New Natural Stone Institute Technical Bulletin

A new technical document covering the testing of dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) of natural stone is now available in the Natural Stone Resource Library.

Since the withdrawal of the ASTM C1028 test method for Static Coefficient of Friction, the stone industry has been without a standard test protocol for the measurement of friction for walking surfaces. The Natural Stone Institute has completed an exhaustive study on the use of the ANSI A326.3 Standard Test Method for Measuring Dynamic Coefficient of Friction of Hard Surface Flooring Materials test procedure on natural stones. Over 300 stone specimens (51 stone types in six different finishes) were tested to evaluate the appropriateness this test method for natural stone products.

The Natural Stone Institute would like to thank Miller Druck Specialty Contracting, Artistic Tile, Coldspring, Tennessee Marble Company, and TexaStone Quarries for their assistance in procurement of test specimens.

To access the document, please visit


About the Natural Stone Institute

The Natural Stone Institute is a trade association representing every aspect of the natural stone industry. The current membership exceeds 2,000 members in over 50 nations. The association offers a wide array of technical and training resources, professional development opportunities, regulatory advocacy, and networking events. Two prominent publications—the Dimension Stone Design Manual and Building Stone Magazine—raise awareness within the natural stone industry and in the design community for best practices and uses of natural stone. Learn more at


OSHA Considering Changes to Silica Rule

OSHA may soon make it easier for employers to comply with the agency’s Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction Standard. The standard, which OSHA announced in 2016 and began to fully enforce last fall, seeks to protect workers who may inhale silica dust.  A variety of construction operations may expose workers to silica dust including, for example, abrasive sandblasting and cutting bricks, stone, or concrete.

The silica standard is extremely detailed and complex. It contains requirements for assessing workers’ silica exposure, for using exposure control methods and respiratory protection, for offering medical surveillance, and for keeping silica-related records.  Fortunately, “Table 1” of the standard makes compliance with standard easier, at least in some situations.  The Table describes engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection requirements that may be implemented by an employer when performing certain construction-related tasks, thereby exempting the tasks from the standard’s exposure assessment provisions and permissible exposure limits.

Last week, during the mid-winter meeting of the American Bar Association’s Occupational Safety and Health Law Committee, a Department of Labor official announced that OSHA is considering changes to the silica standard for construction. According to Ann Rosenthal, the Department’s Associate Solicitor for Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA is currently working with members of the construction community to add more tasks to Table 1.

News that OSHA is considering an expansion of Table 1 comes after a recent federal court ruling that rejected several challenges to the standard by employer groups. The U.S. Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in an order issued last December, rejected arguments from employer groups challenging the standard’s lower permissible exposure limit and, among other things, the feasibility of compliance with standard

Written by authors Alyssa Levy, Patrick Miller, Matthew Morrison, and Dana Svendsen at Sherman & Howard, L.L.C.

Crossville, Inc. releases update to its Installation Manual for gauged porcelain tile panels.

Crossville, Tenn. – Crossville, Inc. has released an update to its Installation Manual for gauged porcelain tile panels. The revised technical manual, offered in English and Spanish versions, highlights Crossville’s compliance with ANSI A137.3 standards and reinforces proper interior installation per the ANSI A108.19 standard.

In 2017, Crossville led training for more than 400 professionals in the installation of gauged porcelain tile panels. Cumulatively, the company has trained 1,500 porcelain tile panel installers through sessions on site at Crossville headquarters and at workshops co-hosted with industry partners and associations.

Crossville‘s Derrick Patterson of the technical services team was instrumental in the revision of the Installation Manual, ensuring it conveyed Crossville’s compliance with ANSI A137.3 and supported the ANSI A108.19 installation standard, as well. Notably, technical services director Noah Chitty was among the industry experts at large who collaborated to develop the installation standard for this burgeoning product category.

“It’s our goal to support installers with the education and practical know-how they need, and our technical guide is just one of many ways we’re here to help,” Chitty explains. “Their work is the cornerstone of the growing success of the gauged porcelain tile panel category.”

Both the English and Spanish versions of the manual are available at

Qualified Labor – March 2018 – Kris Sardine

NTCA starts Kris Sardine on the path towards certification

In the summer of ’17, Kris Nardone, owner of K_Nardone Custom Tile Work, Kennesaw, Ga., became Certified Tile Installer #1364, at a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam at The Tile Shop in
his town.

