Dan Hecox presents to A&D students at University of Nebraska – Lincoln

NTCA Nebraska State Ambassador schools interior design students on tile failures

 

In March, NTCA State Ambassador Dan Hecox of Hecox Construction, Inc. of York, Neb., gave a class on how to avoid tile failures to 28 second-year interior design students at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Interior Design Professor Stacy Spale, IIDA, LEED AP, EDAC, NCIDQ Certificate No. 28851, asked Hecox to present to the IDES 200 Programs, Standards, and Codes class “so our students could better identify standards of installation,” she said. “These students will enter various professions within the design industry, and they should be able to feel comfortable on a job site, or managing a project, and at least having a base knowledge of trade vocabulary.”

Spale believes that it’s a vital skill for interior designers to learn to collaborate with trade contractors. “Early in my career, I drew casework sections the way I’d been taught and never really thought much about it,” she explained. “Then I spent some time learning about custom casework and realized that had I called a fabricator before I drew my custom projects, I could have saved time, money, materials, etc. 

“The jobs where I could collaborate and communicate my design intent – and work alongside the people doing the work always turned out better,” she added. “This seems like generic advice, so I like to show students with real stories so the learning is more applicable.” 

Adapting professional material to college classwork

Hecox adapted the “Tile Failures – Could it Be Me?” presentation normally given by the NTCA and CTEF workshop presenters to the needs of the design students, which was a challenge in itself. 

“It’s one thing to talk to people in the trade and quite another thing to talk with up-and-coming designers,” Hecox said. To not lose students with highly technical details that would have more meaning to professional tile setters, he covered some areas briefly and “brought along a lot of visuals for them to see and touch,” he explained. “I also had some demonstrations for them…I tried to think about where they are in their education and what kinds of things would be important to them in their careers as designers.” 

Dan gave them real-world useful information to use once they graduate. “I really tried to explain to them as designers, that they can spec certain things – like qualified labor, Certified Installers, and material that falls within ANSI specs,” he said. “They should know the work schedules and when things like floor prep will take place and when tile setting will start – and they should be there on the job site to inspect the floor prep and tile install.” Hecox emphasized that they should also ask questions of those involved about what they are doing.

Presentation gets thumbs up from students

Based on the responses from the students, the class was a smashing success.

“I found the tile talk extremely interesting,” said student Sydney Carl. “I feel like it’s extremely important to learn at least a little bit about how to install materials that we would be picking. I think as interior designers we should be educated on the installation of products and not just the application. I learned a lot about mortar and the correct way to lay tile (which from watching HGTV, I was very misled). I definitely feel more knowledgeable now and I have confidence that I could have an educated tile talk with a contractor.”

Keleigh Ketelhut admired Hecox’s passion about his trade – and professionalism. “What came as the largest shock to me was that people have people pay them big money for jobs they do completely wrong but still call themselves a professional,” she said. Excited to hear “Omaha is the first city in the nation to require a tile licensure before one can call themselves a professional,” she added, “This has shown me the importance of being a part of the project even after you’ve handed over the specs, construction documents and the overall design. Not only to check up on the lazy people but I think it is also cool to see things in progress and this thing you once had envisioned come to life.”

Lindsay Meyer enjoyed learning from Hecox’s experience and considers it “easiest for us to understand what not to do (and why) by seeing bad examples. Dan did a great job sharing with us, and I learned a lot from him.” These insights include learning about different types of underlayment and backer board, being able to touch the samples to better illustrate the lessons, and ensuring that both GC and tile contractor are reliable, often by working with certified tile setters. 

“Another thing I learned is that it is important for me, as the designer, to show up on the job often to double check the installation process, and if something is awry, to speak with the general contractor about my concerns. I also learned that if there is lippage in a wall application of tile, not having light fixtures wash the wall directly can help hide that. Especially with larger format tiles, the cupping of tiles is inevitable to some degree, so it is up to the designer to make sure it shows as little as possible.”

