Qualified Labor – January 2016

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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

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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

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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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Qualified Labor – February 2015

1_CTI_20x20“Knowledge is power,” for recently-certified installer Kevin Hurla of Fox Ceramic Tile

By Lesley Goddin

Recently, seasoned installer Kevin Hurla embarked on the journey to become a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) program (tilecareer.com/courses/certified-tile-installer). Hurla has been with Fox Ceramic Tile in St. Marys, Kan., since February 2014. Fox Ceramic Tile, which specializes in commercial work, gained NTCA Five Star Contractor status in 2011.

kevin_hurla“I know installers who went through the course, and I took an interest,” Hurla said, who has logged 20 years as an installer, starting as a finisher in 1989 and then completing a two-year apprenticeship.

After taking the written test online, Hurla completed the hands-on test at ISC Surfaces in Kansas City on September 19, 2014. ISC Surfaces’ host Brent Stoller holds the record for hosting the largest number of CTI tests at one site. In fact, he received the first annual CTI Host of the Year award in 2014.

Hurla didn’t think either the written or hands-on tests were difficult. “The whole process has information that installers should know to ensure proper installation,” he said.

Hurla is proud to be a CTI. “The CTI symbol is displayed on the back of our company uniform, and on the sleeves of the Certified Tile Installers,” he explained.

Kevin Fox, PE, owner of Fox Ceramic Tile, added, “We have eight tile setters on our team, and 100% of them are Certified Tile Installers. I have just hired two more tile setters and they are scheduled to take the test in March.”

Fox said that his company just got the green light for a Department of Labor-approved apprentice program – and the CTI test is the final requirement to achieve journeyman status. “What started out as something I was asking the tile setters to consider now has become a requirement if they want to reach full journeyman scale,” Fox said. “I think the certification is that important.”

According to Hurla, becoming a CTI has lasting benefits. “It gives me confidence in my ability to  find the correct solution to any obstacles that may arise,” Hurla said. “I also carry the CTI books in my truck so I can look up any questions I don’t know off the top of my head. “

Since passing the tests, Hurla said he pays “close attention to the products I use and the proper instructions on how to use them.”

Fox added, “Having certified tile installers has been part of the strategy in targeting larger and negotiated work. It is just one of the aspects GCs see, along with the company’s involvement with NTCA and Five Star that shows we are a company that not only ‘says’ we will perform on a project with qualified mechanics (everyone says that), but that we have shown our passion for the industry by validating the skills of the installer and investing the time and talents of the company by being active in the industry’s organizations.” Fox is a NTCA State Director and a member of the NTCA Methods and Standards Committee.

The value of what Hurla learned while going through the certification process and its impact on his work prompts him to endorse every opportunity to gain education. “The most important thing to remember is ‘knowledge is power,’” he said. “If you think you know it all, you’re limiting yourself.”

The next level of certification is Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT), which offer certification for union and open-shop installers in any or all of these skill sets: Large-Format Tile and Substrate Preparation, Membranes, Mud Floors, and Shower Receptors (www.tilecertifications.com). The prospect of taking his career to the next level excites Hurla.

“If I have the opportunity to take the ACT certification I would jump at the chance to educate myself even more,” he said.

Qualified Labor – January 2015

studio_tileThree out of four CTIs in Brevard County, Fla., are with Studio Tile and Stone

Validation, self-confidence, and differentiation: the value of being a Certified Tile Installer

By Terryn Rutford

Three members of Studio Tile and Stone LLC (www.studiotileandstone.com) became Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) in September 2014. The high-end ceramic tile and stone retail operation in Melbourne, Fla., installs floors and bathrooms in full-home remodels, and installs tile in the occasional new home as well.

1-QLBogo and his wife manage three installation crews with a total staff of 10. Studio Tile and Stone is committed to keeping up the high standards of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), the Ceramic Tile Institute of America (CTIOA), and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

“We are very conscientious about standards and we emphasize that,” Bogo said, explaining that their contracts identify the standards and methods that will be used on the job. “By doing that and by following those standards and adding good craftspeople, we differentiate ourselves.”

Why did Bogo and his workers decide to become CTIs? Besides the validation on many of the methods and techniques the company has used for years, Bogo said, “We thought it would be a good thing to do to differentiate ourselves – to have something that is recognized on the national level will serve us well. It’s pretty exciting.”

In Brevard County, where Studio Tile and Stone is located, there are only four Certified Tile Installers – and Studio Tile and Stone has three of them. Bogo believes in the value of the certification, confident that as certification programs proliferate, and “the community becomes more aware, these types of craftspeople will be much more in demand,” Bogo said.

Bogo and his workers took the written test online and the hands-on test at the CTEF facility in Pendleton, S.C., near Clemson. Bogo says that the written test was fairly easy for him and his workers, since they were familiar with the material from the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation.

But the practical test was a different story. Bogo says, “I did find the practical hands-on test a little more difficult than I was expecting. I thought we would be done by lunch, but by 5 p.m. we were heavily perspiring to get done.

“The hands-on test requires installers to work with 4-1/4” x 4-1/4” ceramic tile rapid-set mortar,” Bogo explained, “We do a lot of larger formats. We are used to working with 12” x 24” tile or even larger than that – 20” x 46”. I had difficulty working with [talc-bodied ceramic tile] instead of porcelain and the format being smaller. We also had to use rapid-set, which takes up within the hour, so basically what you’re doing is mixing and setting, mixing and setting. It was kind of messy, but we got through it.”

Even though the CTI evaluation is not a training course, Bogo says the test was “confirmation of some of the things that I had learned. [It was] a good way of reviewing the terminology. None of [the process] is really wasted because there is so much out there. If you don’t refresh yourself you pick up [poor] lingo.”

Bogo says he would encourage everyone to take the CTI test. “A lot of guys out in the field have the knowledge and the expertise to do it,” he says. It’s beneficial to be “able to tell potential customers that there is this organization that is a non-profit that certifies installers.

“We haven’t had a chance yet to see how it affects the bottom line, but I think it works from the inside,” Bogo explained. “I think the staff here recognizes the people that are certified and there is a degree of comfort. [And] the people who went through [the CTI test] have self-confidence. It increases their self-esteem.

“The other thing is, it’s easier for them to say to themselves that they have to do a better job because they’re certified.” Bogo said, “Quite honestly, the investment has been marginal in comparison to how we feel about our company and employees and how we will be viewed. I think the CTI certification has had a great deal of value.”

Bogo is excited to begin using the CTI logo on their uniforms, the side of their trucks, and in all their visual marketing: letterheads, website, showroom, etc. “We already have the National Tile Contractors Association logos on our letterheads. It’s something to be proud of and I think it’s something that our clients and customers need to know.”

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