After 20 years as a tile setter – and now with over six thousand followers on Instagram @k_nardonecustomtilework – Nardone said he took the exam because “Being a certified tile installer adds credibility to myself and my business.”

But it all started when he joined NTCA in 2016.

“The NTCA gave me a network of people and information that I didn’t have before,” Nardone said. “I spoke to another Certified Tile Installer about the CTI exam. I had attended a NTCA workshop in 2017 and met a local CTI exam instructor who also spoke to me about the CTI exam.

“After finding out more about the test, I knew that this certification would represent my experience in the trade and allow me to network within the industry,” he added. “I’ve always used industry standards. If I can be a part of a network of people that help add knowledge to my business and continuously improve my trade then I’m all for it.”

Nardone spent time preparing for the exam. “I read the CTEF workbook a couple times and looked at social media to make notes,” he said. “I also brought a list of key components to the test that I thought were important to track my day/progress. Every minute of the hands-on test counts. Layout is key! Other than that, I set tile daily. If you can think of it, I can tile it.”

His job experience made the book section of the exam relatively easy, but the hands-on portion was another story. “I thought the hands-on portion would be a breeze in the beginning, and then I heard from other certified installers not to underestimate the exam,” he said. “After taking the test, I know now that it does challenge your skills and knowledge as well as your time management. There are over 200 cuts in nine hours and it will test you mentally and physically.”

The time management aspect of the job varied significantly from the typical time management employed on a job. For instance, Nardone said, that on a typical job, he estimates “the time to complete the job and [I] push myself to complete the job in a timely manner, but I am always trying to do the best job possible for the homeowner no matter what it takes.

“The test is a set amount of time to get it right and get it completed,” he added. “It mentally tests you. Stay focused. Believe in yourself and get the job done.”

Being in an atmosphere of earnest demonstration of a tile setter’s skills was inspiring to Nardone. “You are working around others taking the test,” he said. “It was great to see that others take as much pride in their work as I do. Like any job site, if you can work well with others, you’ll get the job completed faster.”

Nardone, who plans to also pursue Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT), recommends taking the exam to expand setters’ businesses and further their personal development and knowledge. “Though taking the test, you’ll make new contacts, friends, and learn more about the industry,” he said. “Those who don’t consider the exam should look more into the benefits of taking the test. It’s there to help you, your career, and the consumer.”

Nardone emphasizes that the CTI credential “assures the customer that they are receiving a quality install the first time… I have spoken to customers that have used other companies to meet their deadline or their budget and less than a year later – sometimes a month later or upon completion of install – the tile installation starts failing with cracking grout, unbonded tile, shower pan leakage, excessive lippage, etc. Hiring a Certified Tile Installer assures the homeowner that the installer is up to date on industry standards and is qualified to set the materials needed.”

Tile layout tips and tricks

Templates, story poles help match the tile to the needs and flow of the space

By Ryan Willoughby, Hawthorne Tile

When you are deciding on a tile layout, it’s a good idea to check with ANSI 108.02 section 4.3 “Tile Layout, A General Statement.”

This document basically says we are to center and balance the area to be tiled, while both minimizing the amount of cuts and maximizing their size. Fundamentally these are the rules we follow, but in their definition and execution it can get quite subjective.

Having spent the vast majority of my career in the high-end residential market, some of my opinions may differ from someone in the commercial side of the business. That being said I feel pretty fortunate to have had a mentor who took extreme pride in layout and instilled the same in me. While maybe only other craftspeople and design professionals will truly appreciate all the thought and effort put into a great layout, I think everyone can feel the difference between a chopped up space and one that flows. If you don’t take the time to really think it through and begin with a clear vision of the finished project, you will make mistakes and have some uncomfortable conversations with your clients.

Besides being able to share my philosophies on layout, writing this article gave me an excuse to reach out and discuss the subject with someone I’ve watched on social media, the NTCA’s Oregon State Ambassador, Jason McDaniel. Jason has a really cool and unique approach to laying out some of his installs, but first I’ll walk you through my process and then share a bit from our conversation.