Truthfully, Becky Virgl wasn’t too jazzed about listening to “some guy talk about tiles all class, but I really enjoyed everything he had to say. It was really nice to learn what good tile installation actually looks like, and see what a dramatic effect it can have on the look of the tiles overall.”

Since the class, Virgl has been noticing bad tile installations in bathrooms and other public places. “I can really appreciate the value of good installation now that I know the difference,” she said, adding that when recently watching videos on Facebook, she came across a tile video in her queue. “I felt so frustrated because they were seemingly knowledgeable, but they were instructing people incorrectly – we learned, you cannot just slap mortar on all willy-nilly without giving the air a place to escape to and you cannot spot-bond tiles. I really appreciated this class because it gave me actual concrete knowledge on a subject that will be incredibly useful to me as a designer and a homeowner in the future.”

It seems from the comments of the students that Spale’s goal that the presentation “allow the students to develop a critical eye and insist that all installations are up to the standards specified,” was achieved.

The student feedback was a big help to Hecox, too. “I’d obviously never given a presentation like this to college students, so I really was unsure of how and what to present to them,” he said. “But hearing how they really enjoyed the presentation, and that now when they are out and about they are inspecting tile work that they see, shows me that what I presented them was spot on.”

Might there be an opportunity to share your knowledge with a university or high school class in your area? 

OSHA issues RFI to consider expansion of construction tasks and silica control measures

Business Tip – July 2018

In a recent article concerning the lack of leadership for OSHA as nominee Scott Mugno awaits Senate confirmation, authors Leah Kaiser and Avi Meyerstein of Husch Blackwell LLP reported that OSHA has moved ahead with its Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, outlining the current status of both pending and anticipated rulemaking efforts. OSHA looks as though it will have its hands full with twenty agenda items, up from fourteen on the Spring 2017 list.

In a new request for information (RFI), OSHA wants to determine if it should expand its list of construction tasks and associated control measures that construction workers can use to comply with its 2016 silica rule for construction. Table 1 of the rule listed dust control methods that employers could use for common construction tasks.

The purpose of the table is to provide a clear path for compliance. It spares construction employers from verifying exposure levels (with data and monitoring) if they employ accepted methods for controlling silica dust. Per OSHA: “Employers who fully and properly implement the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection specified for a task on Table 1 are not required to measure respirable crystalline silica exposures to verify that levels are at or below the PEL for workers engaged in the Table 1 task.”

OSHA intends to use the additional information it gains in response to the RFI to revise Table 1 if deemed appropriate. OSHA currently classifies this rulemaking agenda item as “substantive, nonsignificant,” so it is unclear whether we should expect substantial movement in the near future.

Ask the Experts – July 2018

Ask the Experts Q&As are culled from member inquiries to NTCA’s Technical Support staff. To become a member and make use of personal, targeted answers from Technical Support staff to your installation questions, contact Jim Olson at [email protected]


QUESTION

I have these photos from a customer who is adamant that the chipped tiles are defective. The tiles are butted up and were installed without grout. Would the inability to allow deflection be the cause of breakage?

ANSWER

You are correct. These tiles have very likely chipped along the edges where they touch each other because an appropriate grout joint was not installed in the system. 

Appropriately-sized grout joints are required by tile industry standards and are an integral component to successful tile installations. One of the purposes of a grout joint and grout is to protect the edges of the tiles from damage such as this. 

Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director, Trainer/Presenter

QUESTION

Have you seen a rise in issues with tile crazing? I’ve had several issues with a few different factories with different dye lots. From both Italy and Spain, all glossy. ALL of these jobs used one form of waterproofing; all used premium thinset and premium grouts. All of the factories pass the crazing test and also ANSI. Without seeing into the walls, the jobs looked solid, very good craftsmanship. I have had a total of seven jobs with this issue (three of one color – two dye lots. Four others in all different colors and lots). I figured job complaints would go up with the amount of ceramic tiles that are sold but this seems like an issue that maybe needs an installation adjustment? Looking forward to your thoughts.

