methods. Even after all these years of installing tile I still get an enormous satisfaction when I stand back and see the final result of my labors, especially the more difficult ones.”
Back in 1984, John Kotara and his brother Raymond, founders of San Antonio’s J&R Tile, Inc., chose NTCA membership, with the intent of emphasizing professionalism, education and industry collaboration of its tradesmen and participants.
Today, 32 years later, following in her father’s footsteps, director of operations Erin Albrecht has taken the lead on continuing J&R’s focus of educating the staff and the industry. Christine Kotara oversees the operation as CEO.
J&R Tile director of operations Erin Albrecht.
This current generation of J&R Tile leadership has taken participation to the next level, with dedication to certification, NTCA State Directorship, and technical leadership. For instance, Albrecht is a NTCA Training & Education Committee member, serves on the NTCA Thin Porcelain Tile Subcommittee, and is a Texas State Director for NTCA.
NTCA membership – J&R Tile is a Five Star Contractor – has become an essential component in developing partner alliances with training and educational support, manufacturer cross collaboration and recruitment efforts deeply rooted in CTI and ACT-credentialed individuals.
Today, J&R Tile’s impressive roster of work encompasses commercial, design build renovations, architectural support and specification consultation, pre-construction consulting and installation, LTPT, ultra-compact surfaces, specialty glass mosaics, moisture remediation, plaster and mud work, concrete toppings, surface prep, and underfloor heating, as well as high-end residential.
Why does this Woman Owned Small Business consider itself “The Most Qualified Commercial Tile Contractor in Texas,” and THE resource for large and complicated projects in Texas?
J&R Tile’s crew of installers
100% qualified workforce; emphasis on training and staff support
For starters, J&R Tile’s workforce is 100% qualified through industry-recognized CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) credentialing and ACT certification. Since May 2015, it has trained and elevated seven CTIs, and two CTI professionals have achieved ACT Certification. Based on the CTI/ACT curricula, J&R Tile is currently developing several apprentice setters as well.
“It is our goal for J&R Tile, Inc. to be the most qualified, trained and technically-sound workforce in the trade,” Albrecht said. “The collaboration and professionalism of our CTIs and staff are what sets us apart, and we pride our business model on the complete experience.”
J&R provided technical expertise for substrate testing and to select and install the proper bonding agents for this Neiman Marcus project, that called for installation of plastic-sheet-mounted mosaics.
The company prides itself in offering creative, technically sound solutions to large technical challenges that help keep projects on schedule and under budget. Part of this comes from collaboration on pre-construction design and consultation from the project inception, and providing job-specific warranties and maintenance case studies on every project.
Part of the solidity of the company comes from the way it trains and regards its staff and full-time professional setting teams. The corporate strategy revolves around training, education, craftsmanship and quality installation. That includes a raft of weekly accountability and training measures for the company: weekly technical training and demonstrations at the company headquarters/training facility; weekly feedback from professional staff about products; weekly TCNA Handbook Training Topics aligned with product solutions, and an open forum for staff collaboration on new products and methods.
The company doesn’t pay lip service to the importance of training, either – it provides paid initial and ongoing training and incentives in the form of goal-structured project management led by CTIs and ACTs as superintendents/installers, and incentive-based profit sharing for all staff based on goals achieved.
There are other corporate benefits as well that fully support J&R team members: full time medical, dental and company-provided life insurance, and retirement plans with company matching contributions. In addition, the company provides all tools, truck and fuel for projects.
J&R Tile was tasked with massive demolition and replacement of 12 restrooms at Sea World in a three-week timeframe. The company conducted video documentation of substrate testing to substantiate technical recommendations prior to the start of the job. The contractor navigated the short time frame and worked around visitors and customers in the park, using rapid-set technology to meet the goals for the job.
“Every member on our team plays in important role, and we do our best to create an engaging, supportive environment,” Albrecht said. “It shows with the professionalism of our staff from the owners to the newest hire. It’s a very special culture that fosters accountability and trust.”
J&R Tile employs some innovations that helps it uphold its reputation for excellence: real time, cloud- based project documentation and feedback from CTI/ACT professionals; architectural outreach with strategic partners throughout the region through available CEU credits and demonstrations, and showcasing J&R Tile’s professional installers and projects on social media and through a robust website (www.jandrtile.com).
Industry and community outreach
J&R’ s involvement doesn’t stop with its support of internal staff and the architectural design community. It’s invested in raising the excellence of the local industry tile community – as well as giving back with community outreach that also supports the future of the tile trade.
