Qualified Labor – Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

1_CTI_20x20Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

Certification: a standard to validating professionalism, skills and willingness to excel

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

tile-fusion-logoAfter eight years as a tile installer, Dave Karp became a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) at Daltile in Plymouth, Minn., in 2008.

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Dave Karp, owner, Tile Fusion LLC

“I found out on a Sunday night that Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) was coming to town on Tuesday,” Karp said. “I sent emails that night and called first thing Monday morning to make sure I could get in. I felt it was a great way to separate myself from the rest of the guys in town.”

A year later Karp opened Tile Fusion in Shakopee, Minn., specializing in high-end, meticulous, and detailed residential tile installation. Becoming a CTI gave Karp the confidence to pursue his own tile shop. “[Certification] made me feel stronger as an installer, more professional, and better at selling myself.”

The CTI exam consists of two parts – a hands-on portion and a written-portion. “The written test wasn’t too difficult, being open book,” he said. “I read the book a couple of times.” For Karp, the hands-on portion was a different story. “I was in the same room as two of the Twin Cities’ premier installers,” Karp said. “Legends I’d call them: Joe Kerber and Jan Hohn. It meant the world to me to be able to show everyone what I’ve got.”

During the test, students have two days for preparation, tile setting, grouting and taking the written exam. It can be a very stressful experience that requires both quick thinking and quick acting. “The tile supplied to us was 4” X 4” white ceramic and 12” X 12” porcelain, but there were two different dye lots,” he explained. “I used this as a design feature – one color for the border and checkerboard for the center.”

Gerald Sloan, former NTCA trainer, judged Karp’s work and was impressed by his decision to include 1/16” joints. “I still feel good thinking back on that day,” Karp said.

In addition to being a CTI, Karp is wedi, Schluter, and StonePeak-MaxFine thin tile certified. And he became a member of the National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA) after hearing Gerald Sloan speak in August 2009. “He spoke of education, technical knowledge and professionalism within the industry and how the NTCA is leading the way. I signed up that night to be a member.” Karp is also a member of the Handmade Tile Association.

Karp is currently preparing for the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) in vertical mortar. NTCA membership and CTEF certification provide incredible value to the tile installer. The NTCA and CTI logos distinguish his estimates and invoices from those of competitors, and give tangible proof of an installer’s expertise. “I promote certification as a standard to validating who you are, your professionalism, skills and willingness to excel.”

Are You Paying Attention? – January 3, 2016

Back in August of last year the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed down a new standard that “rewrites U.S. Labor law and upends thousands of business relationships”. Their reasoning is that the old standard was “increasingly out of step with changing economic circumstances”. Reaction was swift with several calling it “alarming” and “fundamentally unrealistic”. The new rule stems from the board’s watershed Browning-Ferris decision which dealt with joint-employer relationships. While the rule will have far reaching effects on industries from staffing companies to franchises, it will also have great effect on the construction industry in terms of how our labor is classified. And yes you should at the very least be aware and even concerned.

The focus of this ruling for our industry concerns the classification of labor into the camps of employees and sub-contractors. While the NLRB, the governmental agency that implements the National Labor Relations Act, has found it within their jurisdiction and infinite wisdom to reverse several decades of practice in labor relationships, they are of the opinion that the line between the two to be blurred to the point that action separating them must be taken. The dissenters on the board who voted against this decision said it “reverses several prior decisions that established clear standards…all of which had been approved by powerful federal courts of appeal”. This is specifically addressing the use of 1099-based labor in the construction industry.

I’m sure many are aware of the IRS’s 20 Point Checklist for Determining an Independent Contractor (http://art.mt.gov/artists/IRS_20pt_Checklist_%20Independent_Contractor.pdf) which has been used in the past to make the distinction between an employee and a subcontractor. It now appears that the NLRB wishes to go beyond this already stringent test to make it even more so as the Obama administration chases “perceived worker rights abuses” as a main target as increased funding to both the NLRB and the IRS has increased in the last few years. The rule seems to actively seek to “restrict and tighten the use of independent contractors “ in the construction industry. This matter is especially poignant to the homebuilding industry since the NAHB states that a typical builder “relies on an average of 22 subcontractors to build a typical single family home.” Much of this stems from the toughening stance put forth from the Department of Labor and an administrator’s opinion that stated that the DOL “is putting more weight on a subcontractor’s economic independence when it decides whether that sub really ought to be regarded as an independent enterprise”. No longer is the IRS’s checklist enough. Now subcontractors must show “the managerial and business skills that are part of being and independent contractor, not just providing skilled labor”.