ANSWER

I have done some checking and discovered one similar job that was having a crazing problem. On that job, actual tiles from the lot that had been installed were tested and found to not actually meet the ANSI requirement for crazing resistance. I suggest having tiles from the actual, installed lots tested to determine whether they actually pass the ANSI and/or ISO tests for crazing as indicated by the factory. The tests will be able to determine if there is proper fitment of the glaze to the tile body.

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) operates an independent laboratory that can do this testing for you. Katelyn Simpson is the laboratory manager and can provide information on cost and the testing procedure. Katelyn can be reached at (864) 646-8453 or [email protected]

Depending on test results, you will be able to contact the factory with detailed information to discuss resolution. 

Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director, Trainer/Presenter

Two Scholarships Available for Emerging Professionals in the Natural Stone Industry

Oberlin, OH, June 26 2018—The Natural Stone Institute is pleased to announce that two scholarships are available for individuals pursuing careers in the natural stone industry. The deadline to submit applications for the Natural Stone Scholarship and the Women in Stone Empowerment Scholarship is Friday, July 20.

The Natural Stone Scholarship provides a trip to TISE 2019, where the winner will gain valuable technical and practical knowledge regarding the natural stone industry and will meet and network with leading stone professionals. The ideal candidate will be a fabricator, installer, or administrative apprentice with fewer than five years’ experience in the natural stone industry and at least six months experience working with a Natural Stone Institute member company.

Lucja Lawniczak, recipient of the 2017 Natural Stone Scholarship, commented: “I came to TISE with a list of questions, and although not all of them got answered, I found people who can point me in the right direction. This industry keeps me in awe of the generosity and accessibility of the field’s veterans. I felt welcomed, and although there was a factor of intimidation, my fears were short lived.”

The Women in Stone Empowerment Scholarship will provide a trip to one of three 2019 industry events: TISE, Coverings, or the Natural Stone Institute Study tour. The winner will shadow industry professionals within different sectors of the stone industry and have the opportunity to deepen her commitment to a career in the stone industry and explore her potential for leadership. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of two years of experience, be currently employed by a Natural Stone Institute member company, and must be a first-time attendee of the chosen event.

Amy Petersen, recipient of the 2017 Women in Stone Empowerment Scholarship, commented: “I believe education is the key to empowerment and I want to give that gift of knowledge back to other women and aspiring professionals.”

Submissions for both scholarships, as well as all other Natural Stone Institute Industry Recognition Awards, is Friday, July 20. To learn more, visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/awards.

 

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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 www.naturalstoneinstitute.org.

 

CUSTOM® HOSTS FUSION PRO® GROUT FACEBOOK LIVE

CUSTOM is making it easy for tile installation professionals to stay on top of best practices by hosting Facebook Live events–the first is outlined below.

WHO:
Will White, Director of Technical Comms and Training for Custom®

WHAT:
Will White along with several special guest contractors will demonstrate the value and proper use of Fusion Pro® Single-Component Grout for interior and exterior commercial and residential tile installations. The only grout with a stain-proof and color- perfect guarantee, patented Fusion Pro® is ready-to-use right out of the bucket and requires no sealing. The recently-enhanced formula is easier to spread and clean, and provides improved performance in wet areas like showers.

Tips and best practices that will be shared in the Facebook Live include:

  • Avoiding grout haze or residue
  • Vertical tile installations
  • Shower installations
  • Large tile installations

WHEN:           Thursday, June 28 at 4 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. PST

WHERE:         Custom® Building Products Facebook Page

                        www.facebook.com/CustomBuildingProducts

 FUN FACTS:

  • Fusion® Pro comes in 40 colors and eight Designer Series options
  • Fusion® Pro cures hard so it never needs to be sealed
  • Fusion® Pro includes Microban® antimicrobial protection
  • Fusion® Pro is appropriate to fill joint widths 1/16″ to 1/2″
  • Fusion® Pro can be exposed to light foot traffic after 24 hours and heavier foot traffic in 72 hours
  • Fusion® ProWhen is eligible for up to a Lifetime System Warranty when installed with a full system of CUSTOM® products

OSHA Silica Rule Takes Effect June 23, 2018 With 30-Day Grace Period

OSHA’s new final silica rule that dramatically reduces allowable exposures to respirable crystalline silica takes effect this week for most employers. In particular, the rule kicks in on June 23, 2018 for employers in general industry, maritime companies, and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the oil and gas industry (for fracking, engineering controls still do not take effect until June 2021).