Getting started with tile layout – square, plumb and level

My first course of action is to familiarize or re-familiarize myself with any detailed drawings for the project and identify what the architect or designer’s vision for the space is. Next, I’d square up the space and locate any problem areas that will need to be discussed or fixed prior to install, such as an out-of-square room, or my wall tile tying into an out-of-plumb or level surface. Putting up perfectly plumb and level grids really accentuates these problems, and the smaller the tile, the more obvious it is. Someone may have a hard time seeing a 3/8” taper in a 24”x 24”, but it’s an entirely different story over the same distance with a 5/8” mosaic.

If you’re going to be tiling a shower to the ceiling, you need to know if the ceiling is 3/4” out of level across the back wall. On floors, I snap a reference line off my longest or most visual run and find square from that by using “3-4-5” also known – to the more academic among us – as Pythagorean theorem. To be honest, these days I just use a laser square; it speeds up the whole process. On walls it’s the same; find center, then plumb and level with either a spirit/bubble level or a laser.

Creating a story pole; envisioning the space

Next is creating a story pole. I’ll lay my tile on the floor with the appropriate joint spacing, and do one of three things:

  • Write the full tile measurements down, or
  • Measure off of the tiles on the ground, or
  • With mosaics, make a true story pole marking a piece of lumber at each joint.

Once I have all this information it’s envisioning the space and identifying the most visual areas. Do you want to “center” or “balance”? For floors: do I center the room itself, a threshold or hall, a kitchen island, a soaking tub, the shower, toilet? For walls: is it the space, a window, plumbing, start full here or there?

Our options are endless. Choose an approach to centering, and then work backwards from that first choice. You’ll also want to ask yourself, “If I don’t like the cuts I get in one place, what happens if I start somewhere else? What do I have control of?”

Niche sizes are typically nominal, as are height of the bench, pony wall, and curb. Looking at all of these things and being willing to do a little extra work will speak volumes to your clients and separate you from your competition. As Dirk Sullivan, Hawthorne Tile’s fearless leader, likes to say, “Never pass up an opportunity to do something awesome.”

The biggest mistake I see people making is getting locked into their first choice and not weighing all their options or passing on that opportunity to be awesome in lieu of saving 15 minutes. I’ve found making these suggestions to an architect or designer is typically welcome and appreciated.

The McDaniel solution: templates for elaborate installs

With the advancement of manufacturing technology we’ve seen all sorts of new shapes and patterned mosaic sheets become readily available. These more elaborate patterns can make it difficult to see what every cut will look like on a kitchen splash with multiple stopping points.

I saw Jason McDaniel of Stoneman Construction, LLC in Lake Oswego, Ore., making templates for these installs and thought it was a great idea. I gave him a call to talk to him about it.

Jason has a background in solid surfaces and was comfortable with making templates. The first time he tried it on a tile install was while working on a large project, a beautiful home where he had already completed four bathrooms. He came to a backsplash that had many things to consider: a window, cabinets, and multiple outlets. He was setting a 1” x 3” marble herringbone mosaic.

He looked over the space wondering where to start. That’s when it hit him – he made a quick template, laid the tile on the floor, was able to lay the template over the tile, and quickly see everything. He marked all his cuts, made his cuts, and had the backsplash set within a couple of hours. He saw in that moment that this was going to be something he’d be doing much more of in the future.

Jason shared with me other installs where this method really shines, like installing water-sensitive stones with epoxy or a rapid-setting thinset. You don’t have to stop to take a measurement or go to the saw – just comb and go. Or when stopping by a job on your way home, you can make a quick template, lay out the tile at your shop the next morning, make all your cuts, and hand them off to your installer. When I asked Jason if he had any advice, he said, “’Centered’ and ‘balanced’ are the terms most often heard when talking about layout. I lean more towards ‘balanced’ when laying out a space. Balanced doesn’t always equal centered, especially with all the different shapes and sizes of product we are seeing these days.” I couldn’t agree more.

Thin Tile/GPTP – March 2018

Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels modernize Lexington Office Park

Panels allowed installation of new surfaces without demolition of the old

Constructed in 1982, Lexington Office Park’s lobby was badly in need of a fresh look. A Class A office building located only 11 miles outside Boston, Lexington Office Park has much to offer potential tenants, and the 82,000 sq. ft. of interior space is just the beginning. The campus also includes a wooded lot with a pond, plenty of parking, an in-house café, a conference area, and a fitness center. However, the outdated lobby fell short in offering a fitting first impression for such an exceptional facility.

