James Woelfel to Receive NTCA Ring of Honor Award

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) has chosen James Woelfel, president of Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Company in Mesa, Ariz., as its 2019 recipient of the NTCA Ring of Honor.

The NTCA Ring of Honor is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes NTCA contractors and associate members whose efforts have helped grow the association and assisted in achieving its objectives. Recipients are chosen by NTCA executive officers.

James Woelfel


Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the NTCA and last year’s NTCA Ring of Honor recipient, said Woelfel was chosen because of his dedication to the association and the tile installation trade. “James has provided leadership and passion to our association. He has been a constant advocate for the professional tile contractor in the development of standards and methods and is a staunch proponent of qualified labor. He has served on the executive committee for many years and is most deserving of this prestigious recognition.”

Woelfel has been the chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee since 2007 and is a voting member of the TCNA Handbook and ANSI A108, 118, and 137.1 Committees. He served as president of the NTCA from 2015-2017 and was the 2011 recipient of the NTCA Tile Person of the Year Award. Woelfel is also an NTCA Recognized Consultant and a highly-rated speaker at industry shows such as Coverings, The International Surface Event (TISE), and Total Solutions Plus.

“Receiving the Ring of Honor shows that James’ peers have recognized the years of meaningful work he has done for the NTCA,” said Bettiga. “There is nothing more honorable and laudable than what this award represents.”

Woelfel’s father, Butch Woelfel, was the 2007 NTCA Ring of Honor recipient recognized for his career contributions to the association. The Woelfels are the only father and son to both receive the NTCA Ring of Honor recognition.

Woelfel will receive the award on October 29th, 2019 during the Awards Luncheon at the Total Solution Plus conference in Nashville, Tenn.

NTCA Five-Star Summer Meeting Offers Education and Connections

NTCA Five-Star Contractors Summer Meeting attendees sharing insights.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, hosted its 2019 NTCA Five-Star Contractor Annual Summer Meeting in Montreal, Canada. The objective of this year’s meeting, hosted by Schluter Systems, was not only to provide valuable education, but also to help the attendees form connections so they would feel comfortable reaching out to one another when advice or support is needed.  

“The NTCA Five-Star Contractor group is grateful to Schluter Systems for their support in this endeavor,” said NTCA Five Star Program Director Amber Fox. “They helped us create a unique experience to connect and to refine and grow our businesses together.” 

The NTCA Five-Star Contractor designation recognizes NTCA members who have demonstrated integrity, professionalism, and craftmanship and has a proven track record of success in tile and stone installation and business management.  

“One of the great benefits of being an NTCA Five-Star Contractor is the custom educational opportunities that come from generous supporters, said Fox. “This meeting creates multiple opportunities for NTCA Five-Star contractor members to come together and work on their business through speakers and from each other.”   

Keynote speaker Mike Moore speaking to NTCA Five-Star Summer Meeting attendees.

Keynote speaker Mike Moore speaking to attendees.

Keynote speaker Mike Moore opened the event with a session on how to approach the task of attracting, developing, and retaining inspired motivated employees. Moore’s process will help the NTCA Five-Star Contractors separate themselves from their competitors by creating an organizational culture that delivers a higher quality of work and customer experience. Besides being a professional keynote speaker, Moore is the author of Build Trust and a leadership, sales and peak performance coach. 

While at the meeting, attendees had two opportunities to attend sessions that focused on addressing current challenges they were facing. The first consisted of small peer groups that tackled specific obstacles attendees were experiencing. Attendees benefitted from insights and solutions offered by their group members. The second session was structured as an in-depth roundtable discussion that covered topics attendees had pre-selected via a poll that was distributed before the meeting. The four topics chosen were: 

  1. Growing and improving your labor force 
  2. Customer and employee engagement/communication 
  3. Vendor relationships 
  4. Profitability 

“This year’s attendees returned home with new plans and strategies designed to help them start, manage, and successfully finish their jobs and reinforced connections that will offer them support they need to help their business to continue to be prosperous,” Fox said. 

To learn more about the NTCA Five-Star Contractor Program, visit www.tile-assn.com/page/FiveStar 

NTCA National Apprenticeship Guidelines provide career road map in the tile trade

NTCA simplifies DOL-approved “earn as you learn” opportunity 

If you’ve been in the tile industry for any length of time, you know one of the most common themes is the shortage of qualified labor to do the tile work that is ripe for the picking. Another theme is that fewer young people are choosing a trade over college, so the trade is starting to “age out.” And still one more is carving out a clear career path for those who enter the tile trade.

NTCA staff and board outlining courses for the setter program.

(Clockwise from left) Dirk Sullivan, Hawthorne Tile; Woody Sanders, DW Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting, Inc.; and Dave Rogers and Dan Welch of Welch Tile and Marble outlining courses for the setter program. CTEF’s Scott
Carothers and early
on Gerald Sloan – when he was a trainer with NTCA – are also among those who helped develop the program. Not pictured: NTCA’s Becky Serbin.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), a.k.a. “The Voice of the Contractor,” has been working on a range of ways to approach these problems. And now, with the help of a team of staff members, NTCA Five-Star Contractors and government officials, the NTCA is pleased to announce that the “National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association” have been approved by the Department of Labor (DOL). 

What it is

National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association provides a structure that a NTCA member in any state can use to develop a DOL-approved apprenticeship program, tailored to the needs and goals of their individual company. The program combines classroom time and on-the-job learning (OJL) components in a two-year finisher program and a three-year setter program. It incorporates coursework from NTCA University and OJL into a hybrid program. That means apprentices are not locked into the 144 hours of classroom time and 2,000 hours of OJL and experience. Instead, focus on core competencies means individual apprentices who excel can satisfy a reduced time investment in the OJL component, while still logging the 144 classroom hours. 

