A technical conference took place at ASCER’s conference hall on 20th to discuss the use of ceramic in public buildings with architects, building engineers and public engineers. In the past recent years, the use of ceramic tiles has conquered the exterior use: façades, sidewalks, squares, etc. This conference was aimed at bringing closer the latest new building solutions that ceramics offer to public works. It was also highlighted the importance of choosing the right materials depending on their application, as well as their proper installation.
The program of the conference included:
Is your employee handbook up to snuff?
By Bob Scavone, Labor and Employment attorney, Jackson Lewis P.C.
“Do you have an employee handbook?” No matter the size of the business, or type of industry, this is one of the first questions I ask employers when speaking with them about their business practices and how they can lower the risk of liabilities. Having a handbook and providing employees copies, however, may not be enough to protect your business from legal liability or other unintended consequences. Lawsuits and agency claims, employee turnover, and poor public relations are a few examples of the unintended consequences that can result from outdated or unlawful handbook provisions, or ones that are misinterpreted or inconsistently administered by managers and supervisors.
To reduce your exposure, your employee handbook must be
2) Tailored to your specific business and industry
3) Regularly reviewed and updated, and
4) Compliant with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
Liability and an incomplete employee handbook
Why are employee handbooks important? First, handbooks set employer expectations and employee responsibilities. For example, your handbook should explain that the company expects its business practices and internal communications to be kept confidential and outline the consequences for breaching confidentiality. Similarly, your handbook should outline what constitutes prohibited conduct and establish consistent guidelines for disciplining those who violate company policy. Absent such guidelines, your company may be open to legal claims based on arbitrary or inconsistent discipline.
Second, a properly-designed handbook can protect your business against legal liability. For example, handbooks that do not include comprehensive anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies can expose employers to charges of harassment and discrimination. Your handbook should include policies that prohibit unlawful employment practices and explain to employees what to do if they are harassed or discriminated against and how to report such conduct. Ensuring your employees sign an acknowledgement form when they receive the handbook and any updates can significantly improve your chances of avoiding liability.
A comprehensive, carefully-developed employee handbook can be a valuable resource, providing important information about an organization’s history, mission, values, and culture, as well policies, procedures, and benefits. Consulting with an employment attorney is the best way to make sure you are covering all of the bases.
Company- and industry-specific
No two companies are the same, even in the same industry. The employer who uses cookie-cutter or off-the-shelf handbook templates to craft a handbook takes an unnecessary risk. First, templates rarely cover all of the topics that may be important to your business and typically do not address specific state laws and regulations. For example, many states have recently passed laws regulating whether (and under what circumstances) employees may store firearms in vehicles parked on company property. Even if an off-the-shelf handbook covers this issue, it likely will not cover the law specific to your state (or states, if your business operates in more than one). Moreover, a generic handbook may contain policies that are inconsistent with your company’s practices or customs.
Review. Update. Repeat.
Federal, state, and local labor and employment laws are changing constantly. For example, state and federal anti-discrimination laws are in flux with regard to whether discrimination based on sexual orientation is unlawful. Conduct that may not have been illegal when your handbook was issued may now be prohibited. With the assistance of employment counsel, your human resources professionals should monitor changes in the law and update your company’s policies regularly.
In addition to changes in the law, your handbook should keep up with changes in your company’s policies and practices. For example, your handbook should reflect changes in your IT policies or vacation matrix on a timely basis. Your employees must have access to the current policies to reduce your company’s exposure to liability.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote is particularly relevant to employee handbooks. Let me be blunt: each of your employees is a potential plaintiff (or cause of litigation). Making sure you have a comprehensive, tailored, up-to-date handbook could save you a substantial amount of time, money, and grief. If you do not have an employee handbook, I strongly recommend that you get one. If you have one, check when it was last updated. If it has been more than a year since its last update, it is time to get your employee handbook up to snuff.