CUBE 3 Studio was retained to lead the renovation and transform the lobby into a welcoming, modern space. It would be no small feat as there was a three-story brick structure that ran on both the interior and exterior of the lobby. The configuration imparted a look more “old library” than “upscale corporate,” but because of its position, it could not be demolished and removed. Members of the CUBE 3 Studio team would have to work around this element, and they knew material selection would have to be the answer to this challenging design dilemma.

They set out in search of a durable surface that could somehow mask the dated brick while also spanning the height of the lobby without getting lost in the vast space. Also – because the exterior wall system was the only break between the brick that ran from the interior to the exterior, the CUBE 3 Studio designers did not have the flexibility to fur out the wall behind whatever material would specified. They needed to identify a solution for skinning the brick walls – something relatively lightweight with great aesthetic appeal.

After careful consideration, they selected Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels as the creative solution that met both the pragmatic and aesthetic demands of this challenging renovation. Laminam collections provided the right installation advantages, technical characteristics, and a sleek, modern look befitting of Lexington Office Park’s amenities.

For the walls, the team chose Laminam Oxide in the Bianco and Grigio colorways. With its grit-and-glitter industrial style, the Oxide collection provides the large-scale contemporary aesthetic that the design team was seeking, with no need for demolition or complicated preparation prior to installation. Ultimately, the general contractor, Bowdoin Construction Corp., chose to sheet rock over the brick and then install the Laminam.

Laminam Oxide Bianco, the primary tile in the space, lightens and brightens the previously dark lobby, while a large, vertical swath of Grigio, placed at the entry to the open stairwell, pulls the eye up the three-story space with a dramatic flourish. To further emphasize the height, the CUBE 3 Studio team accented the Grigio panels with tall, narrow inset light panels at varying intervals and lengths. These insets add dimension and interest. To achieve the design, the installation professionals with Floor Works had to cut slits in the Laminam while on a lift – a unique challenge that they skillfully managed. The resulting effect proves to be well worth the effort.

On the stairs, earthy and elegant Laminam Fokos Roccia was installed directly over existing materials – no demo required. The sturdy profile of the 5.6mm-thick material will withstand years of foot traffic beautifully.

Due to the ease of installation by FloorWorks, – enabled by Laminam – the significant overhaul of Lexington Office Park’s lobby was completed in only nine months. Project designer Angela Juliano expresses how pleased she is with Laminam and the final results this innovative material helped her team achieve. “[I] love the look, love the size. To be able to minimize grout lines and get a large-scale application with a variety of finishes is awesome,” she shared. “We love the product on stairs, as well as [on] elevator cab walls. It is durable and looks great. Also, the fact that it is so lightweight makes it easy to use in elevators.”

She is equally pleased with the service she received from Crossville. “The responsiveness [from Crossville] is something that we can always depend on. We have full confidence in the support we receive.”

Tech Talk – March 2018

How to Get Paid for Floor Prep Work

By Tom D. Lynch, CSI

I bet you’re thinking, “This ought to be good. What does this guy know that I haven’t already tried? Getting architects and owners to agree to pay for floor-prep work is about as easy as it is to get a concrete contractor to provide a perfectly flat and level floor in the first place.” And the answer to this question could very well be “You just read it.” He who pours the concrete that does not meet the specs should fix the floor so that it does meet the specs or pay someone else – like you – to fix it for him. Sound simple? It’s not.

Part one: the problem 

The problem is getting the concrete guy to meet whose specs; his Division 3 specs or our Division 9 specs? The Division 9 specs most times spell out precise finish floor requirements as if it were the tile installer’s responsibility even though he did not pour the concrete. The Division 3 specs in general do not get specific when it comes to finish floor requirements. The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) gives very definite requirements for substrate tolerances but does not spell out whose responsibility it is to provide them. We therefore have a dilemma.

A couple years ago the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) in conjunction with the Flooring Contractors Association (FCCA) and the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) issued a joint statement titled the “ASCC Position Statement #6” to address this issue. Without going into great detail about the differences between the two specs, the conclusion of the ASCC and the NWFA was as follows:

“….suggest that the owner provide a bid allowance, established by the A/E and based on the floor covering requirements, for any necessary grinding and patching to close the gap between Division 3 tolerances and Division 9 tolerances.”

