Matthew Welner, Blue Ridge Tile and Stone

Challenging CTI exam demonstrates Welner’s dedication to the technical side of the trade


Matt Welner, Blue Ridge Tile and Stone, LLC in Hickory, N.C., is CTI #1276.Welner is a NTCA member and State Ambassador.

Matt Welner, owner of Blue Ridge Tile and Stone in Hickory, N.C., and NTCA State Ambassador for North Carolina, started mixing thinset when he was only 15. And six years ago, he struck out to establish his tilesetting business. 

He started hearing about the Certified Tile Installer exams on the Facebook group Tile Geeks, and then learned more about it while at a NTCA workshop. “It sounded like a fun opportunity to test my skills,” Welner said. “Also after working by myself for a number of years, I wanted to see how I compared to my peers.”

Like many others who have challenged themselves with the exam, his hope was that by successfully completing it, he would set himself apart from other companies. He also hopes that “my future clients will see that I care about the educational / technical side of the trade,” he explained. “I always include the fact that I am a Certified Tile Installer during an initial consultation and also include it on my written estimates.”

Welner’s 3-year old son Jaxson, is VERY excited about the latest issue of TileLetter!

When December 2016 came around, he signed up to take the exam at the headquarters of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation.  Despite his experience in the trade, he found the exam challenging. “Apart from the installation, time management and your ability to follow directions are crucial,” he said. “It was more difficult than I believed it would be leading up to the test.”

Welner prepared for the exam by reading all the supplied material, and then completed the written test a few weeks prior to the hands-on test. “I found the book portion very informative,” he said. “I did a chapter a night and got through it in no time.”

In 2019, Welner plans to take his certifications to the next level by taking the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installer (ACT) exams. 

Addy, Welner’s
five-year old daughter, is flexing her muscles in regal style.

I think the CTI test sets the bar for those who can produce a quality product,” Welner said. “I do a lot of residential remodel and I feel it sets me apart and helps the homeowners see that it’s my goal to give them a quality job.”

Welner, now CTI #1276, suggests to his peers, “If you’re considering taking the exam, I would highly recommend doing it. Challenge yourself, learn something new, and take yourself to the next level.”

Jaxson’s ready to take over the business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Program Achieves #1500 Milestone

Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Program Achieves Milestone

Alex Smith (l) of North Carolina’s Installations by Alex, Certified Tile Installer #1500, with CTEF’s Scott Carothers

 

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) which provides education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry proudly announces that it has achieved a new milestone for the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program with the certification of CTI #1500.

The CTI Program Combats Poor Tile Installation

Established in 2008 to create a pool of recognized high-quality tile installers and combat poor installation, and with strong support from leaders of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and the entire tile industry, the CTI program reached 1000 certified installers in 2014.

Reaching 1500 certified installers in October 2018 means that reaching 2000 CTIs by the end of 2019 is achievable as the program’s momentum grows.

Introducing CTI #1500: Alex Smith, Installations by Alex

Alex Smith has been involved in custom tile installation since 2005.  Based in the mountains of North Carolina, he began working in the industry under the guidance of John Buford of the Stone Cavern. He went on to form Installations by Alex and specializes in luxury residential homes. He does a significant amount of work for Bill Dacchille of Dacchille Construction, as well as other contractors and homeowners.

A lifelong artist, Alex was initially trained in concert dance and is currently the board president for Dance Project Inc., a statewide arts organization.  “I am honored to be a Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Certified Tile Installer,” says Alex.

“The Toughest 25 Square Feet of Tile You’ll Ever Install”

Not everyone passes the hands-on portion of the Certified Tile Installer program test. In fact, Alex Smith was originally tested in 2015 and did not complete the installation in the allotted time. He explained, “Contrary to my expectation, the hands-on is by far the more challenging portion of the test. I was fairly confident in my quality of work going into the hands-on test. What I was not expecting was the difficulty in completing the assignment in the allotted time frame.  Even considering the small size of the area defined by the test, it is rare that I have to complete all phases of an install in one continuous session.”