Robert Scavone Jr. is an attorney at Jackson Lewis P.C., which represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation. Its attorneys are available to assist employers in their compliance efforts and to represent employers in matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. Prior to becoming an attorney, Robert was an executive with one of the nation’s largest commercial flooring contractors and a member of the NTCA’s Board of Directors and Technical Committee. He works out of the firm’s Miami office and can be reached at 305-577-7619 or [email protected].
This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between Jackson Lewis P.C. and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C.
Taking a look at the testing behind the tech: TCNA Lab and its contribution to the industry
Traditionally, Tech Talk is a place to bring information of specific, practical tips for day-to-day tile installation. But this installment will focus on a lot of the technical work that goes on behind the scenes in the TCNA labs, which impact testing, standards and other aspects of tile and associated products that contractors work with every day. This information was made public at Coverings in April.
TCNA Lab active in New gauged porcelain tile standard
When ANSI A137.3-2017 and A-108.19-2017 were approved recently, their 32 cumulative pages represented many hours of work on behalf of “thin tile” advocates across the globe. The science behind the standards, meanwhile, was provided by a tightly-knit group based out of Anderson, S.C., who logged approximately 4,000 hours over six months to make the standard a reality.
“While a number of folks in the industry were absolutely critical in spearheading the thin tile project, and in keeping it moving forward at an incredibly rapid pace, there’s no question our lab played a decisive role in its eventual composition,” said Eric Astrachan, executive director, Tile Council of North America (TCNA). “In fact, our lab plays an integral role in the development of many of this industry’s standards – thin tile is just the latest example. We couldn’t develop consensus as we do today without the lab leading the way through their R&D efforts. We’re very proud of the work they do.”
“Standards development is a challenging and interesting cross-disciplinary project for our staff,” said director of Laboratory Services Claudio Bizzaglia. “We have a standards team that attacks each particular standards project we work on, and then, depending on the nature of the project, we pull in specific additional staff members, depending on their specialties. The standards we’ve worked on recently or we’re working on now include a new surface abrasion method for ceramic tiles, multiple water absorption methods, various aspects of the glass tile standard, ongoing coefficient of friction studies, and the Robinson floor test method.”
“Having a diverse talent base to pull from here at TCNA is a tremendous asset in standards development and other industry-facing projects, just as it is for customer assignments,” Astrachan says. “With standards, the team has the additional benefit of knowing that they’re contributing something to an industry that we care very much about – and then, of course, it’s nice to have that expertise when it comes to helping our customers should a standard be ratified.”
TCNA Lab Technician Scott Davis (l.) reviews results with Claudio Bizzaglia. Testing and research conducted at the TCNA Lab contributes to the development of many tile (and related products) industry standards—the ANSI A137.3-2017 and A108.19-2017 “thin tile” standards being the latest examples.
IAS Grants ISO 17025 Accreditation to TCNA Lab; Bizzaglia elected chairman of ISO TC 189 committee
The International Accreditation Service (IAS), a non-profit, public benefit corporation and internationally-recognized accreditation body based in the United States, has accredited the Laboratory Services department of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) in all of the methods the lab submitted to IAS. Forty-five separate methods were submitted, including those most central and relevant to tile and installation materials testing.
This accreditation – a voluntary, third-party review process — underscores the Lab’s acquisition of numerous “seals of approval” from a panoply of North America’s largest corporate entities following evaluation based on their individual standards and practices.
“Our team worked very hard to make this accreditation possible, and our success is the result of their professionalism, as well as excellent teamwork,” says director of Lab Services Claudio Bizzaglia. “We look forward to retaining our accreditation and perhaps gaining additional accreditations this summer.”
The accreditation comes at a time of exponential growth for the TCNA Lab, whose revenues have more than tripled in over the past five years, growing consistently since 2009, with major growth since 2013. Bizzaglia attributes the growth to the lab’s results-driven professional environment, a recommitment to customer care and customer service, an expanded sales effort, and, as he says, “a little bit of luck.”
Bizzaglia also counts this growth as a big achievement, as are the result good practices of precision and recordkeeping demonstrated by the tightly-scheduled lab, which contributed to ISO accreditation, and to customer satisfaction.