OSHA says it will still give these employers some time to adjust to the new rule, however. In a June 7, 2018 memorandum, OSHA announced a 30-day enforcement grace period. During this first month, OSHA says that it will assist employers that make a good faith effort to comply with the requirements under the new standard. However, if OSHA finds that an employer fails to make any effort to comply, the employer will be subject to air monitoring procedures and citations for non-compliance.

In their efforts to comply, employers should take advantage of available compliance assistance materials. As an introduction, OSHA published an overview of the new silica standard in a Small Entity Compliance Guide to help small businesses comply.

What does the rule require?

Generally, the new standard requires employers to:

  • Determine whether workers are or may reasonably be exposed to silica at or above an action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an 8-hour day.
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposure above a PEL of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an 8-hour day.
  • Follow the hierarchy of controls by first employing engineering controls (such as reducing airborne dust using water or removing dust with ventilation) to reduce exposure as much as possible. Only then can employers rely on respirators to protect workers.
  • Limit employee access to areas with exposure levels above the PEL and offer medical exams to highly exposed workers.
  • Develop a written exposure control plan.
  • Train workers on the health risks related to silica exposure and methods to reduce the risks.
  • Maintain records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

OSHA says that it has developed interim inspection and citation guidance to ensure compliance and uniform enforcement of the new standard. The agency says it intends to release these materials in the near future.

Although employers must now comply with the rule’s exposure limits, only some employers must comply this year with the rule’s requirements to offer medical surveillance exams to employees. Where employees will be exposed at or above the PEL for 30 or more days per year, medical surveillance must begin when the rule takes effect this week. However, where employees will only be exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days a year, employers have two more years to comply. In those cases, they must offer medical surveillance exams beginning on June 23, 2020.

OSHA issues RFI to consider expansion of construction tasks and silica control measures

In a recent article concerning the lack of leadership for OSHA as nominee Scott Mugno awaits Senate confirmation, authors Leah Kaiser and Avi Meyerstein of Husch Blackwell LLP reported that OSHA has moved ahead with its Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, outlining the current status of both pending and anticipated rulemaking efforts. OSHA looks as though it will have its hands full with twenty agenda items, up from fourteen on the Spring 2017 list.

In a new request for information, OSHA wants to determine if it should expand its list of construction tasks and associated control measures that construction workers can use to comply with its 2016 silica rule for construction. Table 1 of the rule listed dust control methods that employers could use for common construction tasks.

The purpose of the table is to provide a clear path for compliance. It spares construction employers from verifying exposure levels (with data and monitoring) if they employ accepted methods for controlling silica dust. Per OSHA: “Employers who fully and properly implement the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection specified for a task on Table 1 are not required to measure respirable crystalline silica exposures to verify that levels are at or below the PEL for workers engaged in the Table 1 task.”

OSHA intends to use the additional information it gains in response to the RFI to revise Table 1 if deemed appropriate. OSHA currently classifies this rulemaking agenda item as “substantive, nonsignificant,” so it is unclear whether we should expect substantial movement in the near future.

OSHA Issues Silica Enforcement Memo

 

By Jackson Lewis P.C.

The silica standard for construction came into effect last year, on September 23, 2017, whereas most provisions of the silica rule as it pertains to general industry and maritime (29 CFR § 1910.1053) take effect this month, on June 23, 2018. The new standard for general industry and maritime imposes stricter permissible exposure limits (PELs) by establishing “a new 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, an action level (AL) of 25 µg/m3, and associated ancillary requirements.”

According to a June 8thmemorandum from OSHA, “OSHA will assist employers that are making good faith efforts to meet the new standard’s requirements.”  The Agency indicates that those employers will be treated more leniently than employers in situations where “it appears an employer is not making any efforts to comply.”

