Epoxy grout + enzymatic no-rinse cleaners = grout disaster

By Kevin Fox, Fox Ceramic Tile Inc., a NTCA Five Star Contractor

Several years ago my MAPEI sales representative, Dennis Sandell, made me aware of a grout-failure phenomenon that was studied for a restaurant chain in Texas. At the time it seemed interesting but I really never thought much about it until I got a call from a restaurant manager. It seems that his kitchen grout was significantly degraded, and there were many areas in which the grout was virtually gone. This concerned me, since my company installed this floor just a few years ago, and it was grouted with a 100% solids epoxy grout. Luckily I did remember the conversation with Dennis.

The study involved the extreme rapid degeneration of epoxy grout. The results of the study concluded a new type of cleaning chemical using enzymatic cleaners (also known as “no-rinse” cleaners) was used. These cleaners have become very popular in commercial kitchens.

Since this initial call I have been consulted on several other kitchen grout failures. Now, the first thing I do is find out what they have been cleaning with, and without any exceptions, they have all used no-rinse cleaners. Yet often before I can tell the operators the source of the problem, they strongly assert their belief that the original tile-installation company must have performed their work incorrectly. Many times the operators required them to come back and regrout, only to have the same failure occur.

Unfortunately for these tile-setting companies, their name is dragged down due to a failure not under their control. I remembered a friendly conversation I had with a competitor. He told me his company recently regrouted a very large kitchen where grout had failed under his one-year contractual warranty. The original grout was a 100% solids epoxy, and the regrout was again with the same 100% solids epoxy grout. He was very troubled to learn the regrout was also failing. After I informed him about the destructive nature of no-rinse cleaners, he was relieved that the failure was not a result of improper workmanship or faulty grout. It was clear that he wished knew about this information many thousands of dollars ago.

The problem with enzymatic cleaners

The problem with these cleaners and 100% solids epoxy grouts is this: although harmless to the epoxy grout alone, these enzymatic cleaners accelerate the breakdown of products such as sugars, fats and proteins, which commonly appear on commercial kitchen floors.

To break down these products, the cleaner is left on the floor overnight (thus the name “no rinse”). The byproduct of the breakdown of the fats (grease) is acidic, and cumulative. After days, weeks and months of cleaner use, a highly acidic solution develops that rapidly deteriorates grouts.

Since the above-mentioned study, several manufacturers have developed an epoxy grout that can be subjected to these cleaners. We have had great success at regrouting failed original installations using these epoxies. These 100%  solids epoxies are listed to comply with ANSI 118.5.

A word of caution: use of these 100% solids epoxies is still limited. When used with newly-developed accelerated enzymatic cleaners, to my knowledge, no grout manufacturer will offer a warranty on their 100% solids epoxy products – even the new ones that meet the ANSI 118.5 standards.

With new installations, my company has taken the approach to educate the end user. If these no-rinse cleaners are used, the only grout which can be used is the above 100% solids epoxy grout meeting ANSI 118.5. We educate the end user about the lack of manufacturer warranty on these ANSI 118.5 grouts if they are using an accelerated enzymatic no-rinse cleaner. These ANSI 118.5 grouts are more expensive than other epoxy grouts and typically are more difficult to use. Yet if traditional cleaners are used, many other grouts can be used successfully. We always give the advice under consultation of a trusted grout manufacturer representative.

For more information, contact Kevin Fox at [email protected]

Green Tip – June 2012

Understanding the Technical Criteria of Green SquaredSM/
ANSI A138.1

Section IV: Progressive Corporate Governance

By Bill Griese, Tile Council of North America, LEED AP BD+C

Establishing sustainability criteria for products throughout their full life cycle, ANSI A138.1 is divided into five sections. Throughout the past several months, we’ve reviewed several different sections of the standard. This month, we’ll have a look at the fourth section, Progressive Corporate Governance.

Mandatory for conformance to the standard, a manufacturer shall have a written and implemented social responsibility strategy which addresses at least the following:  labor law compliance, forced labor prohibitions, child labor prohibitions, environmental regulation compliance, health and safety regulation compliance, and community involvement.

To obtain an elective credit, the manufacturer may choose to participate in a voluntary safety program such as OSHA Safety Consultation, Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), or OHSAS 18001.