At stake is misclassification of your labor, if you use subcontractors, and the perception that they should have been W-2 based employees. The money it could cost you if they deem you have breached their new rules “can be ruinous”. It has been said that “reclassification attacks are very expensive to defend” and the resulting actions trigger a “domino-like effect” that if you lose your case can have you paying beloved fees such as past due overtime, past due health insurance, past due retirement benefits, past due employee benefits, past due worker’s compensation insurance, past due state and federal withholding taxes plus penalties and interest and enormous legal fees to the other side.

I doubt any installation contractors in our industry want to incur such onerous penalties that could potentially put them out of business, so each must understand the risks and rewards of this issue. This issue is currently being researched and information is being disseminated by the installation industry. There has even been a period of time after this ruling for associations such as ours to comment to the NLRB our opinion of the rule and how it will affect our members.

There has been legislation proposed in Congress to undo the rule by representatives whose constituents have shown an “immense backlash” to it. I urge you to consider the ramifications of the NLRB’s new rule on your business and our industry. Do some research into how the rule will be applied in your state. I also urge you to contact your legislators to support, as one congressman put it, “commonsense proposals that would restore policies in place long before the NLRB’s radical decision, the very same policies that served workers, employers, and consumers well for decades.”

A program on this very subject will be presented at the Surfaces show in Las Vegas and is just one of the educational opportunities available there January 19.

Qualified Labor – January 2016

1_CTI_20x20hawthorne_logo

 

 

 

 

 

CTI exam tests and teaches Hawthorne Tile’s project manager Shon Parker learns from the Certified Tile Installer evaluation

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

shon-parker

Shon Parker

In 2014, when Shon Parker of Hawthorne Tile walked into his local Portland, Ore., Daltile, he glanced at the modules for the hands-on portion of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Test and thought it would take only a few hours to complete. He was surprised that it took six hours, and that the written part of the test was so thorough. “The hands-on [test] looks deceptively easy, and just like the written test, was broad in what was being tested…given the small space it was in.”

Parker started in the tile industry in 1987 and has been a journeyman for 20 years. He describes the hands-on portion as “not too bad,” but admits the written portion “took a bit of studying.” He explains, “I felt I had a good understanding of specifications in our industry before the test, but going through some of the questions made me realize how much is really out there.”

Parker learned about the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) certifications at a Schluter training event for NTCA contractors. After talking to NTCA assistant executive director Jim Olson about the CTEF, Parker and two other installers from Hawthorne Tile signed up for the certification.

“When I heard about the opportunity,” Parker said, “I thought it would be an asset for our company and something to set us apart from our local competition.” Since becoming certified, Parker said the installers at Hawthorne Tile “educate our clients and builders prior to starting any project. We also spend more time at our vendors and chatting with our reps to make sure we are always moving forward to produce a better product.”

Parker feels like he has a better understanding about his industry than a lot of his competition. “Hawthorne Tile has always been about giving our clients the best-looking project we can. Now we know we can give them a well-functioning and technically correct one as well.”

The benefits of becoming certified are obvious to Parker. “Why wouldn’t you [become certified]?” Parker asked. “As more people understand the value of what [certification] means, it will increase your worth to employers and clients,” Parker said. “It’s really one of the best ways to bring up wages in our industry.” He likens it to someone who goes to college for computer programming and obtains a degree – that person will get “a better salary than a guy playing around on his laptop and reading some books in his spare time,” he said.

Parker pointed out that the trade now relies both on hands-on skills as well as an important base of knowledge. “To be successful, you need to be equally skilled at both,” he said. “There are so many new materials out and designers asking to put tile in new locations, plus all the new things tile is being made out of, from new types and sizes of glass to the relatively new thin porcelain type of material like Laminam. Education is key to keeping your liability as low as possible.”

Going through the certification process winds up being educational even though it’s a testing program. During his CTI testing, Parker learned about thin-set coverage and the differences between thin-set mortars. “I always knew that more coverage was better,” Parker said, “but there are differences between wet vs. dry locations.”

Hawthorne Tile now has a page on its website dedicated to education. Parker himself has been through his local union apprenticeship program and training from Nuheat and wedi. He enjoys attending classes that manufacturers host because they allow him to learn new things and keep up on current trends in the industry. Next, Parker is planning on taking the Ceramic Tile Inspection course also offered by CTEF.