TCNA Lab Technicians Nicole Spandley and Damon McDowell testing the shear bond strength of thin set mortar on the Instron Universal Tester according to the ANSI A118 method, one of the many market-relevant test methods in which the TCNA Lab is ISO17025 accredited.
In addition, Bizzaglia was elected chairman of the ISO TC189 Committee. He will succeed the venerable Dr. Svend Hovmand, former president and former chairman of the board of Crossville, Inc.
Hovmand has served and is currently serving on numerous industry boards of directors, including those of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, Porcelain Tile Certification Agency, Coverings, and Tile Council of North America. Bizzaglia will become chair on January 1, 2018.
Hovmand praised Bizzaglia’s extensive international work experience developing laboratory methods and standards and many roles in the tile industry, which includes experience in manufacturing and nearly 10 years leading TCNA’s lab.
“It’s an honor to represent TCNA and serve the industry on this international committee,” Bizzaglia said. “Stepping into this role following Svend will not be easy, but I hope to be up to the challenge.”
Claudio Bizzaglia, TCNA’s director of Laboratory Services, has been elected to chair ISO’s Technical Committee TC189 beginning January 1, 2018. This committee develops voluntary, consensus-based standards for ceramic tiles and related installation materials, including grouts, adhesives, and membranes.
TCNA works to coordinate Global Lab Network
Another aspect of Bizzaglia’s work has been completing several rounds of conversation regarding the assembly of a Global Lab Network.
The goals of the Network include establishing standards for precision in test methods among its affiliates, as well as accepted norms for responsiveness and overall service, while also providing forums for best practices, problem-solving, and networking, Bizzaglia says. “We feel that intercontinental cooperation will be of great benefit to the scientific community – not only from a pure scientific standpoint, but from a business standpoint,” Bizzaglia said.
The Global Lab Network can provide trusted lab resources for colleagues in other countries seeking referrals to a lab in the U.S. or around the world. In addition, it may be a vehicle to bring “education and understanding in lesser developed regions that penetrates into the marketplace,” Bizzaglia noted. “It is possible that through reaching out on scientific matters, we may be able to assist producers, not always in compliance with international standards, and provide some help and assistance. We have had good results with this type of engagement before.”
To date, the Network has commitments from the TCNA Lab, which operates facilities in both the US and Mexico, as well as a lab in Brazil. Plans are underway to engage European facilities in the Network.
TCNA Lab technician Tracy Williams measures the warpage, facial and thickness dimensions, and the wedging of a ceramic tile according to ASTM C485, ASTM C499, and ASTM C502.
Certification: education and credentials add value to services offered by Mike Sima, Midtown Tile
By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing
Mike Sima, owner of Midtown Tile in Omaha, Neb., received some hometown advice early on in his career that has stuck with him through the last decade. “Never present anything to your customer that you wouldn’t present to your mother,” Sima said. This advice has served him well over the years. In fact, Sima credits it for his success as a one-man operation that specializes in residential remodeling and new construction.
Moreover, Sima believes in educating oneself to be prepared for any situation on a job site. This is where becoming a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) comes in.
“I feel like [certification] sets me apart from the trowel-and-bucket guys,” Sima said. “I went out to prove to myself (and to my clients) that I have the knowledge and skill set to do my job right. I hold myself to a higher standard.”
Certification, presented by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) provides the opportunity for tile installers to prove their skill and knowledge of tile installation. Becoming a CTI increases one’s level of professionalism and allows those certified to offer their clients further proof of their dedication and expertise in the field.
“I wanted to test myself and my abilities,” Sima said, when asked why he became certified. “I also use [certification] as a marketing and educational tool. I try to educate every customer about certification and why it is important.” Certification and education in general has also increased Sima’s bottom line. “I find that the knowledge I have learned, the fact that I am certified, and naturally being a people person has helped me gain the trust of clients,” Sima said.