This sounded good to everyone except the owners who unfortunately have to foot the bill. Where is the control over quality with this plan? There is none, and that is the flaw with this position. Issuing blank checks in the construction industry just doesn’t work.

There is more to this issue than meets the eye, and must be considered. The floor covering industry is changing, and changing fast. With the ever-increasing demand for large-bodied tiles plus the advent of gauged porcelain slabs and panels, the demands for flat and level floors has increased dramatically. Add to this the ever-growing demand for luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) that also demand extremely flat and level floors, and it is plain to see that nearly every type of floor covering other than carpet requires a minimum of 1/8” in 10’ flatness levels.

Case in point

Progress is not being made along these fronts and it is not fair to anyone involved. Let me give you an example: In the spring of last year I received a frantic phone call from a good tile contractor friend of mine in Houston, Texas. He had a large ceramic and resilient tile project in progress for one of the largest building contractors in the country and was up against the wall with a substrate issue that was going nowhere toward resolution. The concrete floors were so bad that his “more than fair” estimate to repair them came to well over $100,000 and no one would listen to him. For some reason, the owner of the project was protecting the concrete contractor and would not consider paying out any money to resolve the issue.

After a day of taking laser readings and laying out a complete diagram of the floor variations we were able to convince the GC that the floors were in fact, that bad. It was obviously not my friend’s fault, but the owner still would not relent. So, I advised my client to offer to sell all the tile materials that were already on site to the owner and let him find someone else to perform the install. My reasoning was that my client – as a professional flooring contractor – could not in good conscience knowingly perform an inferior installation. Unless he was allowed to repair the floors and get paid to do it, he was willing to walk. The GC, by the way, respected him greatly for taking the position that he did, and the owner finally relented.

The moral of the story is to stand by what you know is correct and proper. A tile contractor should never be forced to give in and fix someone else’s concrete work for free. A solution must be made.

Part two: the solution

This is not simply a concrete slab issue nor only a ceramic tile issue, but rather an issue involving both trades that must be worked out together in such a manner as to be acceptable to architects and fair to owners. I propose a new specification section: 09300.5 Concrete Floor Prep. The Division 3 specification will also need some revisions made to it. The system would be as follows:

The concrete slab shall be poured 1/2” below the desired finish floor height. No fine finished trowel surface will be required. Basically a bull float and broom finish is all that is needed. This will save money in two ways. First, 1/2” less material will be used and secondly there will be no fine finish troweling labor required.

This is where section 09300.5 kicks in. Just prior to beginning the tile installation, the tile contractor shall pour a 1/2” thick layer of cementitious self-leveler product over the entire floor bringing it up to the finished floor elevation that is required. Any crowns, curls, humps, or other defects in the flatness of the concrete will be rectified during this process ensuring that a perfectly flat and level floor will be provided.

The specified floor covering product can then be installed in accordance with the appropriate specifications. The cost of installing the finished floor product should also be somewhat lower than normal considering that there will be no floor-prep work needed as it has already been provided for in #2 above.

There is no doubt that the total cost of this system will be slightly higher because self-levelers cost more to install than poured concrete, but that cost will be known up front on bid day. And let’s face it, costs of anything on bid day are usually much lower than add-on costs for extras later on.

Owners should also take into consideration that pouring large concrete slabs to a finished floor tolerance of 1/8” in ten feet is virtually impossible in the first place. There are simply too many variables during the curing and drying process to accomplish such perfection. Additional costs are a reality these days and this system will establish that total cost without confusion or cost over runs after the project is bid.

Specifications for the self-leveler product need not be excessive. A good quality self-leveler will produce a 28-day compressive strength of 4,000 psi. Depth per application ranges from 1” to 2” per pour. A primer is always recommended by each manufacturer.

I suggest that collaboration between the TCAA, the ASCC, and the NTCA will be needed to draft new language and get it distributed to the architectural community in order to get these important changes made. In my opinion this will be the total solution to the problem of how to get paid for performing floor-prep work. In the meantime the answer to that question is, “It can be difficult.”


Tom Lynch is a 55-year veteran of the tile industry and one of the NTCA’s initial inductees to the “Recognized Industry Consultants” group. He can be reached at (336) 877-6951 or [email protected] or 

Economic Outlook

By Sean P. Boyle,
Vice President Marketing,
LATICRETE International

The article below provides a brief high-level summary of the construction outlook for both the residential and commercial markets, including an estimate of tile consumption for 2018.