Qualified Labor – September 2015

1_CTI_20x20Cain Curtis, Certified Tile Installer #362

One of the select few in Atlanta

By Lesley Goddin

Cain Curtis, owner of A Tile Experience in Atlanta, has been a tile setter longer than he hasn’t. His dad and uncle were both in the business, so he wound up helping on jobs when he was only 13 or 14. It was natural that he follow in their footsteps.

cain_curtisIn 2011, he joined NTCA. But the year before, in mid-May, he decided to take the Certified Tile Installer exam, administered on site at Traditions in Tile in Buford, Ga., by CTEF’s Scott Carothers.

“At the time, we were in the height of the construction slowdown/recession,” Curtis said. “I was subcontracting for a store; I went through six jobs in a year trying to find work. I started realizing what I didn’t know about my trade. And it came down to someone less qualified than me wanted me to show them how to do it and then pay me peanuts. I wanted to set myself apart.”

Back then, the written exam was administered onsite at the same time as the hands-on portion of the test, and having studied, he breezed through it. “They sent me the book and I read [it],” he said. “There wasn’t a single question that I didn’t know. It was an open book test, with the questions in the exact same order as they appear in the back of the book. It was super easy. I was one of last people done with hands on test, but first one done in the written test.”

The hands-on test was a different story. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be,” he continued. “And having Scott doing the testing…he’s a scary man to be poking and prodding at your tile installation!”

But he passed, and was credentialed as Certified Tile Installer #362 – now one of only about 35 Certified Tile Installers in the state of Georgia among thousands of tile setters, according to Curtis. He also plans to pursue ACT certification as well, “to see if I can pass it,” he said.

Despite his Certified Tile Installer credentials, which he displays on his business cards, Curtis still bemoans the number of times he gets underbid by unqualified or even unlicensed contractors – though sometimes he gets called back for cleanup. He tells a story about a recent customer who called him to say her drywall guy said he could do the subway tile backsplash for only about half of Curtis’ bid. The company got 18 A+ reviews on a popular website. But not surprisingly, the $350 job failed, so instead of paying $600 or $700 to do the job right the first time, this customer had to shell out $1200, plus whatever she paid to the drywall guy who originally installed the job.

Curtis would love to see more designers, architects and distributors know and understand what certification represents – not a “certificate that says you showed up at a training,” Curtis explains. Because he finds certification is not well understood in his region, he finds “telling people what I am doing is the biggest sell.”

He reinforces his certification and his skills by going “to every educational opportunity I can in my area. I find that sometimes people are looking for someone with experience with a certain product, and since I keep myself educated, I get experience with everything I can.”

Curtis encourages more tile setters to take the exams. “I’ve recommended it to a number of people to learn that they don’t know what they are doing, and to others because they are almost there. If you think you are good enough, go sign up to take it – you’ll know instantly!

“I’d like to see more people take it and be a more level playing field with the competition, so it wasn’t apples and oranges bids,” he concluded.

Qualified Labor – August 2015 “Green Issue”

1_CTI_20x20ACT certification enriches Neuse superintendent’s abilities

Juan Sauceda is the first Neuse Tile Service installer to obtain ACT credentials

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

neuse-logo

Juan Sauceda recently completed his Advanced Certified Tile Installer (ACT) certification in Membranes and Shower Receptors. He is one of many Neuse Tile Service installers to have successfully completed the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam over the last decade, but the first to achieve ACT certification. “I felt like it was an opportunity,” Sauceda said. “The company didn’t have anybody with that label, and they just wanted to go for it.”

1-QL-neusetilePaige Smith, vice president, said Neuse (www.neusetile.com) sends installers to National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) education programs because, “It distinguishes us from the many competitors we have in the market. It’s also a great opportunity as [the installers] study for the tests to refresh what they already know, and it gives them pride in what they do.”

As Neuse Tile’s superintendent and installer for over 13 years, Sauceda took the ACT exam in order to “enrich [his] abilities.” Sauceda said, “When you’re in the field, sometimes you learn on your own; there are very few opportunities to see other points of view. [Taking the test] is a good way to see other ways to get things done. Different techniques. You just expand your knowledge.”

Sauceda became a CTI about eight years ago and has continued to learn and improve over the last decade. Becoming a CTI and ACT helped Sauceda learn different tile setting techniques that literally cut the time in half it that it took him to do it before.