“We’ve taken the difficulty of trying to navigate the system,” said Becky Serbin, NTCA Education and Curriculum Director, who has been spearheading this program. 

Apprenticeship training with The Oregon-Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust.

Apprenticeship training with The Oregon-Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust.

Why it’s important

Welch apprentices doing hands-on training.

Welch apprentices doing hands-on training.

With the National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association, member companies can offer interested young men and women, veterans, those who have grown disenchanted with college, and others seeking work in the tile trade a chance to learn in a way that best suits the company sponsor. And apprentices are paid as they learn and progress through the program. 

“We need to cultivate and bring qualified people into the work force regardless of job climate and construction economy,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “We are an aging work force. Young people aren’t coming into the trade to replace older people in the work force. We have a worker shortage even if the economy dips.”

This program also offers a career path in the trade. “Until we could get these guidelines approved, we couldn’t show a clear path for those who came into the trade,” Bettiga said. “Going through apprenticeship, they are getting training and education as well as jobsite experience. We’re confident we will attract more capable, qualified people into the industry by showing them a career. When you have apprenticeship – and they master each task, take their online courses, get trained in classroom and get field experience – they can earn more income as they go. It’s an incentive to master the trade. 

“The beauty is we have a better story than a four-year undergrad degree,” he added. “Apprentices start earning immediately; often there is money available to offset costs of tools and student expenses or even scholarships for at-risk students who can’t afford it.”

How it started 

The idea for this program started years ago with NTCA member Jim Isaminger of DMI Tile & Marble, Inc., in Birmingham, Ala., who developed a DOL-approved apprenticeship program in 1996. Through a passionate commitment by Dan Welch of Welch Tile and Marble in Kent City, Mich., and staff member Dave Rogers, along with NTCA’s Becky Serbin, the program evolved to including recorded learning modules that facilitated offsite learning on phones and devices. Other industry members and volunteers worked to revise the outlines for the setter program and write curriculum. Serbin, Welch, Bettiga and Dave Jackson, the DOL contact for the state of Michigan, advanced the project, and Serbin’s work of synthesizing all the information into a cogent program was highly praised by the DOL. 

How to put this to use in your business

NTCA members interested in putting an apprenticeship program in place can visit www.tile-assn.com/apprenticeship. Serbin will reach out to interested contractors to discuss the program and contact the office of apprenticeship in the state. She’ll then begin working with their office to determine what additional paperwork may be needed. After all the paperwork is assembled, the company submits it for approval. Once the DOL gives it the green light, they will have their own DOL-approved apprenticeship program. At that point the company – or coalition of companies – can begin recruiting apprentices. 

“NTCA members need to reach out to us and let us know their interest,” Bettiga said. “This program needs a state or local administrator, which can be a contractor, technical school, vocational school, construction school or chapter. They don’t have to be a large company to be an administrator or have their own program.” In Portland, for instance, the Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust is a co-op of NTCA member contractors united in apprenticeship, with a program administrated by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (see TileLetter, July 2018 for the story). 

“In addition to helping NTCA members navigate through the paperwork, NTCA can help them navigate through the process no matter what state you are in,” Bettiga said.

Next steps

Welch apprentices taking a warehouse tour.

Welch apprentices taking a warehouse tour.

The program is in a state of ongoing development. A team of NTCA members is helping Serbin finish the content on NTCA University, and Serbin is finalizing paperwork and documents that will be used by members. 

“We think the tile industry has a unique story to tell and a unique allure compared to other construction trades,” Bettiga said. “We want to tap into people who have that artistic flair, across gender lines. If you are trained as a tile installer, your work is visibly seen and admired; our craft is visually observed by consumers. 

“With the National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association, NTCA member companies now have an effective tool that can attract quality people, and train them in the way that best suits their company,” Bettiga added. “They can support apprentices, and as apprentices are trained the right way to grow their company, they in turn support the trade. This goes beyond the opportunity to make money setting tile. Installers have gone onto positions in estimating, project management, outside sales and technical sales. But they all started as knowledgeable tile installers. That makes you marketable in many sectors of the industry.” 

Welch added, “There’s no easy button. This takes a lot of investment. If you are going to develop people, it’s a journey, not a race. This is one step that rewards more competent people who possess core competencies that now can be measured on the road to advancing through pay grades from apprentice, journeyman, master. It’s a road map for you to do with what you will.”

NTCA transcends countries to attract quality-minded tile setters

Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone works to establish and update standards in Australia

Of NTCA’s nearly 1,600 members, a number of tile contractors make their homes and operate their businesses outside of U.S. soil – allowing our membership to spread to Australia, Mexico, Canada and other countries around the world.

Tim Christopher, owner of Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone

One such world member is Tim Christopher, owner of Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone in Canberra, Australia, who has been a tile contractor for 20 years in Australia. Upon completion of his three-year apprenticeship, Christopher was awarded Apprentice of the Year in his state. 

From there, Christopher formed his own company, Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone, which has completed various types of work including rural, residential and commercial. Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone has been contracted to work on several of national buildings such as Parliament House of Australia, and Australian Treasury.

Attentiveness to new technologies and products keeps Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone on the cutting edge of new products as they have become introduced in our market. “Moisture-sensitive stone would be a good example of this,” Christopher said. “My company was one of the first in my region to successfully install this type of product in a market where many failures were occurring through misunderstanding products such as reconstituted stone.”

Christopher is currently vice president of the Tile and Tiling Industry Association of Australia (TTIAA). “This is a small association set up to benefit the industry here, in an environment where tile is not particularly well supported as far as up-to-date training or establishment of relevant guidelines,” he explained. “I am actively supporting the update of our Australian Standard for tiling, as it is very outdated. Indeed, our standard was written when the iPhone wasn’t even in existence.”