It is mandatory that all green marketing claims made by manufacturers be in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fair packaging and labeling act Green Guides (publicly available) which indicate how the FTC applies Section 5 of the FTC Act, prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices in environmental claims.

As an elective for conformance to the standard, a manufacturer may choose to regularly engage in its community, building upon the community involvement plan established in its mandatory social responsibility strategy.

Also elective for conformance to the standard, a manufacturer may publicly disclose on an annual basis one of the following: utility consumption, registered Environmental Management System (EMS) data, or Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data.

Another elective credit is available if a manufacturer provides a detailed sustainability report each year, conforms to the requirements of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), or is selected for inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI).

If a manufacturer has at least one facility with LEED® or Green Globes certification an elective credit is also available.

Finally, manufacturers are required to have an assurance program for current and continued conformance to ANSI A138.1/Green Squared for all pertinent products.

Next month, we will review the criteria of the fifth and final section of ANSI A138.1, Innovation.

Are you a “vendor” or a “craftsman?”

How do you run your business, as a vendor providing tile and stone work, or as a craftsman creating beauty? There is a HUGE difference in compensation and the methods of doing business with your customers.

A vendor is someone who exists just to sell stuff. Nothing else matters except delivering the goods (may include installation) and getting paid. You can expect (negotiate) the low price, sign a contract, and get what you ordered. You can also spend many hours discussing the details of the terms and conditions, etc.

What happens with a craftsman is far different in many aspects. One element of doing business with a craftsman is that the price issue (or low bid) loses its luster. People seek out craftsmen for their skills and talents to create a beautiful statement with their efforts on the customer’s behalf. Price absolutely becomes a secondary by-product of most of those discussions. Time also changes; you don’t rush art by deadlines of time but rather by finishing the look or feel desired.

As we watch our industry still losing businesses to the poor economy, it becomes even more apparent that craftsmen will survive while vendors have a large chance of being pushed from the scene. Just look back over the past two or three years and recall how many businesses have already left the scene. Those companies that ran large crews to do anything and everything quickly and cheaply are mostly gone today; they were the worst offenders in this downward spiral of moving toward the bottom price. Without profit you just cannot stay in business and the very success that drove them to the top of the vendor pile was what did them in.

I ask you to stop today, take time out from “doing” your business, and study your business to see where you are on this scale of vendor versus craftsman. If most of your work is still “low bid”-driven, then you are on the vendor side. If, however, you have chosen to position yourself and your company as a craftsman firm, then you will, I’m confident, be around a long time in this business.

Steve Rausch represents the Substrates and Specialty Products Division of USG Corporation out of Alpharetta, Ga. He’s also the author of the Rausch Ravings blog about business and non-business related topics. Contact him at [email protected] or visit the blog at http://rauschravings.blogspot.com/

Ask the Experts – June 2012


I am a new member of the NTCA and I have an upcoming small project that I need help with.

I do mostly interior residential remodeling. Tile is probably 60% of my projects. I have a client with a concrete porch he would like tiled. The problem is the broom finish has been sealed with an “oil-based” sealer he purchased and applied himself from Lowe’s. As the broom finish is quite deep I don’t think it could be ground down. I can’t find anything in my TCNA Handbook that addresses this.


This is a good question. Many contractors fail to determine that a substrate has been sealed and end up with problems down the road. Both TCNA Handbook methods and ANSI require that a substrate be free of contaminants, curing compounds and sealers. Exterior tilework, which requires the highest performance level of any type of tile installation, requires the best bond, as well as 95% mortar coverage and appropriate movement accommodation. Any sealer on a substrate will act as a de-bonding agent, and give less-than-optimum bonding ability.

You may want to call the technical department of the mortar manufacturer that you want to use and ask them, but I believe they will give you the same answer that is in the TCNA Handbook and ANSI, that you must mechanically scarify the concrete (grind or shotblast) until the contaminant is removed and you have a clean surface to install tile over. Any other method is risking a potential failure.

On your concern that the broom finish is too deep to grind, there are some very aggressive grinders with vacuum attachments available that can cut quickly and in a dust-free fashion.