Neuse Tile Service is a NTCA Five Star Contractor based in Youngsville, N.C., from where past NTCA president Nyle Wadford hails. The company uses the CTI and ACT credentials everywhere it possibly can. Smith said, “We try to promote any of the programs that are in our area through our social media, anything that we attend and any offerings we want our customers to know are available for continuing education.” Smith pointed out that paying attention to continuing education distinguishes Neuse Tile as a company that cares about its customers and their employees, which hopefully gives them a leg up over the competition.

Qualified Labor – July 2015 – Collins Tile and Stone

Steve Keator, Collins Tile and Stone

CTI supports best practices; boosts client trust, installer confidence and marketability

1_CTI_20x20By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

Steve Keator, director of Field Operations for Collins Tile and Stone in Ashburn, Va., can’t say enough about the value of being a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) affords his customers.

steve_keator“As a CTI, the work that I produce satisfies the greatest expectations and quality of work within the industry,” said Keator. “We establish trust and confidence with our clients when they know that our skilled CTIs are capable of performing all work using industry best practices and techniques resulting in superior quality and lasting installations.”

Having CTIs on staff makes Keator’s job easier. “I am responsible for maintaining a level of quality control over the tile installations by making sure that industry best practices and techniques are performed within each kitchen and bathroom remodeling project,” he said. “This task is easier for me because all of our tile mechanics are CTI certified.”

collins_logoCollins Tile and Stone leverages the CTI credentials of its employees in all its marketing. “We promote CTI credentials and post the CTI logo throughout our marketing materials, including our website, social media outlets (FB, Houzz, Pinterest), Angie’s List, and in the email signature of all employees,” Keator said. The company also designates that it is a company that employs CTIs on each business card.

“We promote the CTI logo on our company vehicles as well,” Keator said. “In addition, we cite CTI certification of our installers on every proposal and contract we provide to our clients to establish the high level of expertise of our tile installers.”

Keator took the CTI evaluation in November 2010 at Daltile in Richmond, Va. He took the written test in person and found finishing the hands-on portion in the allotted six hours to be the hardest part. Keator was grateful for his existing level of technical knowledge and the written test reinforced the necessity of industry methods and standards for producing top-quality installations.

And although the CTI evaluation is not a training course, Keator said, “[I] gained a greater understanding of the necessity of pre-sloping and proper weep hole protection, proper mud pan installation, different types of joist systems, and substrates and their requirements.”

After installing tile for five years, Keator, pursued CTI certification to advance his education and to increase his skills as a tile tradesman. All of this prepared him for a supervisory position.

Why should someone become a CTI? “Being a CTI sets me apart from other tile mechanics in the industry,” Keator said. “As a CTI, my skill level is proven and I know I am capable of building quality tile installations that will last. This has helped me to personally take pride in my work, as well as to build my career from an installer to a supervisor. I am more marketable with these [proven] skills and provide value to every job I complete.”

In addition to increasing the marketability of Keator and his employing company, he said that being a CTI has instilled an increased level of confidence in his installers and himself. “I am using industry best practices and techniques,” he said. “The fact that our company employs CTIs equates to a highly skilled [and] educated workforce.”

Keator has advice for installers thinking about becoming a CTI: be prepared. “Although the [written exam] was open book, I had to be fully prepared and well versed in tile installation technique and knowledge,” he said. Since “the manuals are rather large and comprehensive, it was imperative that I came prepared for the exam and was familiar with the information in order to locate references quickly, as needed, throughout the test.”

Qualified Labor – June 2015

1_CTI_20x20The ACT exam: a life-changing experience for Mark Iosue of Mi Terra Custom Interiors 

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

Mark Iosue of Mi Terra Custom Interiors (www.miterracustominteriors.com) hung up his work boots a few years ago in favor of running his own installation shop, but last year he dusted them off to complete the Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT) at Schluter Systems in Plattsburg, N.Y.

“I’m always trying to step up my game and become the best at what I do,” said Iosue. He has eight full-time and four part-time tile installers working out of two shops, one in Philadelphia and one in South Jersey.

Iosue is getting as many of his installers to take the Certified Tile Installer certification as he can. “I’m the only one who’s ACT certified,” said Iosue, but, “I really truly believe in it. If you’re certified, you walk into a job [and] you’re a lot more confident, you have a lot more experience than the next guy. If you passed that course you basically know what you’re doing.”