Sima, a member of the Facebook group TileGeeks, found out about certification from his fellow TileGeeks. This highlights the importance of being involved with the industry.
So why should others become certified? “I would tell them to test themselves,” Sima said. “Get in there and push yourself. It is rewarding. It is a marketing tool. It is a brotherhood.” Sima now uses the NTCA and CTEF logos in his correspondence, and will soon be adding them to his business cards and other promotional material.
Being a NTCA member and a CTI gives Sima a leg up in the industry. “With anything I learn, I feel my work should be valued more,” Sima said. “This is just one more reason to feel more confident with my bids for jobs.”
I was on a walk-thru today and attached are photos of a chip on an installed tile wall at the World Trade Ctr. There are numerous chips like this on the job from damage by other trades after we finished installing.
The architect is calling out these tiny chips on the punchlists and I’m arguing about with him considering the tiny size.
Sure we can remove and replace chipped tile, but I think there would be more of a mess than they might want to deal with.
Is there any criteria for this? Like if a chip is less than 1/16” it stays?
Please let me know, and thanks in advance.
There are no criteria that I am aware of that states what size chip is acceptable. It is extremely unfortunate when other trades do not respect our installations. There is some debate as to whether it is a tile contractor’s responsibility to protect our work, or whether it falls to the trade that comes behind us to use a modicum of precaution and protection. Perhaps you will be able to bill the contractor that damaged your work for your time to repair the damage they caused.
Please refer to these standards:
- ANSI A108 is the Tile Industry Standard Specification for the Installation of Ceramic Tile.
- ANSI A108.02 is the General Requirements for Materials, Environmental and Workmanship.
- ANSI A108.02 4.3 is the section that discusses Workmanship, Cutting, Fitting and Grout Joint Size.
- ANSI A108.02 4.3.3 states “Smooth cut edges. Install tile without jagged or flaked edges.”
Other tile industry standards include:
- TCNA Handbook (2016 Edition)
- ANSI A108 / A118 / A136 (Installation and Material Standards)
- ANSI A137.1 (Ceramic Tile)
In addition, you will want to have:
- ANSI A137.2 (Glass Tile)
- A137.3 (Gauged Porcelain Tile / Panels – standard just approved at Coverings in April)
I hope to see you later this year when I am in the area. – Mark Heinlein, NTCA technical trainer
I have a customer who wants wanted to use pebbles on the floor of the shower with grout joints washed really low. Are there standards or guidelines that relate to this type of installation that you can share with me?
The NTCA always encourages our members to use the standards and methods found in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, and the guidelines in The American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
In response to your question about the depth of grout in a grout joint: refer to ANSI 108.10 Installation of Grout in Tile Work.
In section 5.3.3 it states to “force a maximum amount of grout in the joint.” In section 5.3.4 it says, “All joints are to be uniformly finished.”
Part of the service we offer to members is technical support. We have in the past seen many instances where uncut pebbled stones have inhibited the flow of water in showers even with properly sloped assemblies, which in turn leave small puddles behind the stone affecting the uniformity of grout color. Also these small puddled areas — when not properly and regularly cleaned — can encourage mold growth when organic materials from soaps and shampoos are added to them. This is a significant enough problem that I’ve heard the 1/4 “per foot slope minimum requirements for shower floors may be changed to 1/2 “per foot slope to alleviate some of these issues. Not filling the joints full as directed by the ANSI standards previously cited could increase theses issues. – Robb Roderick, NTCA technical trainer
The beauty of and longtime satisfaction in ceramic and porcelain tile installations will many times depend on the creativity employed in the design process. Whether the pattern and layout suggestions are provided by the consumer, the architect, the designer, the retailer or even the installer, success comes only when the customer is happy with the final appearance.
With the very popular woodgrain pattern tiles available today, many choices must be made in regards to the tile pattern, color, grout joint offset and grout joint size. Most of these woodgrain tiles are planks that range from 3” up to 9” wide in lengths from 24” to 72”—and beyond.