Why Become a Certified Tile Installer?

Certified Tile Installers detail many benefits to becoming CTIs, ranging from achieving a competitive edge and bragging rights, to improving the tile industry, keeping up with tile industry education and current installation information, to avoiding failures and validating one’s skills as an installer.

For Alex Smith, it’s about providing customers with confirmation that he is Qualified Labor. He said, “Though the national standards have been in place for some time, the lack of an agency to educate and accredit installers has allowed the quality of installation work in the industry to be sporadic at best. The CTI is a tool that I am using to assure my clients that they are not just taking a ‘chance’ with their tile installation project.  My CTI helps to validate that I care about the quality of my work and want to provide a product that has a sound foundation for longevity of use.”

Tile Industry Recognized Certification

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation offers the only tile industry recognized certification test validating the skills and knowledge of the installer.  This industry certification will become even more important as consumers, homebuilders, general contractors, specifiers and designers seek qualifications through programs such as industry certification.

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 the offices of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

To learn more about the Certified Tile Installer program, visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/certified-tile-installer-cti-program.

# # #

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 recognized by the tile industry, and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT). For more information, visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org.

Rolling in the deep: passion for excellence parlays challenging mermaid pool install into follow-up backsplash project

Handmade mosaic murals by Ruth Frances Greenberg required careful prep and attention to detail from Hawthorne Tile 

Once the design is created, Greenberg lays the tiles out in place, face-mounts them with plastic, cuts them into sections, and numbers them.

Two challenging hand-made mosaic designs by Portland’s Ruth Frances Greenberg (rfgtile.com) have recently been installed in a Portland residence by Hawthorne Tile. The precision of the design and process of installation initially challenged Hawthorne Tile when the tile contractor set Greenberg’s mermaid mosaic in the bottom of a pool in summer 2017. But once the owner saw the beauty of the expertly installed pool mermaid, she immediately commissioned a Ruth Frances Greenberg backsplash for the pool house kitchen. 

Bringing a mermaid to life

The 14´ diameter mermaid project involved “pretty intense logistics,” said Travis Schreffler, project manager for the install. He explained that after the tiles are made by hand, fired and then re-fired for exterior use and the design is created, Greenberg lays the tiles out in a huge circle and face-mounts them with plastic, cuts them into sections and numbers them. They are then placed on pieces of cardboard to deliver them to the jobsite. 

The crew, with Schreffler, three Certified Tile Installers and two apprentices, started early in the day while it was cool to keep the ARDEX X77 thinset viable.

Compounding the difficulty was the slope of the pool – it sloped from the shallow to deep end on a radiused arc rather than on a straight plane.

That required Schreffler to build a map to clarify where the design was going – it had to be laid out and put back together like a puzzle. Compounding the difficulty was the slope of the pool – it sloped from the shallow to deep end on a radiused arc rather than on a straight plane, so it was a perfectly flat curved arc: an intersecting plane that was flat in one direction and arched in the other. 

The team assembled the pieces in one four-hour session to be sure all the pieces fit perfectly.

The bottom of the pool needed to be prepped first with ARDEX AM100 rendering mortar with a radius established based on the arc; then an installer and an apprentice created a series of screeds that followed the pool’s arc. The installation prep took two and a half days. 

Each piece of the mosaic puzzle had to be moved down to the swimming pool, and the relationship between the pieces appraised since, as Schreffler said, “each piece relates to the other pieces in that they are loosely mounted, and needs the next piece to be adjusted, like a gear.” This meant that once the installation began, it had to be done in one four-hour take. 

The crew, with Schreffler, two other Certified Tile Installers and two apprentices, started early in the day while it was cool to keep the ARDEX X77 thinset viable. ARDEX’s William White was onsite to help with the logistics, providing extremely attentive support, said Schreffler. 