Iosue has been a tile installer for 20 years and started Mi Terra Custom Interiors 10 years ago, but Iosue described the ACT test as a life-altering experience. The ACT written and hands-on tests are not a training course, but Iosue still learned a whole lot. “I can’t say enough about the test,” he explained. “It was a life-changing experience for me for the simple fact [that] I learned so much from it. I got to meet a lot of great people, people like myself with the same goal to do the right thing when it comes to tile installations.”

Iosue raved about the test, but that doesn’t mean it was smooth setting. “I’d be lying if I said it was easy,” Iosue said. “Just because you’ve been doing it your whole life doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it right your whole life.”

According to Iosue, the hardest part was getting back into the actual physical work. “I mostly oversee things,” said Iosue. “I actually had to get the tools out. It’s been years since I’ve actually set tile. Plus, things were timed and I don’t have a young back anymore.”

Despite the challenges, Iosue believes it was worth it. “I thought it was very helpful, very beneficial. It made me a better tile setter.” Since becoming CTI- and ACT-certified, Iosue uses the TCNA Handbook more often. He investigates things a lot further, “basically doing my homework,” said Iosue. And all of this, he says, has absolutely, 100% positively affected his bottom line.

Iosue strongly advises tile installers to become CTI- and ACT-certified. “To be the best, you want to always test yourself and learn the most you can with your craft,” he said. “That’s what this test does. Even if you’ve been doing it for many years, there’s always something you can learn,” he said. “I recommend the test for anyone who does this for a living because it covers all bases. And once you take it you become qualified.”

Qualified Labor – May 2015

1_CTI_20x20Ricky Cox
Memphis Tile and Marble Co., Inc.
Memphis, Tenn.

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

MTMC-web

Memphis Tile and Marble Co. Inc., specializes in high-end, high-quality residential and light commercial work, offering expert craftsmanship in a range of tile installation, including Mexican, porcelain and brick pavers, as well as bathroom vanities, cultured marble tops and natural stone products. It provides skilled installation of whirlpool tubs and radiant floor systems for the Memphis and Midsouth areas, as well as full-scale kitchen and bathroom remodels. Founded in 1968 by Thomas Cox, the company now employs 12 full-time employees and in addition to installing tile, fabricates counter tops.

ricky_coxFive years ago, Thomas’s son Ricky Cox took the CTI certification at BPI in Memphis in order to separate himself from the competition. “The written test was not difficult for me,” Cox said. “The hands-on test was a different story. I took the test with four of my employees and needless to say, I was the last one done. The most challenging part of the hands-on work was the layout.”

Having been involved with NTCA before the certification, Cox was well schooled in the proper methods to install tile. He pointed out, “This certification is not for the do-it-yourself homeowner or the novice installer. It is a challenge.” But Cox encourages installers to take the certification. “It will definitely set you apart from your competition.”

Obtaining CTI certification is also one step towards becoming a NTCA Five Star Contractor, a mark of installation excellence that Memphis Tile and Marble Co. boasts.

Memphis Tile and Marble Co. posts the CTI logo in its office, on letterhead, and on their website. Having the CTI certification, “reassures our customers that we know what we are doing.” Going through the written and hands-on tests can raise awareness not only of installation skills, but also of all-around job operations, as it did for Memphis Tile and Marble Co. After numerous employees took the CTI certification, Cox said, “We started taking safety more seriously.”

CTI and ACT certification is good for the tile industry. Cox said, “I also took the test with some of my competitors. I would rather bid a job against those guys than someone that is not certified because I know that [the certified competitors] are not cutting corners.”

Qualified Labor – April 2015

1_CTI_20x20Scott Carron, Canto Tile & Stone: trying to do what’s best for the industry

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

Scott Carron, a tile installer since 1990, was among the first installers to take the Certified Tile Installer certification exam in the Tampa area in 2011. He now works in the area for Canto Tile & Stone of Riverview, leading a team of certified tile installers in both residential and commercial tile work.

QL_Carron-0415When Carron took the test three years ago, it was a three-day affair that required completing both the written and hands-on test on site.

“I learned a few things from the written test,” Carron said. “There was a lot of new material and method standards. The instructor went over some of the material and [explained] some different angles of approaching things that made them easier.”

Carron had already been in the business for over 10 years when he took the test, so he felt like the hands-on portion of the test was pretty standard. “We were all just on eggshells making sure we did everything right…We made sure every step was as good as possible so that the next step took a little less time.”