In a quest for better training, standards and guidelines for his company and his country, Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone became a member of the NTCA. “It is evident to me that the USA is probably the most active region for ongoing support of the tile industry across all areas,” Christopher said. “The development in the area of setting tile is second to none. The Gauged Porcelain Tile Standards are an example of this. The guidelines in the USA are established with relevant input from all concerned to produce practical standards. I believe this approach would be of benefit to us here in Australia.”

Currently Christopher is undertaking some consultancy work for tribunals. “There is a certain failure rate of tile installations in Australia as in the USA,” he said. “I hope to help educate our industry through the knowledge I have gained by continuing to be a member of the NTCA.”

Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone Projects



(ARLINGTON, VA—March 28, 2019) Coverings (coverings.com), the largest international tile & stone exhibition and conference in North America, will offer more than 50 educational opportunities to attendees of the 2019 show. Through this robust lineup, leaders in the tile and stone industry will provide daily education and trend insights during the April 9-12 show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

Coverings’ in-depth educational offering is designed to keep tile and stone professionals current and provide a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced market. Open to all attendees and exhibitors and free of charge, the 2019 educational program includes 60- and 90- minute CEU-accredited sessions, 20-minute quickfire and “byte-size” presentations as well as live demonstrations dedicated to a wide range of professionals including architects and designers, fabricators, builders, installers, fabricators and more.

Coverings 2019 featured programming will include new content and bring back attendee favorites, with key industry leaders and the following topics:

Tuesday, April 9, 8:30-9:30 AM

“Color in the New Era: Trends, Twists and Tweaks” will forecast color and design trends for 2020. Presented by Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute and the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training, programming will highlight the notion that muted and vibrant tones can co-exist and that a traditional style tweaked with futuristic touches can provide a sense of familiarity with a unique or contemporary perspective.

Tuesday, April 9, 8:30-9:30 AM

Wednesday, April 10, 9:30-10:30 AM

Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association, and Jim Hieb, CEO of The Natural Stone Institute will moderate “Town Hall Meeting – Residential: What Homebuilders & Specifiers Are Saying About the Tile & Stone Industry” and “Town Hall Meeting – Commercial: What General Contractors & Specifiers are Saying About the Tile & Stone Industry.” Both meetings will explore industry insights, with the first session examining from a residential perspective and the second from a commercial  perspective. On Tuesday, April 9, tile installers and stone fabricators will gain perspective on what home builders and design professionals expect from their partners on residential projects. On Wednesday, April 10, general contractors and design professionals will share their insights for tile installers and stone fabricators for commercial project success. A roundtable discussion will follow both Town Hall sessions.

Tuesday, April 9, 8:30-9:30 AM

“Trump, Tariffs and Taxes: What’s Next for Your Business” will take a look at trade policies and explore how businesses will be affected over the next few years. Gene Marks, Columnist for The Washington Post and Owner of Marks Group, will take a deep dive into the issues attendees know and those they don’t, including on update on USMCA/NAFTA 2.0, EU negotiations and China tariff negotiations. The session will also highlight potential global trouble spots that may impact the tile & stone industry.

Wednesday, April 10, 8:00-9:00 AM

James Dion, President and Owner of Dionco Inc., will provide insights on how retail is evolving and how companies can continue to thrive amidst consumers’ changing shopping patterns. Dion will discuss new innovations and technology, as well as those that have the potential to become a part of the marketplace in a session titled, “E-Commerce, M-Commerce, Conversation Commerce, Brick & Mortar: Customers’ Many Ways to Get What They Want – How to Deliver On All.”

Wednesday, April 10, 1:30-2:30 PM

“Transparency Trilogy Part I: Transparency in Materials” will be a panel discussion between Bill Griese, Director of Standards Development & Sustainability Initiatives at The Tile Council or North America, and Luciano Galassini, Deputy Director of Confindustria Ceramica, moderated by Kadie Yale, Founder of Designology Co*Operative. The trio will discuss the ingredients from which tiles and related installation materials are most commonly made and their health attributes compared to other flooring materials, as well as why today’s consumers and specifiers are so passionate about material components and how they’re reported.

Wednesday, April 10, 8:30-10:00 AM

Alena Capra, Coverings Industry Ambassador and Owner of Alena Capra Designs, and Ryan Fasan, Design and Technical Consultant for Tile of Spain, join Scott Conwell, FAIA LEED-AP CSI CDT, Director of Industry Development at the International Masonry Institute for “Right Product, Right Usage, Any Place.” This hands-on session will feature discussion to bring attendees up to speed with the latest product offerings and how to utilize them to create the best effect in specifications. The session will explore the myriad of options available today through the lens of health, safety, ROI and ease of ownership for clients.

Thursday, April 11, 2:00-3:00 PM

“Global Tile Trends,” presented by Ryan Fasan; Cristina Faedi, Manager of Promotional Activities at Ceramics of Italy & Cersaie; and Lindsey Waldrep, Vice President of Marketing at Crossville Inc., facilitates a discussion of the latest trends. Taking a look at innovative designs, techniques and materials, the session will analyze how to transform installations. A new Global Tile Trends Tour, led by Alena Capra, will commence following the presentation.

To learn more about educational offerings and create a personalized schedule, visit coverings.com.


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Coverings 2019 takes place April 9-12 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. For more information, visit coverings.com or contact Taffy Events, Coverings Show Management, 703-539-5504.

NTCA contractors contribute to R.I.S.E. program home

NTCA and members of the tile industry have been strong supporters of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program, which builds specially-adapted smart homes tailored to the needs of wounded veterans across the nation.

NTCA contractors John Mourelatos (l.) and James Woelfel at the home dedication.

NTCA contractors John Mourelatos (l.) and James Woelfel at the home dedication.