There were some nail-biter moments during the install. “Every piece you put down, you felt like it wasn’t going to fit,” Schreffler said, so at times he also jumped in to lend a hand. In the end, the job was done by noon, and left to sit protected overnight. The next day, the plastic was removed, loose tiles reattached, and it was cleaned. Two days after the install, it was grouted with ARDEX FL and was ready for the plasterers to come in and finish up with pool plaster. 

The Hawthorne Tile crew admires their work – a job well done: (L to R) Sean Carline; Travis Schreffler; Bo Carney; and Yakov Blashchishchin.

Mosaic mural adorns pool house kitchen backsplash

Like the pool project, the mosaics for the backsplash were assembled and numbered.

The mural for this backsplash was a 6´ x 8´ Hawaiian beach scene with breaching humpback whales, sea turtles and tree frogs, again created by Ruth Frances Greenberg. Plus the homeowner had befriended stray cats while in Hawaii, so the mural included them as well. 

The process of assembling all the parts and pieces was the same as with the pool, but Hawthorne Tile was now familiar with this system. 

Installing the mosaic mural are (L to R) Bo Carney, Vladmir Blashchishchin and Yakov Blashchishchin.

Schreffler said, “Ruth laid them out with me so I knew where everything was to go. She gave me some creative license – with relief flowers and some other pieces. Before the first install in the pool, she never experienced CTI installers before, so the experience for her was very welcoming.” 

Again, the mural needed to be installed in one fell swoop, using ARDEX X77 as thinset. “We started this one at 7 a.m. and were done by 11 a.m.,” Schreffler said. This was after the crew spent a day prepping the wall surface to be sure it was flat. “We had the same crew,” he said, “So they knew exactly what they were doing and acted as a fantastic team. They took the bull by the horns, were confident and did a fantastic job, impressing the homeowner.” 

This is the kind of work upon which Hawthorne Tile thrives. “We welcome this kind of challenge,” Schreffler said. “Exactly this kind of thing – outside the box – we set out to do this a long time ago. Those moments that feel like you can’t get there from here are extra sweet when you step back and it’s done.” 

Mural detail. After the CTI-certified install team won the artist’s confidence with the pool install, she gave them some creative license to place flowers and some other pieces at their discretion.

 

The finished backsplash.

 

Challenging mermaid pool and backsplash project

Handmade mosaic murals by Ruth Frances Greenberg required careful prep and attention to detail from Hawthorne Tile

Two challenging hand-made mosaic designs by Portland’s Ruth Frances Greenberg (rfgtile.com) have recently been installed in a Portland residence by Hawthorne Tile. The precision of the design and process of installation initially challenged Hawthorne Tile when the tile contractor set Greenberg’s mermaid mosaic in the bottom of a pool in summer 2017. But once the owner saw the beauty of the expertly installed pool mermaid, she immediately commissioned a Ruth Frances Greenberg backsplash for the pool house kitchen. 

Once the design is created, Greenberg lays the tiles out in place, face-mounts them with plastic, cuts them into sections, and numbers them.

Bringing a mermaid to life

The 14´ diameter mermaid project involved “pretty intense logistics,” said Travis Schreffler, project manager for the install. He explained that after the tiles are made by hand, fired and then re-fired for exterior use and the design is created, Greenberg lays the tiles out in a huge circle and face-mounts them with plastic, cuts them into sections and numbers them. They are then placed on pieces of cardboard to deliver them to the jobsite. 

That required Schreffler to build a map to clarify where the design was going – it had to be laid out and put back together like a puzzle. Compounding the difficulty was the slope of the pool – it sloped from the shallow to deep end on a radiused arc rather than on a straight plane, so it was a perfectly flat curved arc: an intersecting plane that was flat in one direction and arched in the other. 

The crew, with Schreffler, three Certified Tile Installers and two apprentices, started early
in the day while it was cool to keep the ARDEX X77 thinset viable.

The bottom of the pool needed to be prepped first with ARDEX AM100 rendering mortar with a radius established based on the arc; then an installer and an apprentice created a series of screeds that followed the pool’s arc. The installation prep took two and a half days. 