“If upon inspection, it appears an employer is not making any efforts to comply, compliance officers should conduct air monitoring in accordance with Agency procedures, and consider citations for non-compliance with any applicable sections of the new standard.

The determination as to whether an employer is or is not making a good faith effort to comply seems to be open to interpretation by the individual OSHA investigator.  The Agency appears to acknowledge this when it mentions yet-to-be-released “interim inspection and citation guidance” and refers to “effective implementation and uniform enforcement of the new standard.” (emphasis added)  This may in part be the reason why during the first 30 days of enforcement, any proposed citations for inspections carried out during this time period, will first have to go to OSHA’s National Office for review and approval before citations are actually issued.

A couple of publications produced by OSHA on the silica standard for general industry and maritime which may provide useful information are as follows:

Homeowner Guide to Finding a Qualified Tile Installer Now Available from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), which provides education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry, has published a thorough online guide to finding tile installers specifically geared to homeowners.

“Finding a qualified tile installer can be challenging for homeowners who want someone with the experience and knowledge of how to install tile correctly, without taking shortcuts,” said Scott Carothers, director of training and certification for CTEF.  “They deserve an installation that looks beautiful and performs flawlessly long after that installer is gone. Hiring someone with the proper skill level to do it right the first time is critical to the ongoing use of tile products. That’s why we’ve put together this in-depth guide which focuses on the importance and value of using qualified labor.”

Qualified Labor for Tile Installation

Qualified labor refers to having the most qualified professional perform the specified scope of work rather than basing the decision on the lowest price. The lowest price almost always fails to provide a quality installation complete with unmet consumer expectations.

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook committee strongly recommends using installers who have demonstrated their commitment to their craft and taken the time to stay current with the latest materials and methods.  Because tile is a permanent finish, the lowest bid should not be the driving factor, but rather who is the most qualified to perform the scope of the work specified.

The Handbook further defines qualified labor as being provided by the following non-profit organizations and programs:

  • The Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT),
  • The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF),
  • The International Masonry Institute (IMI) Contractor College Program,
  • Journeyman Tile Layer Apprenticeship Program,
  • The Marble Institute of America (MIA) Accreditation for Natural Stone Tile Installation Contractors,
  • The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Five Star Contractors Program,
  • The Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) Trowel of Excellence Program.

From a technical perspective, qualified labor means having successfully demonstrated a tile installer’s skills that meet tile industry standards and best practices. That is what the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program does. The CTI designation identifies the professional installer who has reached a level of proficiency to independently and consistently produce a sound tile installation that displays good workmanship. It is the only third-party assessment of tile experience and knowledge.

Certified Tile Installers routinely demonstrate the knowledge, skill, experience, time management abilities and other traits needed to produce high-quality, long-lasting, successful installations using tile industry standards and methods along with time-tested proven best practices which are in place in the United States.

An In-depth Resource Available in Two Formats

The CTEF Homeowner Guide to Finding a Qualified Tile Installer is available online in two formats:

  • A 31-page pdf document that can be downloaded and read
  • An in-depth web page that can easily be read and/or scanned regardless of device whenever it’s needed.

All visuals in the guide represent actual Certified Tile Installer (CTI) installations.

The Certified Tile Installer Program

The CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge which is recognized by the tile industry. It offers homeowners peace-of-mind that their tile installer has the right skills to complete a successful tile installation.

The CTI designation identifies the professional installer who has reached a level of proficiency to independently and consistently produce a sound tile installation that displays good workmanship. Certification is the validation of the skills and knowledge of the men and women who presently are installing tile successfully in the United States.

To qualify for the CTI Program, installers must have at least two years of experience as the lead installer setting ceramic tile on a full-time basis. This means having full responsibility for substrate prep, layout, coordinating with other trades along with properly installing underlayment, tile, grout and sealant materials.

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) which sponsors the CTI program is supported by all segments of the ceramic tile industry. CTEF is headquartered in Pendleton, South Carolina, near Clemson University and near the offices of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

To access the guide, please visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/homeowners-guide-to-hiring-qualified-tile-installer.