– Michael Whistler, NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium presenter and trainer

CASE STUDY – Tile Labyrinth

Tile labyrinth provides interaction and learning at historic L.A. school

Black basalt stone, installed with custom-designed French encaustic tiles, provide canvas for schoolchildren’s expression

In 2006, the Ambassador Hotel – site of both the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub and the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy – was razed to make room for a new set of six pilot schools to be known as the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.  The namesake schools now feature a marble memorial depicting the late Senator Kennedy, a manicured public park, and a state-of-the-art swimming pool, and include the Ambassador School of Global Education, Ambassador School of Global Leadership, NOW Academy, UCLA-CS, School for the Visual Arts and Humanities and Los Angeles High School of the Arts.

The schools, which occupy 24 acres, are intended to serve the Pico-Union and Koreatown neighborhoods, with a robust and personalized program that embodies the social justice legacy of the late Senator Kennedy. Four thousand students in grades kindergarten through 12 will be served in this 2011-2012 school year.

Artist Lynn Goodpasture (www.LynnGoodpasture.com) was commissioned by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)  to develop an original public artwork for the new schools. She designed the 690 square-foot hexagonal labyrinth as a remembrance of the landmark hotel. The labyrinth, is titled Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1, after Goodpasture’s daughter, who grew up in and around her mom’s studio. The labyrinth is paved with custom-designed French encaustic tiles, derived from the classic decorative motifs found throughout the Ambassador.

The labyrinth is a symbolic archetype that has fascinated people for thousands of years. Petroglyphs and artifacts inscribed with labyrinths that were discovered in Egypt, Greece, and Europe are thought to date from the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1 was conceived to provide children with opportunities to express creativity, be contemplative, and have fun.  It also provides educators with a unique instructional tool that integrates art with education. Eleven large slabs of black basalt stone along the labyrinth’s path offer students surfaces on which to create their own chalk artwork, write poetry, or illustrate a sequential lesson in history, literature, and science, using bright washable chalk. The labyrinth’s hexagonal shape provides teachers with a large tactile example of geometry, which may be used to illustrate certain math concepts. Students can walk the labyrinth to absorb and learn from one another’s work.

Installing the labyrinth

Goodpasture worked with Gardena, Calif.-based Classic Tile & Mosaic (CTM), run by Vincent and Bonnie Cullinan, to supply the tiles, which were made by Original Mission Tile, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, according to Goodpasture’s direction from the original designs in the Ambassador.

“It was exciting for CTM to collaborate with an artist and through months of preparation to be able to see Lynn’s vision translated through our tile,” said Vincent Cullinan, CTM owner.

CTM fabricated the labyrinth, with Gardena-based Stone Etc. carrying out the complex installation which was completed in November 2009. The challenging

project was based on precise geometry without any allowances for cut-tile


adjustments, fitted into an irregular recess. Meticulous planning and execution was required to install the 12”x12”, 12”x6”, 6”x6”, and 2”x6” tiles and basalt slabs. The unsheltered exterior installation of approximately 1,500 tiles and 11 heavy slabs of basalt (134 square feet) took place in 100-degree heat, but resulted in a truly unique application of tile and stone, with Goodpasture working with Stone Etc., on the installation every step of the way.

Setting materials provided by Stone Etc., of Gardena, Calif., included 2”x2” 16/16 welded galvanized wire reinforcement, Noble Deck Exterior Thin-Bed Waterproofing & Crack Isolation Membrane, LATICRETE 254 Platinum, followed by Portland Cement Float by Riverside Cement Co., Custom Building Products’ Polyblend Sanded Grout, and Aqua Mix Enrich N Seal.

“The labyrinth is a functional piece of art that not only adorns our beautiful RFK campus, but provides an opportunity for kinesthetic learners to explore math and art simultaneously,” said Danny Lo, assistant principal of the UCLA Community School, one of three elementary schools on the RFK campus.

Located at the base of the amphitheater and just in front of the indoor/outdoor stage at the elementary school, the labyrinth is a focal point from the upper elevations of the middle and upper school areas, as well as the lower elevations of the expansive playground shared by three elementary schools. The pure geometry of the hexagonal labyrinth was designed to relate to the clean lines and generous volumes of the architectural environment by Gonzalez Goodale Architects.

“Working with Bonnie and Vincent at CTM was a true pleasure,” Goodpasture said. “From the start they understood the intention and helped me find a way to translate my concept into 690 sq. ft. of precisely laid tile and stone, resulting in a labyrinth unlike any other.”