Residential construction

Residential new and remodeling construction plays a significant role in tile consumption and is a key barometer to the overall economy. Over the past several years, the residential market has continued to climb out of the trough from the recession, and has shown growth throughout 2017. Home values increased again in 2017 while existing home inventory remained at normal levels. Overall, residential growth looks forward to continued expansion in 2018.

New Housing starts – 2017 total new housing starts increased overall only around 3% over 2016. Single-family starts were relatively healthy, increasing over 2016 by almost 9%, however multi-family construction dragged the overall category down – starts for multi-family were down close to 8% after some high growth years in 2014 and 2015 resulting in overbuilding for the segment. For 2018, new total housing starts are projected to only increase close to 3% again, with single-family up only around 5% and multi-family slightly down versus last year. Total units again will hover around 1.3M. The impact from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law recently will most likely dampen housing activity in very high home value markets ($1M or greater homes). However, it will not impact the majority of U.S. home owners, since they are still able to deduct interest payments on mortgage debt up to $750,000 which includes new mortgages or improvements made from December 17 through 2026.


Residential Remodeling – Remodeling is the other and larger side of the residential market place and has performed nicely throughout 2017 and is forecasted to lead again in 2018. The housing industry continues to benefit from robust sales of existing homes and is running at historic lows of inventory. According to many construction indicators, there is widespread agreement that residential remodeling spending will increase in 2018 versus 2017, at a mid- to high-single digit rate.

Residential remodeling continues to benefit from factors impacting new housing starts. As with the last several years, Millennials are remaining at home longer, and older individuals are choosing to remain at home or “age in place.” This will spur home remodeling and will continue to result in solid growth again in 2018 with bathrooms, kitchens and in-law room additions driving remodeling activity. Rising home values and continued low interest rates are allowing homeowners to take out home-equity loans for the remodeling project. This is driving demand across all aspects of construction – especially for new tile or stone flooring!

Overall, we forecast the residential market to account for close to 60% of all tile consumption in the U.S. in 2018. It will drive growth for flooring, with kitchens and bathrooms as the main project types. The new tax law mentioned above will however bring down a percentage of remodeling spending on very expensive homes – as deductions on interest will be capped – but overall the segment will be strong in 2018.


Commercial Construction

We forecast the commercial construction segment to experience steady growth in 2018, between 3% and 5% in new square footage over 2017. The commercial segment is being aided by a continued easing of lending standards that allow for more of the much-needed financing for large projects, combined with an increase in demand for commercial lending. Whereas the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may lessen housing activity in very high-end home markets, the impact of the law is favorable for commercial construction due to reduced corporate tax rates, thus providing an incentive for investment. In addition, favorable commercial lending policies and recent survey results among architects show an increase in demand for services, so the environment is very favorable for expansion.

Looking within the commercial segment, low single-digit growth is basically forecast across most verticals with education and office building activity leading the way. All regions across the U.S. – except the North East – are poised for growth, with starts in the South Central and Mid-West states forecast to have the largest percentage of growth when looking at value of total starts.

Tile consumption 

As previously mentioned, 2017 residential construction experienced another solid year of growth for new and remodeling activity, and commercial construction increased modestly in terms of square footage. Based on this, we believe tile and stone combined consumption will increase to ~ 3.5 billion square feet in 2017, an increase around 4%.

Based upon the above-forecasted growth in each market for 2018, we can segment the ceramic tile and stone industry accordingly, and calculate the respective share in square footage of each segment with applicable growth percentages based upon the 2018 outlook. A conservative estimate range for 2018 indicates combined tile and stone consumption growth of between 4% and 6% to approximately 3.7 billion square feet.

Tile and stone consumption estimates are naturally subject to all the macro-economic and subsequent construction market risks as well. The recent tax law – coupled with a charged political environment – plus a myriad of changes in key markets around the world can instantly impact forecasts.

As with last year, all of the major institutions that track and forecast construction activity are projecting growth for 2018 at various rates.  It is that consensus which makes us confident that we are looking forward to an exciting 2018, and continued growth of ceramic tile and stone!

Business Tip – March 2018

Tax reform: yes, it is a big deal

By Pat O’Connor, Kent and O’Connor, Washington, D.C.