To aid in determining the grout joint offset, ANSI Specification A108.02-22.214.171.124 offers assistance. It states: “For running bond/brick joint patterns utilizing tiles (square or rectangular) where the side being offset is greater than 18” (nominal dimension), the running bond offset will be a maximum of 33% unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. If an offset greater than 33% is specified, specifier and owner must approve mock-up and lippage.”
This language is of great help to the installer by eliminating 50% offset and its possible lippage, but what about a random grout joint? Almost all wood flooring is installed using a random (no pattern) end joint. Likewise, these tile installations may look more natural if installed randomly rather than in a regimented joint layout.
However, this option presents two challenges. If the planks are running in a random pattern, it is possible that offsets between 33% and 50% could occur and cause excessive lippage. The installer needs to pay strict attention to this possibility and minimize joints in this area. In the accompanying photo, the installer was fortunate that lippage was not a factor. However, if lippage does occur, the installer may have to widen the grout joint to accommodate the resulting lippage.
The other challenge is to be certain the customer knows what pattern they have selected and how it will appear on the floor. Photos of past jobs or a manufacturer’s brochure or website can help them “see” the final look. Installers should never assume they know what the customer wants. Always ask and get the final decision in writing. Not doing so can be extremely costly, as evidenced by a call I received recently.
The installer provided a beautifully installed random joint plank floor. However, this professional installation was rejected by the customer because the random pattern did not meet her expectations—worse yet, her expectations had never been established.
There was nothing wrong with the random pattern installation except the customer (the person paying the bill) would not accept it. She did some research and found that the ANSI Specifications call for a maximum 33% offset, and said her floor needed to follow the standard. This whole mess could have been avoided with clear communication.
An important issue that manufacturers must address in today’s marketplace is the ability to balance product performance with environmentally sustainable formulations and manufacturing processes. The clarity with which the manufacturer reports on both of these products aspects is a measure of the company’s transparency to its customers and end users. Third-party certification of products and their manufacturing processes is one method of displaying transparency.
MAPEI is a champion of the Tile Council of North America’s Green Squared program for third-party-certified green products for the installation of tile and stone. MAPEI has a select set of mortars and grouts that are SCS third-party certified to the TCNA’s Green Squared standard (ANSI A138.1), making them eligible for a special LEED v4 pilot credit.
The TCNA reported in a recent news release, “Specifically, Green Squared Certified products now qualify to contribute toward a new LEED Pilot Credit offered for using ‘Certified Multi-attribute Products and Materials.’ The credit requires that certification details, including which Green Squared electives were satisfied, are disclosed, and that a product lifecycle assessment (LCA) has been conducted.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also added Green Squared Certified products to its current recommendations made to all U.S. government purchasing officials to aid in identifying and procuring environmentally sustainable products and services.
The MAPEI products that have been Green Squared Certified include MAPEI Ultralite™ Mortar, MAPEI Ultralite Mortar Pro, MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar, MAPEI Ultralite S1 Quick mortar Ultracolor® Plus FA premium grout and new MAPEI Flexcolor™ 3D ready-to-use grout with translucent/iridescent effects. These products can be specified by architects as a sustainable tile installation system.
MAPEI also has TCNA industry-average Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), Health Product Declarations (HPDs) and VOC emission certifications (CA-DPH 01350) for these products and many others, which can contribute to LEED v4 as well as to sustainability programs such as the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and the Well Building Standard.
“TCNA has been a leader in providing sustainable tile system initiatives with both Green Squared certification and EPDs that have benefited both the industry and MAPEI in offering our customers a complete system, from tile to mortar to grout,” said Cris Bierschank, Technical Services Sustainability Manager for MAPEI Americas.
Lake Zurich, Ill., May 16, 2017 ⎯ According to a recent industry report, an uptick in electric radiant floor heating sales can be largely attributed to double-digit increases in online orders.