Recently, a 3,300 sq. ft. smart home was constructed in Tucson, Ariz., for United States Army Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Caleb Brewer and his family. Two Arizona-based NTCA contractor members – Mourelatos Tile Pro from Tucson (also a NTCA State Ambassador) and Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile, a NTCA Five-Star Contractor from Mesa — donated tile installation services, with materials for the project donated by Arizona Tile, and setting materials by MAPEI.


United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) , with wife Ashley and daughters Evelyn and Emily at the groundbreaking.

United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) , with wife Ashley and daughters Evelyn and Emily at the groundbreaking.

Sgt. Caleb Brewer

United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) joined the armed forces while in high school and served as an Intelligence Analyst in the Army Reserves and a Green Beret. On December 4, 2016 (his 31st birthday), while deployed to Afghanistan, an explosion at a Taliban improvised explosive device (IED) factory resulted in Caleb losing both legs and sustaining other serious injuries. Yet just three months later, Caleb learned to walk on a single prosthetic leg and went on to relearn surfing, shooting, running, and rock climbing with his new prosthetic legs. He’s even completed events such as the Army 10 Miler run and the Bataan Memorial Death March.

Caleb and his wife Ashley live with their two daughters, Evelyn and Emily, in Tucson, where he is currently taking care of his two daughters full time at home. The 100% mortgage-free, specially-adapted smart home provided by the Gary Sinise Foundation will greatly increase his ability to perform necessary daily functions with ease.


A customized home for a wounded veteran

The Gary Sinise Foundation worked with Caleb to determine what challenges and obstacles he faced in his previous home, and custom designed a new home so that Caleb could function as independently as possible.

In the kitchen, a French door oven was placed at an accessible height so Caleb could roll up, open the doors, and use the oven as anyone else would; ditto the microwave.  The kitchen design included roll-under areas below the sink and cooktop and custom pull-down shelving in the cabinetry to give Caleb complete access to everything in the kitchen.

The master bath shower design was customized so Caleb could pull his wheelchair up and transfer onto a bench with accessible controls and a hand-held shower faucet.  Mourelatos Tile Pro constructed a large masonry bench in the shower and installed Sun Touch wire heating system, purchased from Emser Tile, to heat the top surface of the bench.

Caleb in the shower installed by NTCA member Mourelatos Tile Pro of Tucson.

Caleb in the shower installed by NTCA member Mourelatos Tile Pro of Tucson.

“We worked closely with him on the finished height of the bench so that he can transfer to the bench from his wheelchair,” Mourelatos said. “We installed his shampoo niche lower above the bench and his wife’s shampoo niche higher up on the opposite wall.” Plenty of space allowed Caleb to maneuver in his wheelchair in the bathroom, including a roll-under area below his sink.

A home gym and workshop areas were also incorporated into the design of the home for Caleb, so he could maintain a healthy lifestyle and work with others with disabilities in the community who are looking for innovative ways to stay in shape.  A workshop area was also incorporated into the design of the home so he had a dedicated area to pursue this hobby and passion.

A home automation package allows Caleb to control various functions of the home from an iPad or phone, such as: video surveillance, automated blinds/shades, security system, automatic door locks, climate control, audio, and video.


Tailoring tile for transitions

In addition to normal considerations such as wider hallways, doorways, zero clearance thresholds, and oversized rooms in general, it was key to make sure transitions between hardwood and tile were smooth. The durability and timelessness of the tile in the entries and bathrooms were important considerations in the home.  And this is where our NTCA contractors came in.

It was important that transitions - like this one in the the master bathroom -- were smooth between different floor coverings.

It was important that transitions – like this one in the the master bathroom — were smooth between different floor coverings.

Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director, contacted John Mourelatos of Mourelatos Tile Pro and the Gary Sinise Foundation contacted James Woelfel of Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile to determine if they were both interested in the project. After an enthusiastic affirmation, builder Hayes Construction began working with Mourelatos and Woelfel on an estimate.

The contractors studied the plans and decided among themselves what areas of the home they would tackle: Mourelatos would install tile in the master bathroom, which included floor and shower;

Artcraft would take the kitchen, the laundry, Caleb’s training area restroom and his children’s bathroom. The builder, both contractors and Caleb met with Scott Kuzma at Arizona Tile to select the tile material; later on Mourelatos met with the Brewers to select grout colors for all the tiled areas.

John Mourelatos, being local in Tucson, helped out with planning and coordinating of material and selection to minimize the need for Woelfel to drive up from Mesa, and the companies communicated about details via phone and email. “I kept James updated about the progress of the build and sent him pictures along the way prior to our start date,” Mourelatos said. “Ed Siebern worked in the master bathroom while the three installers from Artcraft worked in the guest bath and kitchen.”   Siebern, a Certified Tile Installer, was at the job full time to complete prep work and tile installation.

The Mourelatos Tile Pro crew includes (L. to r.): Certified Tile Installer Ed Siebern, John Mourelatos, Caleb and Ashley Brewer and installer Cody Elmer.

The Mourelatos Tile Pro crew includes (L. to r.): Certified Tile Installer Ed Siebern, John Mourelatos, Caleb and Ashley Brewer and installer Cody Elmer.

Eager to serve

Both contractors were eager to donate their time on this project as a debt of gratitude.

“We as a nation cannot do enough for our veterans, especially our wounded heroes,” said Woelfel, who added that he was gratified by “the look on [Caleb’s] and his family’s face when they saw the finished product.”

James Woelfel, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Co., Mesa, Ariz., speaking at the home dedication

James Woelfel, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Co., Mesa, Ariz., speaking at the home dedication

Mourelatos said over the years, he’d watched the work done on the R.I.S.E. program homes; so when he discovered one was being built “less than five miles from my house, I became excited about the opportunity,” he said.