This $99,143.00 original tile installation was designed to inspire students to learn through art that is seamlessly integrated into the built environment. It provides a place for young students to express their own creativity in a public space. The contemplative aspect of the labyrinth also makes it a fitting art form here, given the historical significance of the Ambassador site. Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1 offers endless creative interaction.

2012 developments in ANSI Standards

DCOF, glass tile, highly-modified mortars, saw tooth soft joint/caulk joints join the standards

By Chris Walker, vice president, Northeast region, David Allen Company

Our industry is changing at a rapid pace. Installation professionals and project designers have access to practically unlimited choices of tile, stone and glass tile materials. Many of these materials require specialized installation products, methods or preparation.

For answers to unique product installation requirements, your first resource should always be the product manufacturers’ recommendations. But for the installation and design professional, the industry’s best resources are the ANSI A-108 Material and Installation Standards and the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation.

Both documents are under constant review. Fifty-eight industry professionals, representing the manufacturing, allied-products and installation community, volunteer countless hours revising and updating the manuals. The documents evolve with the industry to provide usable information and specifications for real-world installation applications. They are guides to assist the industry, providing useful information to ensure successful and beautiful installations with longevity and tangible life cycle advantages.

A few important changes are included this year in the ANSI A108 Standards and are outlined below. For the precise language and definitions, please refer to the ANSI A-108, A-137.1 and A-137.2 documents.

Static vs. dynamic co-efficient of friction

An eminent change in the testing/reporting requirements are about to be incorporated into A137.1 Section Co-efficient of Friction.

“Tiles suitable for interior wet application shall have a WET DCOF of 0.42 or greater”. This standard is for “Interior Commercial Tile Installations, frequently walked on while wet”.

For years the static co-efficient of friction was measured by pulling a weight across various surfaces with a particular type of shoe leather (which is no longer used) by someone who could not possibly perform the test in exactly the same way every time. Test results varied widely, in part due to the irregularities of the method and person.

Now an automated testing device (BOT 3000) more accurately mimics how people actually walk on a floor and when they begin to slip. This should provide consistent results with a regulated test for tile materials produced for our market. Instead of being a recommendation, this measure will now be a requirement.

The wet/dry values, area of use, and intended contaminants all play a role in determining the suitability of a particular material for an intended application. The decision for the appropriate specification of any material is the project designer or architects.

Currently, specifications reference an advised standard (not required) of: 0.6 Level/Wet; 0.6 Tread/Wet; 0.8 Ramp/Wet as measured by ASTM C-1028.

Now that standard will change to a mandatory Dynamic Co-efficient of Friction (DCOF) value of 0.42 vs. the current advised Static Co-efficient of Friction (SCOF) indicated above.

The testing and reporting requirements will be outlined in a revised proposed standard for ANSI A-108, in the A-137.1 manufacturing standard. This method has been balloted and approved by the ANSI A-108 committee, but is not official until it has been acknowledged by the ANSI Review Board. That process will likely be completed by June.

ANSI A-137.2 Specification for Glass Tile

The popularity of these materials is evident and continues to grow as manufacturing technologies evolve and creative influences drive these products into all types of residential and commercial applications. Successfully undertaking and passing this manufacturing standard was a huge undertaking and should be recognized as a major accomplishment for the industry.

Defining and categorizing glass tile materials was a monumental task on its own. What resulted after years of collaboration by the manufacturers and Tile Council of North America (TCNA) is the introduction of the A137.2 Glass Tile standard.

The Glass Tile standard is similar to the A137.1 Ceramic Tile Standard and provides multiple classifications by type, size and manufacturer requirements. It is a manufacturing standard and as such, is mostly technical information. For the installation community there is useful information to help you determine how to evaluate the material you are installing and may assist in your decision on how to prepare, cut and work the material for a particular installation application. Manufacturer’s recommendations are extremely important for glass tile installations. Decisions on design, expansion/control joints, preparation and installation can be quite different than traditional ceramic tile installations.

Revised mortar definitions: 

Highly Modified Mortars

ANSI A-118.4 & A-118.15: This year a new classification of Highly Modified Mortars; A-118.15, identifies modified mortars with improved performance characteristics. As you are probably aware, there is a tremendous difference in price and performance between the least expensive and most expensive A-118.4 modified mortar.