Carron is passionate about the necessity of making certification a standard for the industry. Canto Tile & Stone is “trying to do what’s best for the industry,” he explained. “We’re seeing a problem in the industry. A lot of people don’t know what they’re doing and people are paying pennies on the dollar for unskilled labor. The people who really care about the industry in Central Florida are trying to make it so the consumer can get the proper installation.”

Carron believes in the mission of the Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). “A certified installer knows how to deal with all installations. That’s why it’s important for the CTEF to keep pushing what they’re doing. It’s critical for the consumer who is paying their hard-earned money to get the best installation they can get.”

Canto Tile & Stone includes the CTEF logo on its business cards, website, and letterhead. Carron said that the CTI credential “does sell jobs. A lot of the jobs we do, we do because we are Certified Tile Installers. It has made an impact.”

But the best reason for taking the CTI certification is “just to have [the credential] in your hands. If someone ever asks you if you know what you’re doing, you have it. If you’re looking for employment and someone hands me a CTEF card, I’m going to hire them.”

The Certified Tile Installer certification program run by CTEF is the only third-party, industry-recognized assessment of basic installer skill and knowledge. The certification is a significant way of letting “the consumer know that we know what we’re doing, so that one day people will wise up and make sure everyone has the certification [and knowledge] for everything from the easiest repair to the most complicated installation,” Carron concluded.

Qualified Labor – March 2015

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CTI, ACT testing at TISE West elevates respect for trade

Showgoers esteem certification as useful in raising the bar for tilesetters

By Lesley Goddin

[LAS VEGAS, Nevada] – At the recent The International Surface Event (TISE) West held at Mandalay Bay Convention Center here the third week of January, there were two industry-recognized certification classes taking place on the show floor.

1-QL-315The first was the Certified Tile Installer hands-on test. Scott Carothers, certification and training director at the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), which conducts the test, said, “Testing experienced installers at the show yields two benefits. The first, of course, is that an experienced tile installer is demonstrating his or her hand skill in hopes of passing the test and becoming a Certified Tile Installer (CTI). The second benefit allows show attendees to view the intensity of the CTI test, demonstrating that it is not a ‘show up and get a certificate’ program.  It is a tough test designed to separate the qualified tile installer from those who are not able to pass the test or think that they don’t need it, when actually, they do.”

Earlier, all participants had taken a written exam about tile setting basics online.

2-QL-315Also being held at TISE West was the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) hands-on exam. Six participants – three open shop and three union installers – were tested for their proficiency in setting large-format porcelain tile and subfloor preparation, mud walls and floors, showers and membranes.

​Carothers added, “At the upcoming Coverings show, we will debut our two newest ACT tests: Grouts and Thin Porcelain Tile (TPT), which expands our testing program to a total of seven. ACT will continue to grow the program, adding new tests as needed. Our goal is to provide the marketplace with installers who meet and exceed the requirements of qualified labor as found in the TCNA Handbook and in the specifications being drafted by many architects. The demand for quality by the consumer, whether it be residential or commercial, is growing and the ACT program meets the challenge.”

Jaime Ruelas of 3rd Generation Tile, a family-owned business in San Diego, Calif., stopped by to observe the process. “We need certification,” he said, explaining that work opportunities are being eroded by a combination of workers coming over the border to Southern California from Mexico to set tile, and big box stores giving the impression that setting tile is a snap. “Electricians and plumbers are certified – why not tile setters? Just having a license doesn’t mean much of anything,” he said.

3-QL-315Talan Nielson, sales manager for RM Interiors & Design, Inc., in Mesa, Ariz., also took some time to watch the test unfold. “The trades across the board are diminishing, so any time you can get certification, it’s excellent,” he said. “Since the quality of work is going down, you need a tool to set you apart from the next guy.”

Nielson echoed Ruelas’ comments about Mexican nationals and an influx of Chinese workers who he saw as “driving down labor prices.”

“We sell and install tile,” Nielson said. “We sub it out to licensed and bonded installers. It would be nice to see that they have certification too.”

For more information on becoming a Certified Tile Installer, visit http://tilecareer.com/courses/certified-tile-installer/. For information about ACT, visit www.tilecertifications.com.

Another class of hands-on exams for CTIs and ACT-certified installers will take place at Coverings 2015 in Orlando, at the Orange County Convention Center, April 14-17. Contact Scott Carothers at [email protected] or call 864-222-2131 if you are interested in taking the CTI or ACT exams.

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