# # #

About the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) provides training education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry. Certification programs include the CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program which is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge to be recognized by the tile industry, and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT). For more information, visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org.

Follow CTEF on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ctilef, on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CeramicTileEducationFoundation/, and on Google+: https://plus.google.com/+CeramictilefoundationOrg

Construction Wages: skilled workers command higher pay

Business Tip – June 2018

In the TileLetter Weekly digital enewsletter disseminated on March 7, 2018, a recent study of wage data from the American Community Survey (ACS), analyzed by author Sasha David and published on BuildZoom (buildzoom.com) caused quite a stir. The analysis of the study was to determine which jobs pay the most – and the least – and why. The full story, with supporting charts and tables, can be found at http://tileletter.com/2018/02/construction-wages-who-makes-the-most-and-where/ or at http://bit.ly/2oqMLeO or at BuildZoom at http://bit.ly/2osxF8B.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) charts annual mean wage by area.

The controversy centered around the statistics that show concrete and terrazzo workers in this study make $35,000/year and brick masons, block masons and stone masons – as well as carpet, floor and tile installers and finishers make $30,000/year – which are said to be a far cry from elevator installers and repairers at $80,000 annually, or construction and building inspectors at $55,000. 

The upshot of the story was that location (workers in urban centers generally command higher wages than those in rural settings) and the skill/training level of the workers are the two main factors in higher paying positions, which David attributed to roles like supervisors, engineers and inspectors. 

The BLS statistics paint a different picture of tile and marble setter wages.

However, some TileLetter Weekly readers took umbrage at how tile setters were characterized and how figures may have been obtained including small sample sizes (15 for cement, concrete and terrazzo workers, 19 each for brick masons, block masons and stonemasons and carpet, floor and tile finishers and installers).

Rod Owen

“I dislike this occupational study and the way they group tile setters in with carpet/flooring. It requires greater skill to be a hard tile setter than it does to be a resilient/carpet installer,” said Rod Owen, of NTCA Five Star Contractor C.C. Owen in Jonesboro, Ga. “In fact, the word ‘installer’ irritates me because it associates a tile setter with a less-skilled trade of simply installing products rather than having to perform precision work with less forgiving materials like tile and stone…If all I had to offer was a median of $30k after achieving tile setter status I might as well quit trying to find long-term stable employees.”

Skill makes a difference

David did make the point that skilled “blue collar” positions also can bring in more robust salaries, but she did not identify tile setters as part of that elite group. 

“People tend to associate white-collar or office jobs with higher salaries compared to blue-collar or manual labor, but the rankings show that this is not necessarily the case,” she said. “Working with elevators or boilers requires physical work, but these are among the highest paid jobs in the industry.”

David pointed out, “The highest-paying occupations often require specialized apprenticeships, licenses or certifications that demonstrate an understanding of the trade and command a premium in the market, such as a grounding in mechanics for elevator technicians, circuitry for electricians, or water systems for boilermakers. Of course, licensing can also serve as a means for controlling the number of people practicing and by reducing the supply of those tradesmen, increase their wages.

“Towards the bottom of the list are trades that generally have lower barriers to entry,” she said, adding fuel to the fire. “Floor installers, construction laborers, drywall installers, painters and roofers are listed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics as having ‘no formal education credentials’ required, while professions with average pay including pipelayers, sheet metal workers, glaziers, insulation workers, and carpenters typically require ‘a high school diploma or equivalent.’”

Woody Sanders

Woody Sanders, founder of D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga., a fellow NTCA Five Star Contractor, took exception to the way tile contractors were characterized, saying, “We should highlight and make the case for what the professional ‘TILE’ contractors are paying and doing. I would agree with Rod, we have to detach our trade from carpet, vinyl, LVT. I understand that some of our members are in the floor covering business, but that is neither our charter nor our trade. Our message should be clear that we are a highly skilled trade that offers a career path.

“Interesting enough, as I got [the digital enewsletter], I was entering the pay rate for a new hire,” he added. “Having no experience, knowing nothing about the tile, I started him in the high $20Ks, with a chance to go even higher once he makes it out of his probationary period.” 