WarmlyYours Radiant Heating released its “2017 First Quarter Industry Report” earlier this week. The report found that the first quarter of 2017 showed a 5.3% increase in total consolidated sales of WarmlyYours products and a 5.2% increase in electric floor heating, the company’s flagship product line. This growth can largely be attributed to a sizable increase in orders with an online origin. According to the report, the first quarter of 2017 saw a 13.5% increase in the number of online orders and a 12.4% increase in the amount spent on online orders, when compared to prior-year-period.
The report identified two primary causes for this shift in consumer behavior: increasing remodeling activity at the national level and significant developments to the WarmlyYours website.
“WarmlyYours expects [online orders] to increase even more due to the launch of revamped product pages which were pushed live in the last week of the [Q1 2017]. These new product pages reflect a more streamlined and user-friendly interface for consumers and should help increase conversion rates across all metrics.”
Additionally, the report analyzed the current projections for remodeling activity and the national housing market, which is facing a shortage of available inventory. These factors led to several product line projections for WarmlyYours within the report.
“With the national housing market in its current state of inventory-related pressure, we expect to see a noticeable uptick in [floor heating] sales as “Fixer-Upper” units enter the market and first-time buyers begin the necessary renovations… As a whole, WarmlyYours online and e-tailer sales are poised to grow due to an expanded portfolio of available products and a more fully realized digital marketing strategy.”
These developments can already be seen within first quarter sales via e-tailers like Costco, which increased 12.6% in sales of WarmlyYours products. Interestingly, sales of electric floor heating systems were the only product line to dip in first quarter e-tailer sales, while all other product lines increased for a cumulative gain of 14%. Of note, were towel warmer sales which grew 32.6%.
Julia Billen, the owner and president of WarmlyYours, pointed to website improvements and new product launches as the primary vectors for continued growth for WarmlyYours.
“2017 is shaping up to be a great year for WarmlyYours. A lot of long-term projects concerning the website and our product portfolio are just coming to fruition and I couldn’t be more excited about our future.”
Click here to read the “2017 First Quarter Industry Report” in full.
For more information, visit www.WarmlyYours.com. Hi-res images are available upon request.
About WarmlyYours Radiant Heating
For nearly 20 years, WarmlyYours Radiant Heating has offered the industry’s most innovative solutions in radiant heating technology, from our flagship floor- heating systems and radiant wall panels to snow-melting systems, as well as comfort products, including towel warmers, mirror defoggers, shower floor and bench heating, and countertop heaters. With locations in the United States and Canada, WarmlyYours provides unrivaled personalized customer support from start to finish, featuring measuring and design services, 24/7 technical support, and our No Nonsense™ Warranty. For more information, visit www.WarmlyYours.com.
At this year’s Coverings, the largest international tile & stone exhibition in North America, more than 1,100 exhibitors showcased the latest tile products—revealing a variety of aspects of tile that reinforce its position as a truly versatile building material. Tile is durable, sustainable, resistant, low maintenance, energy efficient, and healthy. What’s more, tile is beautiful, with many designs for today’s commercial and residential spaces.
“When it came to presenting remarkable solutions, the exhibitors at Coverings 2017 left no stone, or tile, unturned,” said Alena Capra, Coverings’ Industry Ambassador. “Today’s tile offers incredible range of design opportunities for architects, designers, and homeowners. From every aisle of the show floor, there were exciting products that we can look forward to seeing in the market later this year.”
Among the thousands of new tile introductions, here’s a look at the top trends that emerged from the show floor:
The Skinny on Thin Tile
Among those in the tile industry, the new name for thin tile is gauged porcelain tile—a term that helps describe materials produced to a precise thickness, similar to how “gauged” is used to describe wire or sheet metal. With its slim size, one of the main benefits of gauged tile is that it can be installed on top of existing wall or floor tiles. This year, Abitare La Ceramica showcased gauged tile in a cement style with the Icon collection. Iris U.S. Calacatta collection reflected a natural marble look while Cedir Ceramiche’s Iron Mix series presented a stone look.