Each piece of the mosaic puzzle had to be moved down to the swimming pool, and the relationship between the pieces appraised since, as Schreffler said, “each piece relates to the other pieces in that they are loosely mounted, and needs the next piece to be adjusted, like a gear.” This meant that once the installation began, it had to be done in one four-hour take. 

Compounding the difficulty was the slope of the pool – it sloped from the shallow to deep end on a radiused arc rather than on a straight plane.

The crew, with Schreffler, two other Certified Tile Installers and two apprentices, started early in the day while it was cool to keep the ARDEX X77 thinset viable. ARDEX’s William White was onsite to help with the logistics, providing extremely attentive support, said Schreffler. 

There were some nail-biter moments during the install. “Every piece you put down, you felt like it wasn’t going to fit,” Schreffler said, so at times he also jumped in to lend a hand. In the end, the job was done by noon, and left to sit protected overnight. The next day, the plastic was removed, loose tiles reattached, and it was cleaned. Two days after the install, it was grouted with ARDEX FL and was ready for the plasterers to come in and finish up with pool plaster. 

The Hawthorne Tile crew admires their work – a job well done: (L to R) Sean Carline; Travis Schreffler; Bo Carney; and Yakov Blashchishchin.

Mosaic mural adorns pool house kitchen backsplash

Installing the mosaic mural are (L to R) Bo Carney, Vladmir Blashchishchin and Yakov Blashchishchin.

The mural for this backsplash was a 6´ x 8´ Hawaiian beach scene with breaching humpback whales, sea turtles and tree frogs, again created by Ruth Frances Greenberg. Plus the homeowner had befriended stray cats while in Hawaii, so the mural included them as well. 

The process of assembling all the parts and pieces was the same as with the pool, but Hawthorne Tile was now familiar with this system. 

Schreffler said, “Ruth laid them out with me so I knew where everything was to go. She gave me some creative license – with relief flowers and some other pieces. Before the first install in the pool, she never experienced CTI installers before, so the experience for her was very welcoming.” 

Again, the mural needed to be installed in one fell swoop, using ARDEX X77 as thinset. “We started this one at 7 a.m. and were done by 11 a.m.,” Schreffler said. This was after the crew spent a day prepping the wall surface to be sure it was flat. “We had the same crew,” he said, “So they knew exactly what they were doing and acted as a fantastic team. They took the bull by the horns, were confident and did a fantastic job, impressing the homeowner.” 

Mural detail. After the CTI-certified install team won the artist’s confidence with the pool install, she gave them some creative license to place flowers and some other pieces at their discretion

This is the kind of work upon which Hawthorne Tile thrives. “We welcome this kind of challenge,” Schreffler said. “Exactly this kind of thing – outside the box – we set out to do this a long time ago. Those moments that feel like you can’t get there from here are extra sweet when you step back and it’s done.”

 

The finished backsplash.

 

 

 

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? 

NTCA starts Kris Nardone on the path towards certification

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

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

But it all started when he joined NTCA in 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qualified Labor – January 2018 – Sark Tile supports education by hosting NTCA Workshop and CTI exam

Sark Tile, based in Lincoln, Neb., hosted NTCA Tile & Stone Workshop in October 2017. This is a groundbreaking event, since it’s the first NTCA Workshop ever hosted in Lincoln.

But perhaps it should come as no surprise. Sark Tile has been committed to educating the tile industry in its area for over 20 years. Since Mark Becher founded Sark Tile in 1999, he has been working to educate his clients.

As a national distributor of tile and tile installation products, Sark Tile serves a range of clients from architects to the end consumer, offering an exceptional platform to reach a broad range of people within the industry. Sark Tile took advantage of this platform by hosting the October Workshop, and subsequently, a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test the next month.

The October NTCA Workshop titled, “Failures, Could it be Me?” was a great opportunity to bring in an expert, NTCA Training Director Mike Heinlein, to show local installers, designers, and clients how to avoid common installation mistakes. The event was described as eye opening and a brilliant refresher, even for a seasoned installer. For those who weren’t as well versed with the tile installation process, it was a first-rate opportunity to learn the correct way to perform basic techniques.