Providing another level of classification for improved performance allows the specifier and installer to assure specific performance criteria are met. It also assures that similar materials are being included in determining the value of the installation in a competitive bid situation.

Saw tooth soft joint/caulk joints

The ANSI standard this year will allow saw tooth soft/caulk joints for use as expansion breaks for vertical and horizontal applications.  This should not be confused with soft joints at control, movement or shrinkage cracks. The recommendation of installing the soft joint to respect or be placed “directly over” a crack/movement joint still applies. This allows “a generic movement joint in a saw tooth configuration in a broken joint tile pattern, continuously following the grout joint for the designed span.”

TCNA, ANSI and NTCA committees: developing new standards

The development of new standards can be a lengthy and arduous process. Witness the recent Green Squared initiative by TCNA – the first sustainable standard for tile and setting materials, known at ANSI 138.1. TCNA put an  incredible amount of work and effort into developing the ANSI and TCNA documents (which you can read about in the Green Tip feature by TCNA spokesperson Bill Griese in each issue of TileLetter) – and it is a major accomplishment.

In addition, it’s difficult to keep pace with rapid advancements in materials and construction techniques.

In an effort to accomplish this, the NTCA Methods & Standards Committee works with its membership to address clarifications, revisions or additions to both the ANSI document and the TCNA Handbook. ANSI also appoints Ad-Hoc Committees to develop preliminary language for submission to the full committee, in between the regularly scheduled meetings. There are also TCNA Sub-Committees which are very active in the review and testing of materials for the industry. These committees are intended to utilize the expertise of interested parties, collaborating in the development, refinement and introduction of industry standards.

Some of the items currently being considered by these committees are:

  • Large Format Glass Tile
  • Installation Specifications
  • Definition Review: Required Plane – its relevance to floor flatness requirements and large module tiles
  • Thin Tile – installation, substrate and methods requirement for “Thin Tile.” The current consensus definition for thin tile is a tile module thinner than 4.5 millimeters
  • Barrier Free Shower/Handicap-ped Shower-Installation Detail
  • Steam Showers; Perm Ratings/Vapor transmission; Classifications/Definitions of Membrane Requirements-Definition/Clarification
  • Minimum Coverage; Coverage percentages on large and thin tile
  • Medium Bed Mortars;  Classification/Definition


Christopher Walker, vice president, Northeast region, David Allen Company, Inc., also serves the industry as chairman of the ANSI A-108 committee chairman of the US Technical Advisory Group; ISO T-189 committee; chairman of the NTCA Methods & Standards committee; voting member of the Tile Council Installation Handbook committee; voting member of the NTCA Technical committee.


Green SquaredSM Certified products debut at Coverings

After five years developing Green SquaredSM (ANSI A138.1), an all-encompassing multi-attribute sustainability standard and certification program for tile and tile installation materials, the first five tile manufacturers with certified sustainable products were announced at Coverings:  Crossville, Daltile, Interceramic, Ironrock, and Porcelanite-Lamosa.  Bonsal American, Florida Tile, LATICRETE, MAPEI, Marazzi, Quarry Tile Company, StonePeak, TEC, and Vitromex expect to have Green Squared Certified products by year end.

Crossville has the distinction of being the first manufacturer to achieve Green Squared Certification across all its U.S.-manufactured porcelain product lines and for its manufacturing processes. Because the company’s processes are certified, all products manufactured by those processes are compliant.

In addition, Dal-Tile Corpora-tion’s plants in the U.S., and Monterrey, Mexico were evaluated by Underwriters Laboratories-Environment (ULE), to certify that American Olean and Daltile-manufactured products meet the industry’s toughest green standards.

Only those products independently evaluated and certified by a third party may bear the Green Squared Certified mark, making it easy for specifiers and consumers to select sustainable products and build sustainable tile systems.

Currently, the approved third-party Green Squared certifiers are NSF International, Scientific Certification Systems, and UL Environment. The certifiers conduct worldwide operations and are available to conduct Green Squared certifications wherever tile is manufactured.

For full information about Green Squared, including sustainability criteria, visit www.tilethenaturalchoice.com, and follow @Green_Squared on Twitter.