“After meeting the Brewers, and learning about their story of service, family, and faith, I knew this was a project I wanted to be a part of,” Mourelatos continued. “We have donated our time for tile installation in the past (Extreme Makeover House here in Tucson), but this project meant so much more. My installer [Ed Siebern] has a son that is in a wheelchair, born with Cerebral Palsy, and he was very passionate about being involved in this installation. This was an opportunity to do something for a family that has given so much, and continues to give back to the community.”


Donated products include:

Arizona Tile

  • 12” x 24” Cemento Cassero Grigio Porcelain Tile
  • 3” x 12” Bullnose tile
  • 12” x 12” Flat Pebble Cool Blend Stone Mosaic
  • 16” x 24” Regis Porcelain Tile
  • 12” x 24” WF Jog Porcelain Tile
  • 1”x 4” Shimmer Abalone Glass Tile
  • 8”x 8” Marrakesh Grey Matte Porcelain Tile



  • Aquadefense waterproofing membrane
  • LFT Mortar
  • Flexcolor CQ grout
  • Mapesil T silicone
  • Linear drain
  • Adesilex P10 White Mortar
  • 4 to 1 Mud Bed Mix
  • Planitop 330 Fast
  • Mapelastic CI

Employment rises in 37 states in February; starts drop; surveys show worker-supply worries


Seasonally adjusted construction employment rose from February 2018 to February 2019 in 37 states and declined in 13 states and the District of Columbia, an AGC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released recently showed. Texas added the most construction jobs (22,700 jobs, 3.1%), followed by Florida (22,400, 4.2%), Arizona (16,500, 10.7%) and West Virginia (16,000, 46%). West Virginia again added the highest percentage of construction jobs, followed by Nevada (12%, 10,200 jobs), Alaska (11%, 1,700) and Arizona. Construction employment set record highs in Oregon and Pennsylvania. Louisiana shed the most construction jobs (-5,500, -3.7%), followed by South Carolina (-3,800, -3.6%) and Missouri (-3,000, -2.4%). Maine had the steepest decline (-6.8%, -2,000 jobs), followed by Vermont (-5.8%, -900) and Louisiana. Construction employment rose from January to February in 16 states, fell in 33 states and D.C. and was unchanged in Vermont. (AGC’s rankings are based on seasonally adjusted data, which in D.C., Hawaii and Delaware is available only for construction, mining and logging combined.)

The value of “new construction starts in February dropped 3% from the previous month” at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, Dodge Data & Analytics reported on Thursday. “During the first two months of 2019, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were…down 12% from the same period a year ago…On a 12-month moving total basis, total construction starts for the 12 months ending February 2019 were able to remain essentially even with the corresponding amount for the 12 months ending February 2018,” with residential starts up 2%, nonresidential building starts unchanged and nonbuilding starts down 5%. Chief economist Robert Murray commented, “‘The pace of construction starts has been lackluster in early 2019…The public works sector has retreated, likely affected by harsh winter weather conditions and the fact that fiscal 2019 federal appropriations for several programs were not finalized until mid-February. With funding levels now set, including a 2% increase for the federal-aid highway program, it’s expected that public works will show improvement in coming months. For residential building, single-family housing remains sluggish, as affordability constraints continue to dampen demand even as mortgage rates have settled back, while a more cautious lending stance by banks may now be starting to restrain multifamily development….market fundamentals for warehouses and office buildings remain supportive for construction, and the large amount of funding coming from state bond measures passed in recent years should contribute to healthy levels of construction activity for such institutional project types as school construction.'”

Construction data firm ConstructConnect reported on March 12 that the value of starts in February 2019 declined 14% from February 2018. Nonresidential building starts fell 23% (commercial construction, -42%; institutional, -10%; and industrial, 35%). Residential starts decreased 17% (single-family, -15%, and apartments, -22%) and heavy engineering (civil) gained 14%. The value of starts in the latest 12 months combined slipped 4.5% from the February 2017-February 2018 period, with nonresidential starts down 0.1% and residential starts down 11%.

Construction consultancy FMI reported results on Thursday from “100 responses [collected at the end of 2018] from best-in-class companies that are active in AGC’s Surety Bonding and Construction Risk Management Forum.” Respondents were asked to choose the top three risks out of a list of 10. The largest share (80%) listed “limited supply of skilled/craftworkers,” followed by “limited supply of experienced field supervisors” (44% of respondents), “changes in contract language/insurance (33%) and “tighter project schedules” (30%). Responding firms included general contractors (66%), construction managers (26%) and specialty contractors (8%).

The U.S. Chamber/USG quarterly Commercial Construction Index, released on March 14, “fell three points to the lowest level since the survey began” in the first quarter (Q1) of 2017. “In Q1 2019, all three key drivers of confidence—backlog, confidence in new business and anticipated revenue—declined for the first time in the survey’s history. Confidence in new business suffered the largest drop (five points), but this may be due to concerns about the overall health of the economy and the federal government shutdown. Overall, the sector remains healthy, with more modest drops in backlog (three points) and revenue (two points). In fact, the backlog score…matched or exceeded most quarters in 2017 and the first half of 2018….Market trends for Q1 2019 are widely consistent with those reported last quarter, with steady concerns about finding skilled workers, and increased caution about investing in equipment. However, anxiety about the impact of material cost fluctuations dropped notably, suggesting that these concerns may be easing somewhat.” The online survey was conducted January 10-22 by Dodge, using “a panel of more than 2,700 decision makers that includes general contractors, construction managers, design-builders and trade contractors.”

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) exceeded the breakeven 50 mark for the 25th month in a row in February, with a seasonally adjusted score of 50.3, down from 55.3 in January, the American Institute of Architects reported on Thursday. The ABI measures the percentage of surveyed architecture firms that reported higher billings than a month earlier, less the percentage reporting lower billings; scores over 50, on a 0-100 scale, suggest billings increased overall. Scores (based on three-month moving averages) for three practice specialties have remained above 50 since the second half of 2016: commercial/industrial, 53.9, up from 51.8 in January; residential (mainly multifamily), 51.5, up from 51.1; and institutional, 50.9, down from 51.5.