Pretty in Pink
This year, the show floor saw pops of pink in every corner with an emphasis on blush tones. Cooperative Ceramica D’Imola introduced Play, a line with double-fired tiles that yield a satin finish. Mirage Granito Ceramico SpA unveiled its new collaboration with Studio Job, a Dutch design firm. The collection sports a smooth surface with a thick glass layer on top of porcelain that mimics a wood look in unusual colors—its pink iteration was a standout. Vives Cerámica brought color to life with the Dolce Vita collection, which merges periods and styles to create tile with a huge amount of personality. The Cíes wall tile, part of the collection, offers a blush tone in a matte finish, providing a truly attractive look.
Bringing The Outside In
Creating design inspired by nature gives a serene look to any space. With tile that mimics some of nature’s most coveted looks, homeowners and designers can easily achieve this design trend. Ceramica Fondovalle SpA debuted the DREAM collection with patterns that resemble the sky, earth and greenery, bringing a natural feel indoors. IBERO Porcelanico showcased the Habita collection, a porcelain tile that sports a real wood look. With four different shades inclusive of cool and warm tones, the collection is extremely versatile and allows spaces to have a rustic, natural wood look and feel with the durability and sustainability of tile. Natucer introduced the DYNAMIC series, which offers 3D wall tiles. The collection’s neutral colors and fish scale patterns evokes a sense of underwater and marine life to the space. Lunada Bay Tile showcased the Watercolor collection of glass tiles with subtle color variation in blues, channeling sea and sky. Cercan Tile Inc. introduced their line of Semi-Precious Stones set in resin. The tiles are available in any desired size and are custom made allowing for a truly unique installation with real, semi-precious stone for a natural feel.
While bold colors are important to design, so, too, are neutrals, which provide visual balance to a space. At Coverings, exhibitors showcased a variety of looks that prove that neutrals can go in a variety of attractive hues along the muted color spectrum. Dune Ceramics shared the SHAPES series with the Luna shape in bronze and white, featuring a metallic accent, which plays with light and creates reflections and shadows. Marazzi presented MATERIKA, a collection of matte neutrals that are fashioned into over-sized wall tiles. With options ranging from flat to 3D wavy or combed surfaces, the ceramic wall tiles create a feeling of depth while maintaining a neutral color palette. Realonda Ceramica brought the PATTERN series, a collection of square tiles that are distinctive due to their 3D look and bronze color. Clay Decor’s line Imaginatio highlighted the return of brass and copper as neutrals to interior design. The warm hues bring subtle glamour to any space with their metallic finishes.
Get in the Groove
While tile is the star of the installation, several grout manufacturers have introduced products that had show attendees taking a closer look at the installation material. Not just functional, grout can enhance the design quotient of the application. Bostik showcased the new Hydroment Vivid Cement-Based Grout. The grout is available in different colors and dries in just 4 hours, allowing for immediate foot traffic on the newly tiled space. MAPEI unveiled its new collection, Flexcolor 3D, which sports an iridescent quality, taking on the color of the tile it is surrounded by, and is available in blues, greens, metallic gold, or silver hues.
Dare to be Bold
From prints to metallic hues to bright colors, today’s tile manufacturers are not shy in terms of making a bold statement. Appomattox Tile Art’s Devereaux collection brought bold to a new level with its palm leaf print. Sure to wow, this mosaic adds a pop of color and pattern to any space. Mainzu shared Diamond, a collection of 3D wall tiles that bring together volume, texture, and color. Diamond’s lines, sharp design and plethora of colors bring dynamism to any décor. Lea Ceramiche presented Waterfall, which represents the natural stone aspects of slate. The tiles are available in various gray scale shades with shapes that span from traditional large formats to decorative mosaics and geometric shapes allowing for patterns resembling real stone looks.
As a hard surface, it’s difficult to imagine tile in a range of textures, but with innovative manufacturing, several tiles presented looks that provide a tactile experience.