All Crossville product to  contain recycled content

Crossville Inc. has announced it is the first and only tile manufacturer in the U.S. “to achieve certification of its waste recycling programs through Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), an independent, third-party certifier of recycled claims,” stated John E. Smith, Crossville’s president and CEO. Now all tile produced by Crossville® will contain 4% certified recycled content of pre-consumer, fired sanitary ware from TOTO, the world’s largest manufacturer of sustainable, luxury plumbing products, in addition to varying percentages of its own filtrate and fired waste. This material from TOTO has been recently certified by SCS as part of Crossville’s Fired Waste Process, marking the latest development in Crossville’s Recycling Processes program.

SCS has verified that through these recycling processes, Crossville annually recycles approximately 12 million pounds of previously land-filled filtrate, fired tile and pre-consumer sanitary ware, making Crossville a net consumer of waste, consuming more manufacturing waste than it generates. In addition, the volume of finished goods Crossville ships now exceeds the amount of raw materials it extracts from the earth for use in manufacturing.

For full information, visit www.crossvilleinc.com, call 800-221-9093 for samples and follow Crossville, Inc. on Facebook and Twitter.

GREEN TIP – May 2012

Understanding the Technical Criteria
of Green SquaredSM/ANSI A138.1

Section III: End-of-Product-Life Management

By Bill Griese, Tile Council of North America, LEED AP BD+C

Establishing sustainability criteria for products throughout their full life cycle, ANSI A138.1 is divided into five sections. Throughout the last two months, we’ve reviewed the first two sections of the standard. This month, we’ll have a look at the third section, End-of-Product-Life Management.

This section of the standard opens with the following preface:

Inherently, tile products are durable, inert, and intended to have life spans as long as the buildings in which they are installed. They are engineered to serve as permanent finishes capable of outlasting multiple generations of building occupants. Tile product end-of-life management is pertinent to building demolition waste and small quantities of waste generated during construction.  

Although a tiled finish is inherently durable and typically desirable for a lifetime, there are some scenarios where end of product life must be addressed. Thus, end-of-product-life management elective options in ANSI A138.1 are intended for instances where buildings are demolished, scrap waste is generated during construction, or an occasional remodel occurs.

The first end-of-product-life management elective option involves clean-fill eligibility of a product. To satisfy this elective, a manufacturer shall provide documentation verifying that a product is inert and solid, such that it can potentially be considered along with other eligible construction and demolition debris for state and local Clean Fill acquisition initiatives.

The second end-of-product-life management elective option involves end-of-product-life collection plans. To satisfy this elective, the manufacturer shall establish and implement a plan which involves the collection, processing, and recycling or re-tasking of its products for other purposes once the products’ useful life is completed.

Next month, we will review the criteria of the next section of ANSI A138.1, Progressive Corporate Governance.

Building your sales team

Flowing logically from our recent Business Tip sections on Job Description, Compensation and Recruiting Practices from the NTCA Reference Manual, the Sales Team topic in the Sales chapter of the Business Section details what’s needed for an effective sales team. 

Did you ever wonder why some people seem to be able to sell anything? I’m sure you’ve run across this type of person – and have probably bought something from them! In this section, we’ll talk about how to hire your sales staff, and we’ll address questions like:

  • How much experience should your sales reps have when you hire them?
  • How important are computer skills?
  • What should you look for?
  • What should you include in training for your sales reps?
  • What personality traits make one person a better sales person than another?
  • How do you know if you’re hiring a “star” or a “dud?”

Hiring the right sales people

When you begin the process of hiring your sales team, it pays off to first spend some time planning and setting up a budget. Advertising, recruiting, interviewing, and training are all expensive, and you don’t want to waste your time and money on the wrong candidates.

Before you interview your first applicant, have in place the compensation structure you plan to use. Depending on how attractive it is, it may be a good enticement for top candidates.

Write out the complete job description. For example, put in writing the leg work that must be done prior to making a sales call, how you expect existing customers to be serviced, how you expect records to be maintained, how many calls should be made in a week, etc. Think through the entire sales process and detail how you want it to be done, what tools will be used, and your expectations for their results.

This exercise should include not only what you want sales reps or account managers to do, but also how you want them to approach it. Think about the style of selling you want them to use.