A full roster mark NTCA activities at Coverings

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) has a full roster of activities, events, and features for those attending the Coverings show, especially for the contractor community.

Before the show gets rolling, the NTCA has two events on its agenda. Monday morning, April 8, in room S230A, NTCA will hold a Board of Directors meeting from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., which is open to all. 

2018 Clean the World volunteers

2018 Clean the World volunteers

Later Monday afternoon, NTCA will co-sponsor the Clean the World charity event, along with MAPEI and Florida Tile. Teams will assemble 1,600 hygiene packets on Monday afternoon at the Orange County Convention Center, which will then be distributed to local veterans in the community.  

NTCA is brimming with education at Coverings. Below is a sampling of some Conference Sessions that contractors will want to check out. Be sure to visit www.coverings.com for expanded descriptions and to register, where necessary. Not- to-be missed sessions are: 

Tuesday, April 9 

8:30 am – 9:30 am


Coverings conference sessions

A raft of conference sessions geared towards contractors is on tap.

Town Hall Meeting – Residential: What Homebuilders & Specifiers are Saying about the Stone & Tile Industry, featuring moderators Bart Bettiga of NTCA and Jim Hieb of the Natural Stone Institute offering perspectives from industry influencers that can benefit your business. 


1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – Town Hall Residential Roundtable: Homebuilders & Specifier Expectations is the follow-up to the morning session that allows small group discussion among peers about ensuring the best specifications for tile and stone projects. 

Wednesday, April 10

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

The Future of the Installation Workforce: Case Studies and Best Practices. NTCA’s Bart Bettiga will moderate this discussion that centers on recruiting, hiring and retention best practices to propel your business to the top. 

9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. 

Town Hall Meeting – Commercial: What General Contractors & Specifiers are Saying about the Stone & Tile Industry featuring moderators Bart Bettiga of NTCA and Jim Hieb of the Natural Stone Institute offering insights from general contractors and design professionals and the impact they could have on your business.     

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Town Hall Commercial Roundtable: General Contractor & Specifier Expectations is the follow-up to the morning session that allows small group discussion among peers about ensuring the best specifications for tile and stone projects. 

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Silica Rule: Tile Industry Update on OSHA Crystalline Respirable Silica Rule – Representatives of NTCA and TCNA will discuss OSHA Crystalline Respirable Silica Rule updates now that there are significant field experience and data about the topic. Learn how industry leaders are working with OSHA to better understand compliance requirements. 

Thursday, April 11 

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

15 Year Cycle Analysis, featuring Ryan Fasan, Design and Technical Consultant, who will discuss the lifecycles of flooring products and why ceramic tile comes out light years ahead of the competition.  

9:30 a.m. – 11: 00 a.m.

Transparency Trilogy Part III: Artistry and Creativity: A Timeless Component of Tile and Stone Installations. The session will take a close look at unique individuals who possess the passion, drive, discipline and skills necessary to install, train, and supervise projects that require the craftsmanship to create lasting masterpieces.

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. 

Tile Inspections – A Two Part Series: PROCESS. Presenters are NTCA Five-Star Contractors Nyle Wadford, Neuse Tile, James Woelfel, Artcraft Granite and Marble Co., and Martin Brookes, Heritage Marble and Tile, Inc., who are all recognized tile industry consultants. They will discuss what to expect if a qualified inspector is needed on your project, in terms of the process, checklists and what comprises an acceptable inspection. 

3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Tile Inspections – A Two Part Series: EXECUTION. In the second part of this Tile Inspection series, presenters Wadford, Woelfel and Brookes will delve into what to do and how to be aware of preventing your company from falling into non-compliance, and understanding best practices that can help you avoid unnecessary inspection. 

Friday, April 12 

9:00 a.m. -11: 00 a.m.

NTCA Contractor Training: OSHA Silica Rule. NTCA technical trainers will focus on understanding and being in compliance with the OSHA Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule. It includes both classroom and hands-on best practices components. Pre-registration required due to limited space. 

NTCA Technical Trainer Robb Roderick

NTCA Technical Trainer Robb Roderick

The education continues on the TCNA Installation Demonstration Stage, #3138 where NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein and NTCA Technical Trainers Robb Roderick, Luis Bautista and CTEF’s Training Director Scott Carothers present hands-on demonstrations of products, methods and techniques. 

For details and course descriptions, visit www.coverings.com, but here’s an overview of the demos:

Tuesday, April 9 

10:20 a.m. – 10:50 a.m. – NTCA Reference Manual: Critical Lighting Effects on Tile Installations

11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – Substrate Preparation and Large-Format Plank Tile

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – ANSI A108.19 Installation Techniques for Gauged Porcelain Tile and Panels

4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – NTCA Reference Manual: Care & Maintenance – Pre-Grouting, Sealing, and Sealers

Wednesday, April 10 

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. – Substrate Preparation and Large-Format Plank Tile

12:20 p.m. – 12:50 p.m. – NTCA Reference Manual: Proper Bedding Procedures for Quarry, Pavers and Natural Stone

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – ANSI A108.19 Installation Techniques for Gauged Porcelain Tile and Panels

3:40 p.m. – 4:10 p.m. – NTCA Reference Manual: Lippage Control Devices

Thursday, April 11 

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. – Substrate Preparation and Large-Format Plank Tile

11:20 p.m. – 11:50 p.m. – NTCA Reference Manual: Cementitious, Modified Cementitious, and Epoxy Grouts

1:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. – NTCA Reference Manual: Thick Bed Installations, Mortar Beds/Interior Floors

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – ANSI A108.19 Installation Techniques for Gauged Porcelain Tile and Panels

Friday, April 12 

Time TBD – Practical Application of Silica Control Measures to Meet OSHA Regulations

The Installation Materials District

The Installation Materials District

After a Conference Session or Installation Demonstration Stage event, hop on over to the Installation & Design Experience, #3538, which includes a lounge as well as hospitality vignettes by top designers. Also included is an area focused on installation and education, with the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) onsite providing information for installers looking to advance their careers. Additionally, guided tours of the Installation Materials District will leave from the lounge at 11:00 am (Tuesday – Thursday) with lunch to follow at noon. See at least 10 exhibitors in only an hour, and enjoy a lunch in the lounge to follow at noon. Don’t forget to return for happy hour in the lounge beginning at 3:30 p.m.

The Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards

The Coverings Installation & Design Awards – co-sponsored by NTCA – celebrate outstanding achievements in the design and installation of tile and stone in both residential and commercial projects. The installer and designer of prize-winning projects each receive up to $3,000 and a one-night stay in Orlando and more. Come to the CID Award Reception on Wednesday, April 10 from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. in room S222.

Coverings Rock Stars

Co-sponsored by the NTCA, The Coverings Rock Stars – an Emerging Leaders Program – honors the best and brightest young talent in the tile and stone industry. Since its conception, the program has recognized dozens of young leaders who have connected at Coverings through mentorship and

2018 Coverings Rock Stars

2018 Coverings Rock Stars

networking opportunities. The program underscores Coverings’ mission to support the growth and success of the industry by recognizing top-notch talent and fostering networking and educational opportunities. Winners will be celebrated in an invitation-only gathering from 9:00 a.m. – 12 noon on Tuesday, April 9 in room S320A, followed by an invitation-only recognition luncheon from 12 noon – 1:30 p.m.

NTCA Awards Night

The pièce de résistance is the NTCA Annual Awards Recognition Reception on Thursday, April 11, from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. in room S320A immediately after the exhibit hall closes. The program includes a short cocktail and dining reception, followed by special awards the association presents to industry leaders. Included in this year’s agenda will be the NTCA Tile Person of the Year Award, the announcement of the first annual Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year Award, the Tom Ade Scholarship Awards, the NTCA Five-Star Contractor Program Projects of the Year, and the Joe A. Tarver Award for Service to the Tile Industry.
The Tile Council of North America, a sponsor of the Awards Program, will also honor a deserving individual with a very special leadership award.

2018 Tom Ade Scholarship Award winners

2018 Tom Ade Scholarship Award winners

Visit the TileLetter and NTCA Facebook pages to view live updates from the show. 

Essential and must-have gear for tile installers

Tools in the tile trade are essential items to get your job done. We interviewed a few NTCA members to get their take on their favorite and must-have gear for tile installers.

“Tools for guys are like shoes for girls,” said Phil Green, NTCA member and owner of P.G.C. Construction, Remodeling and Design in Gilberts, Ill. They “don’t really NEED all that they have but just in case.” Green added, “This isn’t intended to be sexist because I know, especially in this (Tile Geeks) group, many girls like tools too, and I’ll bet some of the guys here also like shoes…LOL.”

Eibenstock wet/dry hand saw is great gear for John Parulis.

John Parulis, of Contractors Tile in San Rafael, Calif., takes it down to the basics, when he says his most important tool is his glasses! In addition to that, Parulis names his must-have list, which includes the obvious 10” tile saw. His other faves are an Eibenstock wet/dry hand saw and cutting table for 48” long material. Orange Aluminum 8’ long tee for layout guide and straight edge work, variable speed grinder, 8” power grip vacuum pumps for large-format tile, Montolit Perfetto CPF 250 razor sharp precision blades, and Dewalt laser layout tool are also on his list.

ProKnees, style 0714, are favored tools for Eric Simon.

There are tools to use with tile and there are tools that safeguard your body. Eric Simon, Simon & Simon Tilemasters LLC, said ProKnee knee pads are the best thing since sliced bread (or tile, in his case). He’s used them for at least 25 years, usually the 0714 style, and said they are “very highly recommended” to any trade on their knees. 

Ken Ballin of Skyro Floors, West Creek, N.J., agrees with the ProKnees, and also names a good snap cutter (Sigma and Montolit are favorites) and a nice set of levels, preferably Stabila R-Beams, as his favorites. 

He also said a good source for diamond tools – and not just blades – is invaluable. “There are tons of great diamond tools for shaping, grinding, and cutting that don’t

Ken Ballin prizes a nice set of levels, preferably Stabila R-Beams.

go on your wet saw,” he said, adding, “I’m a big fan of tiletools.com, contractorsdirect.com, and tools4flooring.com mainly because Steve, Mark, and Nick there are so supportive of our Facebook groups Tile Love 2.0 and Flooring Installers of America. They all contributed to my annual Christmas contest for those two groups and I really try to recommend them to everyone who asks me for my sources.”

Mike Morley of Mike’s Quality Carpentry, McHenry, Ill., uses Spin Doctor Tile Spacers from RTC to eliminate lippage. “They are great,” he said. “The spacer

Eliminating lippage with the RTC Spin Doctor Tile Spacers is the way to go for Mike Morley.

is one-time use and they are $10.00 for 100. You can use the spinners over and over. My guys love them.”

Jason Jones, of Jones Tile in Columbia, Ala., has a whole list of essentials, remarking, “Essential tools? How much time have you got?” Here goes: 

  1. Stanley FatMax 25’ tape.
  2. Pencil (usually free ones I glom off reps )
  3. Knee pads: I prefer the leather kind with buckles.
  4. A good snap cutter (I’ve got a shiny Montolit 29” I’ve had for a couple of months that
    I love).
  5. Grinder (with proper blade and technique, you can get away with not using a wet saw often if you choose).
  6. My Dewalt wet saw (I use it often anyways despite what I said in point 5).
  7. Mixing drill and paddle. I’m using an el cheapo Harbor Freight drill lately and it works juuust fine.
  8. One can never have too many buckets.
  9. Margin and notched trowel. I use a euro notch more often than not anymore. Flat trowels for pans (along with a wood float for packing).