Tax reform legislation raced through Congress at lightning speed. So quickly, in fact, analysts are still digesting its contents and assessing its impact. Critics say it favors the rich. Proponents promise it will unleash the American economy. Others worry about the long-term impact on the national debt. Yet, the truth is, nobody really knows for sure how this legislation will reshape the economy or our society at large.

From the perspective of corporate taxation, we can say for certain, passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 is a big deal. For years, the United States has clung to an outdated 1986 era corporate tax code and a 1960s system of taxing “worldwide” income that most other countries abandoned long ago. At 35%, the U.S. corporate rate towered over other developed countries’ rates. In a global economy, where companies can choose where to produce and invest, these features pushed many companies and trillions of dollars overseas. Bold structural changes were needed. And, the new law does just that.

Already, as of mid-January, over 220 companies have responded, either by providing bonuses, wage increases, or both to employees. AT&T gave $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 hourly employees and announced they will boost capital spending in the U.S. by $1 billion in 2018. Starbucks employees received wage increases and expanded benefits. Some dismiss these gestures as little more than window dressing with no real impact. Yet, others see this as an early indicator of positive things to come as the consequences of tax reform work their way through the economy. (Ed. Note: Conversely, since the reform has been enacted, we’ve seen major retailers close hundreds of store locations, and lay off thousands of workers. Whether coincidental timing or deliberate scheduling, the effects on discretionary income are yet to be seen.)

The new 21% corporate tax rate and the switch to a territorial system of corporate taxation are key changes. But these are not the only ones. Other changes include:

100% Expensing: The bill provides a full and immediate write-off of most machinery and equipment purchased for use in a trade or business, including both new and used property.

Increased “Luxury” Auto Depreciation Limits: The bill increases limits on passenger vehicle depreciation – commonly referred to as the “luxury vehicle depreciation limit.” The limits are increased from $3,160 to $10,000 in the first year; from $5,100 to $16,000 in the second year; from $3,050 to $9,600 in the third year; and from $1,875 to $5,760 in the fourth and later years.

Limit on Interest Deduction: For companies with more than $25 million in gross receipts, the bill limits the deduction for corporate interest paid. The deduction cannot exceed the sum of i) business interest income plus ii) 30% of the adjusted taxable income of the corporation.

Entertainment Expenses: No deduction will be allowed for entertainment expenses, although the company can still deduct 50% of the cost of meals for employees on work travel.

Credit for Family and Medical Leave: In 2018 and 2019, employers can claim a tax credit of 12.5 to 25% for wages paid to employees while on paid family and medical leave.

A new deduction for pass-through entities

One of the most intriguing and complicated changes is the new tax benefit for “pass-through” entities, which includes S-corporations, partnerships, sole proprietors and most LLCs. The essence of the new Section 199A is a deduction of 20% of the entity’s Qualified Business Income (QBI). The potential tax savings is prompting many business owners to rethink their operation. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say Joe owns a tile installation business, called Tile LLC, where the income is taxed as a sole proprietor on Joe’s individual tax return. In 2018, Tile LLC has a profit of $250,000, which is reported on Joe’s Form 1040, Schedule C. Subject to certain income restrictions, Joe will receive a $50,000 deduction (20% of his Qualified Business Income) on his individual tax return!

However, the restrictions on the QBI deduction add a great deal of complexity:

First, there is an income threshold to consider. If Joe is married and files a joint tax return, he and his wife’s taxable income must be less than $315,000 to claim the full 20% QBI deduction (less than $157,500 for single taxpayers). For incomes over $315,000, a partial deduction is allowed for joint taxable incomes up to $415,000.

If the entity is a personal services business (accounting, legal, consulting, and any other trade or business where the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees is the reason for the revenue, except for engineering or architectural services), no QBI deduction is allowed for pass-through income if the individual taxpayer’s taxable income is greater than $415,000 for joint filers.

For entities that are NOT personal services corporations and the pass-through income exceeds the income threshold described above, a QBI deduction is available, but may be limited. In this circumstance, the QBI deduction is the lesser of 20% of QBI or 50% of the W-2 wages paid to all employees by the entity; or, alternatively, 25% of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of the original cost of tangible depreciable assets.

For Subchapter S corporations, the rules requiring employee/owners to be “reasonably compensated” still apply. So, if Tile LLC is a Subchapter-S corporation, Joe would pay himself a reasonable salary of, say, $70,000 and receive a W-2 for that amount, leaving a pass-through profit of $180,000. The 20% QBI deduction would be $36,000.