Heinlein began the workshop with a slideshow presentation outlining some common tile installation failures and how to avoid them. The diverse group of attendees was provided a superb opportunity for questions and discussion. Installers raised discussion about hurdles they have to overcome, and designers talked about their struggles. “It was apparent education on all sides of the project would solve most of these issues,” said Dan Hecox, NTCA State Ambassador for Nebraska and Regional Evaluator for the
CTI test.

Sark Tile staff (l. to r.): Katie Danehey, Serina Buchanan, NTCA’s Mark Heinlein, Mark Becher, Brian Glory, John Cury and Faith Allen Peck.

After a quick break for some networking and delicious food, Heinlein finished the workshop with some hands-on demonstrations. This portion of the workshop was an excellent chance to physically show attendees why it is so important to do things correctly, and what the outcome can be if they aren’t. Attendees walked away with many tricks of the trade.

The layout of Sark Tile was ideal for this presentation, with a beautiful showroom for the discussion and a spacious working area in the warehouse for the hands-on demonstration.

Sark Tile’s warehouse was also an outstanding location for the CTI event they hosted in November. With the help of CTI Regional Evaluator, Dan Hecox, local installers were able to test their skills.

Sark Tile hosted the first CTI test in Lincoln, Neb. in November.

Kate Danehey, office manager from Sark Tile, expressed the company philosophy that the health of the industry relies on installers.

“If we have installers out there incorrectly installing our products resulting in failures, the first finger is almost always pointed at the material which is almost never the case,” Danehey said. “Proper preparation combined with the correct setting materials and tools lead to a faster and more profitable install. Consumer’s confidence – and perception that the install will be smooth – is of paramount importance when trying to make a sale, which is why these testing events are so important. The more skilled installers we have in the area, the more likely people will be to use tile in the future for additional projects.”

Sark Tile owner Mark Becher is committed to education and bringing workshops, like this one from NTCA to the local tile trade in Lincoln.

Sark Tile also hosted Lincoln’s first NTCA workshop in October 2017.

 

 

A group of Sark employees ready for the CTI test to be held at the company warehouse, with (from right) Scott Carothers, CTEF; Dan Hecox, NTCA Nebraska State Ambassador and Mark Becher, Sark Tile owner.

Qualified Labor – December 2017

Cersaie’s “Tiling Town” showcases qualified labor

By Chris Woelfel, Contributor

Qualified labor was prominent at Cersaie 2017, the Italian ceramic tile industry’s 35th annual show in Bologna, Italy, held at the end of September. Even before attendees could enter the vast corridors of new tile products, they were lured into “Tiling Town,” a conference hall dedicated solely to the installers who bring the industry’s products to life.

Here, the Italian labor association Assoposa exhibited the knowledge and skill required in successful installations as they demonstrated work with new products, tools and methods.

“This is where our craftsmen get to really show their talents,” explained Paolo Colombo, Assoposa’s President. “We have several levels of certification and specialization. It’s always impressive to see these fixers (setters) in action.”

Tiling Town at Cersaie is dedicated solely to installation.

Symbolizing the industry’s vast offerings, technological advancements and improved installation methods – as well as the origins of tile – a massive globe structure featuring quadrant impressions of earth, water, air and fire coalesced in the center of Tiling Town. Here, jagged surfaces of thin tile, flexible strips of oly-tile (a resin-based mosaic tile, custom-made for each project), and row upon row of shimmering mosaics made it clear that this was the work of artisans. Onlookers were captivated as they watched the installations.

Presentation booths in Tiling Town featured expert talks on installation methods, illustrations of good versus poor installations, and clever demonstrations that showed the effectiveness of new products.

Assoposa tile “fixers” (setters) demonstrate large panel mortar application.

The Italian tile industry is supporting qualified labor more than ever, explaining that all sectors of the industry must understand the important role of proper installation.