    A good grout float and an ARDEX sponge gets the job done for Jason Jones.

  10. Lippage clips make my life easier despite what the “old school” naysayers may preach.  I like LevTec and MLT.
  11. Cordless drill/driver for whatever you have.
  12. Oscillating saw for door jambs and other needs.
  13. A rubbing stone for the rough edges.
  14. Good grout float and sponge (ARDEX sponge)
  15. Did I say buckets? Yeah?  Buckets again!

Brad Denny of Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., in Joelton, Tenn., exclaimed, “If anyone else doesn’t say it, I must! From the beginning as a laborer to the end of their career, the margin trowel has been the most useful and versatile tile tool in my tool arsenal. It can clean, butter, pack, mark, scrape, cut, chip, prise, hammer, mix, scoop, and catch…all things a tile laborer, finisher, apprentice, installer, and craftsperson might need to do. I prefer having a sharp 5” x 2” for more delicate needs or tighter places and duller 6” x 2” for more robust needs or longer reach. Marshalltown Dura Soft handles have been my choice for several years. 

A Lufkin X46 Folding Rule with a 6” slide out helps Brad Denny on his jobs in a myriad of ways.

“The other tool I will always have is a Lufkin X46 Folding Rule with 6” slide out,” he added. “My grandfather taught me to always have one, and I still keep the same model on me when out on the job site and in my truck. A tape measure is great for most things, but features that set a folding rule apart are having an instant ridged ‘story pole’ that can be very helpful on wall layouts, and using the precision squared brass end to mark cuts more accurately. It has a reversed measurement on the other side, and the very clever 6” slide allows the user to dial in tight measurements between two planes and evaluate how parallel they are to one another.”

The Montolit P3 series Masterpiuma manual tile cutter is a versatile tool for Jeremy Waldorf.

For Jeremy Waldorf of Legacy Floors in Howell, Mich., Montolit is his #1 tool brand and prized tool is the P3 series Masterpiuma manual tile cutter. Waldorf started out as a “wet-saw guy” and logged millions of steps running up and down stairs on each job, even to make simple cuts. But some of his friends used snappers and grinders and rarely used their wet saws. 

“This idea was VERY attractive to me, so I bought a Kobalt 24” snapper from Lowe’s,” he said. “I used that thing for a while, but it had its limitations and I found them rather quickly. I finally decided to do what I thought I’d never do- pay more for a manual cutter than my wet saw. I bought my first Montolit P393 36” slide cutter.” His initial experience with it was horrifying, resulting only in “terrible cuts. Tiles were breaking off midway, shattering, and just frustrating me greatly,” he said. He lamented and regretted his decision, but some wise words from those on the Tile Geeks Facebook group helped him get up and running. “After a little fine tuning and a lot of practice, I was making 1/2” rips of the side of a 36” textured porcelain plank- over and over again,” he explained. “It felt amazing, especially to a wet saw guy.” 

Not long after, he competed in the Global Tile Posse snap cutter speed challenge and won a P363 25” Masterpiuma cutter. “These two cutters have changed my tile game more than any other tools I’ve owned,” he said. “Now I only use a wet saw on about 20% of my jobs, when I have a complex shower or other specialized details. However, that’s changing the more I use Montolit tools. The shaping blades and core bits for grinders allow me to do things I haven’t been able to in years past.” Waldorf said it’s turned into a kind of “game” for him to test limits of the cutter, and he has found that Montolit brand tools and the Masterpiuma cutters in particular far exceed his expectations and are “game changers.” In fact, he recently removed excess material from the back of bullnose with the STL blade to make it flush with the mosaic he was installing. “My client was impressed, and so was I,” Waldorf said. “It was very cool to be able to make it all work in that way. With options like these, there’s never been a better time to be a tile setter.”

Installation Experience: contrasting the results of skilled and qualified labor

The Installation Experience debuted this year at Coverings. Conceived by the NTCA and CTEF and spearheaded by CTEF’s Scott Carothers, NTCA’s Mark Heinlein and brought to life by scores of hardworking volunteers, it sought to demonstrate the quality difference between work done by qualified labor such at Certified Tile Installers or those with Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers credentials, and unskilled labor.

The Hall of Failures showed the results of installations done by unskilled labor.

Another example of failed installation in the Hall of Failures.

Bad lippage can result when installers don’t follow methods and standards.




















The “experience” was a self-guided journey through identical installations in the Hall of Failures and the Hall of Excellence that demonstrated the industry-approved ways to execute an installation and the results of an unskilled install. The comparison was supported by photographs.

Beautiful results from qualified labor.

Another example of an expertly-done installation.











Installers and Regional Evaluators on hand to answer questions about the CTI and ACT exams.

Regional Evaluators, NTCA State Ambassadors and other volunteers answered questions about CTI and ACT exams.

CTEF’s Scott Carothers (R) answers questions from visitors to the Installation Experience.













Two teams of Certified Tile Installers also participated in an install-off  called the CTI Challenge where they competed in time and skill while installing identical vignettes.

Two teams of Certified Tile Installers faced off to install a vignette in the Construction Zone.




















The Installation Experience concluded with the “At Home with Tile” theater where time-lapse video highlighting various construction stages immersed visitors with inspiring and educational projects, and visitors could view beautiful, functional room settings, with expertly installed tile.

Functional bathroom backsplash with Sideview glass from Crossville.

Cutaway view of a gauged porcelain tile panel install over existing brick.

Installation Experience Kitchen














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