Generally, an estate or trust is also able to deduct up to 20% of business income from a pass-through entity.

Yes, it’s complicated. Tax planners are eager to see guidance from the IRS to provide more detail on how this provision will be implemented.

But with change comes opportunity. And the opportunities created by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 are indeed significant. While no company should rush headlong into a major restructuring, every company should explore whether their current structure continues to make sense. Almost overnight, we find ourselves in a new environment. Navigating this changed landscape will take skill, and the guidance of a knowledgeable accountant, but it will be well worth the effort.


Pat O’Connor is a principal in Kent & O’Connor, Incorporated, a Washington, D.C.-based government affairs firm. A veteran of Capitol Hill with particular expertise in health, transportation and the environment, O’Connor works with trade associations and companies to find workable solutions to the most pressing regulatory and legislative issues. For more information, visit or call 202-223-6222.

Ask the Experts – March 2018


I am a homeowner having a glass tile install performed. The tile is a 3” x 12” glass subway tile with a color backing. It is being installed as the backsplash around the stove/oven. My tile contractor said to butt the glass tiles up to each other with no spacing in between – and to butt them up to the quartz countertop – but I was told by the tile store to use a 1/8” spacing.

All I am looking for is your technical opinion on the proper way to install the tiles regarding the spacing to give some instruction to my contractor for the install. The tile edges/corners are flat with no bumpers that would cause a spacing when they are butted up to each other.


We always encourage our members to follow the guidelines set forth in the TCNA Handbook. On page 37 of the Handbook it states “that in no circumstances shall the grout joint be less than a 1/16 of an inch.”

One of the reasons listed for a minimum requirement for grout joint size on all tile installations is “thermal expansion.” Glass tile is highly expansive. It also explains that the grout joint should be no smaller than three times the variation of the tiles themselves. That means if a particular group of tiles vary in size 1/16”, the smallest grout joint recommended for that particular group of tiles is 3/16” of an inch.

Most glass tile manufacturers have directions for the use of their products. I would encourage you to contact the manufacturer of the glass to get their recommended grout joint size. And make sure there is the appropriate sealant joint where ever the tile meets differing materials like a countertop or cabinet.

I hope this helps.

Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer


I plan to have a small bathroom tiled, shower walls with niche, shower floor, and floor (12” x 24” walls and 4” hex all floors). This is on concrete slab.

I’m working with a contractor who is bringing tilers in for the job and I’d like to make sure they are following standards. Can you tell me what the acceptable methods are for building/waterproofing a mud-pan, including shower wall and threshold?

I know they are creating a mud pan, but not sure what products or method they are using. I’m assuming there are a variety of products used and methods, which makes it complicated for the lay person. Any information/diagrams are appreciated.

Thank you!


You are correct that shower construction is complicated. It is critical that a shower is constructed properly.

Depending on the specifics of your installation, there are several methods for constructing showers published in the 2017 edition of the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. These will guide a contractor who owns and uses them.

These methods include: B414, B441, B415, B420, B426, B431, B421, B422, B421C, B422C. These methods may vary somewhat depending on whether ceramic/porcelain or stone tiles are being installed. In addition, the Handbook contains several details for common configurations for curbs and membrane installation.

You are also correct that there are a variety of products on the market that are excellent for constructing successful shower and tile installations. Many of these materials meet or exceed the ANSI A118, ANSI A137.1 and ANSI A137.2 standards. A knowledgeable installer and contractor will be able to identify the appropriate materials and relate them to the TCNA Handbook method that is most appropriate for your installation.

If your contractor is a member of the National Tile Contractors Association I would be happy to speak with them and assist them with any questions or concerns they may have in selecting the appropriate method for constructing your shower. If your contractor is not a member of the NTCA, I would be happy to speak with them about becoming a member, and all of the professional benefits membership provides. A search for an NTCA member contractor near you can be done at this link: or

I highly recommend employing a Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer (CTI). CTIs are installers who have proven their knowledge of skills in applying industry recognized standards, methods and best practices to ensure you get the correct installation from the substructure to the finished tile surface. CTIs can be located at this link: or

I hope this helps!
Mark Heinlein – CTI #1112, Training Director,
Technical Trainer / Presenter

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