Evaluating your sales candidates

You should have a good idea of the experience and skill level of your job candidates after reviewing the hundreds of resumes you’ve most likely accumulated. At this stage, you should be asking:

  • Have they been in front of people selling before?
  • Are they right out of school, or do they have a few years of experience to draw on?
  • Do you have a strong enough training program to allow you to hire recent grads with no experience?
  • Do they have what it takes to actually perform the technical functions of the job? – In other words, do they have computer skills?

There are a lot of things to think about. With selling, experience isn’t always the most important thing to look at, especially if you have existing sales reps that can assist in the training and mentoring of new recruits.

In order to be good sales representatives, your recruits have to have good research skills to find out about their prospects and know and understand their needs, their business, their business structures, etc. These skills can be taught, but experience in digging up the necessary information is helpful. These days, that experience includes internet research skills, as well as good old-fashioned research techniques – asking co-workers, making phone calls, and using business reference books at the library.

Communication skills

Your candidates also need to be good communicators. The majority of what a sales rep does involves communication –  both written and verbal. Whether it is explaining the specifications of your product or service or communicating how your prospect will benefit from the product or service, much rides on how this is articulated and negotiated. Pay close attention during the interview process to how your candidates articulate their qualities and “sell” themselves to you.

Technical skills

What level of computer skills do your candidates need? If you’re planning on using any type of contact management, then they  have to be familiar with the basics of word processing, spreadsheets, and maybe the fundamentals of relational databases. You should also look for knowledge of presentation software like Microsoft® PowerPoint. Many clients expect high-level presentations from sales representatives, so your reps have to be comfortable using technology, and in some cases designing their own presentations.

Outside sales

Outside sales representatives, also simply known as sales reps, are professionals who commonly travel to businesses or other organizations in order to sell their firm’s products or services. Maintaining contact with current customers and attracting new ones, professional sales reps make presentations to buyers and management or may demonstrate items to production supervisors. Salaries are typically at least partly based on performance since outside sales workers frequently receive commissions on their sales. Although many sales workers receive a base salary in addition to commission, some receive compensation based solely on sales revenue.

Inside sales

An inside sales representative position is exactly what it sounds like: selling products to potential customers from within a sales office. This means that an inside sales representative will primarily be speaking to existing customers and potential customers and following leads over the phone. Inside sales, where showrooms are involved, may require working with product selection for customers or their designer representative.

Most inside sales positions don’t require much more than a high school diploma. Most training is completed on-the-job. Inside sales representatives must be able to communicate effectively and persuasively both in person and on the telephone and good computer skills is essential.

For access to this entire document, as well as the information-packed NTCA Reference Manual itself, contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or 601-939-2071 to speak about NTCA membership. 

Ask the Experts – May 2012


What is the standard installation for ceramic tiles on Gyp-Crete®? The floor consists of light-gauge metal framing, with ¾” plywood subfloor and 1” Gyp-Crete. Preparation of the Gyp-Crete consist of the application of sealer prior to the installation of the tiles. Would this floor be adequate to receive ceramic floor tiles?


I am concerned with your statement regarding lightweight metal joists. The floor must be engineered to support dead and live loads, and tile can be heavier than most other floor coverings.

You also state that you want to seal the Gyp-Crete. Instead, you need to prime the Gyp-Crete with the primer that your mortar manufacturer recommends.

You should also follow the installation instructions that are provided by the specific manufacturer of the gypsum underlayment you are using.

Also be advised that Portland cement and gypsum can have an adverse reaction if placed contiguous to one another, which could result in a possible loss of bond. To alleviate this risk, many tile professionals always use a waterproof/crack isolation membrane or uncoupling membrane between the gypsum and the tile.

Michael Whistler,
NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium presenter/technical consultant



I am installing floor tile for a client. I have contacted the manufacturer, which has ultimately brought me to this email. I need to find out what the relative humidity of the concrete slab should be (ASTM F2170) prior to the installation of this tile.


Typically moisture testing is done with a calcium chloride test kit, which measures how many lbs. of moisture per 1000 square feet are escaping the slab in a 24-hour period. Anything less than 5 lbs. per 1000 is probably suitable for use with cementitious mortars. Anything more than 5 lbs., you should contact the mortar manufacturer to ascertain suitability of their product with high-moisture slabs. Any slab measuring 12 lbs. or more per 1000 needs special consideration, and possibly a moisture barrier, depending on manufacturer’s instructions.

Michael Whistler,
NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium presenter/technical consultant

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