J&R arranges for ACT-certified setters to work with youth in growing interest in construction trades through involvement with Boy Scouts, PACE Program (Builders Exchange of Texas), the Pre-Employment Architectural and Construction Exploration Program, and TCCI (Texas Construction Career Initiative).
J&R Tile was faced with a costly demolition of 62 dormitory restrooms at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, with extended down times. This fast-track project required the work to be completed in phases, where one floor at a time would be completed. Phasing was important due to students occupying the floors above and below where the renovations were being done. The major scope of work was the demolition and replacement of all outdated shower/tub units. The shower valves were replaced by the plumbing contractor, and the existing base and entry to restroom had an outdated tile curb to be replaced. J&R Tile coordinated with the general contractor to have the plumbing contractor stub out for the thickness of the new tile. New 4 1/4” x 8 1/2” tile was installed on existing 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” wall tile.
When Dan Hecox, current NTCA State Director for Nebraska, was just a wee lad, he had a penchant for tearing things apart and putting them back together. Junior and high school classes in shop that included building constructiocn, welding, finish carpentry and drafting attracted him like a magnet, so much so that after high school graduation, he went to Southeast Community College and earned an Associate Degree in Building Construction.
His next step after graduating college was to establish a business as a general contractor in 1991 to exercise his passion for finish carpentry. In 1998, he began working for a management company that owned Pizza Huts, which gave him a chance to flex his construction muscles and immerse himself in the world of tile setting. “In the 15 years of working on Pizza Huts, I traveled around the Midwest working on 30+ stores, doing everything from minor repairs, to full remodels, to building the stores,” Hecox said. These locations needed remodeling of the restrooms, with tile set around sinks and urinals – and at the time, Hecox had not yet set tile. He educated himself and fell in love with tile setting – “it was a lot like finish carpentry,” he said. “It required a lot of attention to detail, to have it done correctly.” After many years of working with his local tile supplier in Lincoln, his sales reps questioned him as to why he wasn’t setting tile full time. “I had never been asked that before and decided it was time to transition to just tile,” he explained.
Over the last three years, Hecox has specialized exclusively in tile, jumping from his GC commercial restaurant specialty with regional Pizza Hut construction and some residential work, to strictly custom showers, bathrooms in new residential construction and remodels. “I’m still listed as a GC, but I’m no longer doing GC work,” he said. “I’m looking into changing my business name to reflect the 24/7 tile work.”
Hecox is deeply involved in the industry and in making sure his customers are happy. “I have continually gone to different workshops and specialized training opportunities around the country,” he said. “I attend trade shows and network with my peers to do the absolute best job I can do for my customers. That includes taking the hands-on portion of the Certified Tile Installer test during the recent Coverings show in Chicago – with a goal to achieve the seven ACT certifications, obtain further training at Crossville this fall and work with two other shops on both East and West coasts “to shadow them and learn about mud work, floating walls, etc.,” he said. (At this writing, Hecox is CTI #1215)
Hecox is a one-man operation, and signed on as a NTCA member about a year ago, after receiving TileLetter for about a year. He said he “could see a great benefit to belonging to a trade organization and expanding my business through networking with other like type trade professionals.” He wasted no time becoming NTCA State Director for Nebraska. Hecox said, “The greatest value in being a NTCA member has been networking with people not just in the United States but also globally. It has allowed me to become friends with people I would never have known otherwise.”
Hecox experienced a blip in his career path in 2007, when in the middle of the Pizza Hut building project, he was diagnosed with stage 4 tonsil cancer. The doctor demanded he quit work for over four months to undergo treatment, but instead Hecox worked through the neck dissection, and time-consuming radiation and chemo treatments to get the restaurants built, then took a much-deserved rest when they were complete.
“Being able to fulfill people’s dreams and desires with their homes” inspires Hecox. “Seeing people’s reactions as the different phases of the project are completed and hearing their praises of happiness keeps me highly motivated.” And their praises – together with all Hecox’s dedication – are paving a path towards more prosperity for Hecox, with their word-of-mouth advertising fueling the growth of his business.
These two projects illustrate the scope of Hecox’s work today. In the first, the customers had requested a zero-entry shower. Since the framing was already complete, Hecox cut out sections of the subfloor and reinforced the I-joists in order to lower the subfloor and install the two linear drains to match the floor tile height. Heat was installed on the floor and bench.
In the second project, 1,200 sq. ft. of plank floor were installed with alternating 6” and 9” width planks, along with alternating colors of Natural and Saddle.
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.
Tom Cravillion of Cravillion Tile & Stone LLC
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.