“While we focus heavily on educating installers, we also work to inform architects, dealers, construction firms and the public on installation’s critical role,” explained Francesco Bergomi, Assoposa’s Director. “Qualified installers are foundational to the overall success of our industry because their work often determines if the end user is happy with the product,” he said.

Assoposa, the Federation of European Tile Fixers and the NTCA are partnering to strengthen education and awareness about the need for certified installer artisans.

 

1. Origins of Tile installation at Tiling Town. 2. Glass mosaics wrap around cloudlike
formations to emulate wind. 3. Thin porcelain applied to backer board creates a dramatic “rock” formation. 4. Flexible strips of “poly-tile,” a resin-based mosaic tile, custom-made for each project – is trimmed to illustrate water’s role in tile production. 5. Tile fixer (setter) installing the glass mosaic wrap for the massive globe structure.

 

Several workshops focused on large panel tool use.

Tiling Town displays proper installation

NTCA President Martin Howard examines thick tiles on display. 

NTCA Board Chairman James Woelfel tests for lippage at Tiling Town.  

A designer visiting Tiling Town examines the installation process.

Qualified Labor – June 2017

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.”

Qualified Labor – May 2017

The Tile Shop, Rubi Tools team up for CTI tests in Lombard, Ill.

Both companies provide perks, benefits to CTI candidates

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

In seven years, the number of Certified Tile Installers has grown from zero to over 1,308. With the establishment of Kevin Insalato as the Regional Evaluator coordinator and a team of 16 Regional Evaluators, the potential to certify many quality installers and elevate the quality of tilework around the country is growing.

Industry sponsors have kept the program going, providing locations for testing, materials, and catered meals and  snacks for CTI candidates. Back in March, The Tile Shop and Rubi Tools teamed up for one of many Certified Tile Installation (CTI) tests at The Tile Shop in Lombard, Ill.

Both companies are providing some great benefits to all CTI candidates. When you register with the Ceramic  Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) to take the CTI test and request to take the test at a Tile Shop location, registration will only cost $200. Once the CTI candidate passes the written test, the hands-on test will be scheduled at a Tile Shop location; if that is successfully passed,  The Tile Shop will pay the balance of the CTI test registration. The program is available nationwide.

Rubi Tools is also providing a bonus to all CTI candidates. Along with a trowel and spacers, Rubi will provide its new Rubi rubber bucket, which is designed to allow installers to hammer out dried mortar or grout without damaging the bucket. The bucket should not only save time, but money as well. In addition to the tool kit, Rubi will also be offering a $50.00 coupon as part of the CTI vouchers provided to every CTI candidate who successfully passes the test.

The CTI test in March was a success thanks to the Tile Shop regional sales manager, Dacy Corlee, and Rafael Rodriguez of Rubi Tools. The CTI candidates at this event were Nicholas Roth from All about Tile in Adrian, Mich., John Martin from John Martin Tile in Decatur, Ill., Greg Twarog from Surfaces 15 in Downers Grove, Ill., Omar Delacruz from Omar’s Custom Flooring in Chicago, Ill., Jamiel Sabir from California Flooring in Manteno, Ill., and Joe Voss from Voss Home in Frankfort, Ill.

For more information about taking the Certified Tile Installer exam, visit www.ceramictilefoundation.org/tile-certification-overview-ctef.

 

 

(l to r) Nicholas Roth, The Tile Shop regional salesmanager; Dacy Corlee, John Martin, Greg Twarog, Omar Delacruz, Jamiel Sabir, Joe Voss, and Regional Evaluator Rafael Lopez.

 

Rubi Tools provides a bonus to all CTI candidates. Along with a trowel and spacers, Rubi provides its new Rubi rubber bucket, which is designed to allow installers to hammer out dried mortar or grout without damaging the bucket, and a $50 coupon as part of the CTI vouchers for those who successfully pass the CTI exam

When CTI candidates request to take a CTI test at a Tile Shop location, registration will be only $200.Once the candidate successfully passes the exam, The Tile Shop will pay the balance of the CTI test registration.  The program is available nationwide

 

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