Varying statistics

In fact, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) page of the U.S. Department of Labor states the median pay for flooring installers and tile and marble setters in May 2017 was $40,250 per year and $19.35 per hour, quite a difference than the BuildZoom study. These figures, from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey, exceed $37,690 – the median pay for all workers in that time period.

Further analysis of the BLS data paints a different picture from the BuildZoom story. In May 2017, the BLS said tile and marble setters brought in a median wage of $41,680, compared to carpet installers at $38,830, floor layers (except carpet, wood and hard tiles) at $40,040 and floor sanders and finishers at $36,950. The lowest 10% of earners in the flooring installers and tile and marble setters category (which the government does lump together) made less than $23,590 and the highest 10% earned more than $73,990. 

Training

As part of its occupational analysis, the BLS includes a section called “How to Become a Flooring Installer or Tile and Marble Setter” at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/tile-and-marble-setters.htm#tab-4 or https://bit.ly/2rf5RoM. In terms of education – as David pointed out – the BLS states, “There are no specific education requirements for someone to become a flooring installer or tile and marble setter. A high school diploma or equivalent is preferred for those entering an apprenticeship program. High school art, math, and vocational courses are considered helpful for flooring installers and tile and marble setters.” 

However, the BLS continues in its training section with information about on-the-job training for flooring installers and tile and marble setters, adding that some flooring installers and tile and marble setters learn their trade via a two-to –four year apprenticeship. 

“This instruction may include mathematics, building code requirements, safety and first-aid practices, and blueprint reading,” the section states. “After completing an apprenticeship program, flooring installers and tile and marble setters are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own.”

And certification programs figure prominently in the BLS’s Certification section, which names industry programs that test installer and setter skills and offer certification credentials. At the top of the list is the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certification, and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program and requirements for taking the exam:

“Certification requirements include passing both an exam and a field test,” the site states. “Workers must also have either completed a qualified apprenticeship program or earned the CTI Certification to qualify for testing.” The program offers certifications in seven specific areas of tile installation:

  • Grouts
  • Large-format tile and substrate preparation
  • Membranes
  • Mortar (mud) floors
  • Mortar (mud) walls
  • Shower receptors
  • Thin porcelain tile.

The site also names voluntary certification programs for floor finishers and sanders by the NWFA, CFI’s certification for flooring and tile installers and the INSTALL comprehensive flooring certification program for flooring and tile installers. 

Important qualities that flooring installers and tile and marble setters need to exhibit are also listed, which include: color vision, customer-service skills, detail oriented, math skills, physical stamina and physical strength. 

So while it is true that anyone can enter the field without formal training, there is more than a nod given to certification programs, skill credentialing for skills of installers and setters and specialized qualities that enable them to execute their jobs. 

Bart Bettiga

“These products are not meant to be put in by an untrained workforce,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “Tile and stone are most often selected because they are considered to be a permanent finish. For this to be the case, we need to have a highly trained and highly compensated workforce.

“For the past several years, the NTCA has been developing its online apprenticeship curriculum,” he added. “We have worked with several of our members to help them use this educational tool to recruit new people into the trade and to train their current staff. It is our hope that this program can be integrated with supervised and field-related training.

“The reason this is so important is that we believe that tile installation is a highly skilled craft that takes several years to master,” Bettiga continued. “Why is this important? Because we have a big job to do, and it is perfectly illustrated in this paper. We must raise the wages of our trained tile installers if we are going to recruit talented young people into our trade. We cannot continue to be grouped with other flooring trades that quite frankly are not as complex, nor do they take as long to master. Tile installers should be making wages like other trades that are considered to be highly skilled.”

Clearly, CTIs, ACT-certified tile setters and NTCA Five Star Contractors exhibit “the specialized apprenticeships, licenses or certifications that demonstrate an understanding of the trade and command a premium in the market” that David indicated is a prerequisite for higher wages. Getting the word out to end users to look for those craftspeople with credentialed skills is an ongoing initiative in this industry.

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