Sicis debuted Vetrite, which incorporates fabrics underneath glass slabs to give a soft, textured look to any space’s design. American Wonder Porcelain’s Fabric Folio Collection and Landmark Ceramic’s Soul collection both play with textile style as a contemporary interpretation of fabrics creates highlights and natural movement. For those preferring harder surface looks, Keraben Grupo introduced Elven, a collection inspired by metal sheets with an almost metallic finish. Along similar lines, Firenze (Porcelanite Lamosa) brought Oxide, which also encompasses an industrial aesthetic. Although a porcelain tile, the digital printing technique and textures bring a rusted metal look to life.
This year, the tile industry saw the return of two specific retro-inspired trends: patchwork and terrazzo. Taking the popular 1970s trend and adding a spin, Ceramica Fioranese introduced the Marmorea series, which gives a visual effect of marble surfaces and pieces of terrazzo. With a more traditional approach to the terrazzo style, Inalco exhibited the Fluorite collection. With a range of sizes and colors, industry professionals can specify the trend in various ways, honing in on their own design style or the needs of their clients. Vintage patterns are also making a comeback, as Patchwork was prevalent among tile manufacturers this year. Aparici showcased BONDI, porcelain tiles that take this trend and add vintage flair to a modern space. In addition to patchwork and terrazzo, parquet inspired floors are making a return. Crossville shared Nest, a durable tile take on traditional wooden parquet floors. The collection is available in seven different colors, allowing designers and homeowners to achieve any desired look.
Labor may now be subject to state sales tax
By Paige W. Smith, Neuse Tile Service, NTCA Region 3 Director
This is an important development in tax laws that affect contractors that is taking place in North Carolina. Important in its own right, it holds even broader importance when one considers that once a single state passes this sort of law, other states will likely consider it or follow suit. Tile contractors should check with their tax accountants about any changes or revisions to laws in their own state related to sales and use tax. Forewarned is forearmed. – Ed.
Tile installation contractors who work in North Carolina should be aware that some of their labor may now be subject to state sales tax. Previous legislative changes had only applied to installers who were also retailers, but, on Jan. 1 of this year a new state law was enacted which requires the application of sales and use tax to all “real property contracts.”
The N.C. legislature has come up with its own statutory definitions of “real property,” “real property contract,” and “capital improvement” as well as a new tax form, E-595E. Tile contractors will most likely fall under the classification of “specialty contractor.” There have been several attempts to clarify which types of work are considered repair/ replacement/ reconstruction/ vs. remodeling, but the distinctions remain open to some interpretation.
The N.C. Department of Revenue Directive issued 11/15/2016 included 15 pages of definitions and “clarifications,” and on 3/17/2017 another 12-page Notice of “Additional Information” was issued. Accountants in the state have issued differing opinions on which aspects of tile work will be taxable, and contractors will definitely want to get in touch with their own tax advisor.
The new law is very confusing as evidenced by the continued “clarifications.” I’ve been to quite a few seminars on how we should interpret the new statute, and each time the answers seem to be slightly different.
Sales tax on repair work
Generally, for any repair work or replacement of existing tile, contractors should now be charging — and paying to the state — sales tax on the total invoice amount (both material and labor). The sales tax is based on the rate for the county where the work is done. Most installers will want to become “tax exempt” for their purchases so that some material tax will be paid in as “use tax” and some as “sales tax.” It has been explained that those who work exclusively for general contractors will usually be exempt from the new tax on labor IF the tile installer gets the general contractor to complete the “blanket use” portion of the new tax form.
Repairs or replacements in which the tile contractor is including the work of other trade specialists (i.e. a plumber & glass door company) are not so clearly delineated as to whether they are “repairs” or “capital improvements” under the legislation’s definitions. I went to a forum in which even the head of the N.C. Sales and Use Tax Division said he was still trying to figure out how to answer many of the construction industry’s questions.
For now, contractors should be sure to speak with their local tax advisor, set up a system for tracking county tax rates, and charge sales tax on their work when required. The link to the N.C. Department of Revenue’s March notice can be found at www.DORNC.com/taxes/sales/realpropertycontractors