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.”

Qualified Labor – December 2014

1-QL-1214CTEF, Schluter conduct first open-shop ACT testing

Schluter hosts testing at Plattsburgh, N.Y. headquarters

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) working in conjunction with Schluter Systems, LP recently hosted and conducted the first hands-on testing of the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program entirely for open-shop tile contractors at the Schluter headquarters in Plattsburgh, N.Y. The installers taking the ACT tests first had to have successfully completed the CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) testing of their skills and knowledge. Previous tests at The International Surface Event and Coverings included equal numbers of open-shop and IUBAC union installers.

2-QL-1214During the two-day testing – September 15 and 16 – the pre-qualified CTEF Certified Tile Installers demonstrated their hands-on abilities in the following skill sets: Large Format Tile and Substrate Preparation, Membranes (both sheet and liquid), Mortar Bed (Mud) Floors and Shower Receptors. Prior to taking the hands-on portion of the ACT exam, each installer was required to successfully complete the online knowledge test proving their command of the test subject. Installers sought certification in select skills, not necessarily certification of every skill for every installer – the four installers yielded nine certifications.

The four installers who took the exam at Schluter in September were: Juan “Santos” Sauceda, Neuse Tile Service, Youngsville, N.C.; Mark Iosue, Mi Terra Custom Tile Interiors, Philadelphia, Pa.; Scott Heron, Precision Tile Company, West Columbia, S.C. and Josh Pair, OTP Tile, Marble, & Granite, Fayetteville, Ark.

3-QL-1214To date, there are 169 ACT-certified installers, said Scott Carothers, CTEF director of certification and training: 43 open-shop installers and 126 IUBAC installers.

Schluter territory manager Phil Woodruff devised the concept of ACT testing at Plattsburgh. He has also set up a Certified Tile Installer testing in Acme, Mich. (Traverse City area) in conjunction with a Schluter Innovation Workshop on December 11. “Phil has already registered the maximum number of 20 installers to take the CTI hands-on test, which is still a month away,” Carothers said. “Awesome work!”

Successful ACT installers are listed on the CTEF website, which also links to the ACT website, providing potential clients with a pool of talented and qualified tile installers. These installers now meet the specification requirement calling for qualified labor as shown in the Tile Council of America (TCNA) Handbook 

4-QL-1214and many architectural specifications, including the Arcom MasterSpec®. The call for the use of qualified labor on jobsites under section 9300 Ceramic Tile specifications is growing. The ACT Certification Program provides the residential and commercial consumer with the confidence that their project will be completed correctly, the first time.

For more information, please view the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation website at www.tilecareer.com.

 

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Qualified Labor – November 2014

1-QL-1114By Terryn Rutford

In 2009, Steve Barrow, owner of Cody Flooring & Tile, Inc., (www.codyflooring.com) located in Golden, Colo., decided that his tile installers should be certified. In April 2009, Dan Eielson was one of the tile installers who took the Certified Tile Installer exam at Rio Grande Supply Company in Denver, Colo.

Cody Flooring & Tile, Inc. specializes in commercial and high-end residential tile installation. The company worked on the Recreational Center at CSU in Fort Collins, installing over 32,000 sq. ft. of tile.

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When Eielson took the written and hands-on test in Denver, he was surprised that there was not more mud work in the test. Eielson said, “I’ve been doing [tile installation] 38 years, so I didn’t think [the test] was quite difficult. The test includes all the basic stuff that any good tile guy should know about centering walls and stuff,” he said.

(Editor’s note: Advanced Certification for Tile Installers –ACT – DOES offer a certification for mud beds. Visit www.tilecertifications.com for more information.)

Eielson admits he did learn a few things from studying up for the test. “I did learn about anti-fracture and different membranes. There were a number of things that I did pick up like crack isolations that I was not aware of [before the test].”

3-QL-1114Certification has helped Eielson’s business. He said, “I have mentioned a number of times to different superintendents at meetings – before we start a job – that a number of our guys are certified, just to give them a little bit of a heads-up that we know what we’re doing.”

Eielson commented that the tile trade has changed. “With the big box stores, everyone has become a tile installer. They think, ‘I can read a book and I can do this.’ When I first started, you could only find tile tools and materials at a tile distributor.”

To Eielson, this is a good reason for tile installers to take the test and become certified – it’s a way to raise oneself above the competition. Eielson said, “The written test and the hands-on test is a lot of good basic stuff that a lot of guys in the trade don’t have nowadays.”

4-QL-1114About the certification, Eielson remarked, “It’s a good thing for me to have. I wish this had been going on when I was doing my own houses years ago.”

Qualified Labor – October 2014

ACT Review: what you need to know about Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers

The following information is taken directly from the ACT website at www.tilecertifications.com. The website contains detailed information about the evaluation process and the various certifications that can be obtained with ACT testing.

ACT_logos-for-siteThe Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program was created through the combined efforts of six leading organizations in the tile industry: the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF); the International Masonry Institute (IMI); the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC); the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA); the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

The intent of the ACT certification program is to provide a level of consumer confidence for tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA guidelines for floor and wall.  ACT certified installers represent the pinnacle of performance in the tile trade and maintain a level of excellence superior to non-ACT certified installers.

ACT is not a training program; it evaluates the skills and knowledge of tile installers and currently offers certifications in five specific areas of tile installation:

  • Large Format Tile & Substrate Preparation
  • Membranes
  • Mortar (Mud) Floors
  • Mortar (Mud) Walls
  • Shower Receptors

An installer may choose to become ACT certified in one or more of these areas. ACT-certified installers are not automatically certified in ALL of the five specific areas; he or she selects the advanced certification in a category of his or her choosing.

ACT certification in each area is granted upon successful completion of a written online test – designed to measure the installer’s understanding of applicable ANSI specifications and TCNA recommended methods – and a field test conducted by trained, third party evaluators who assess the installer’s skills under real life conditions.

Installers wishing to become ACT certified must be pre-qualified in one of two ways:

Be a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation; or

Be a journeyman tile setter who has successfully completed the apprenticeship program conducted by the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers

For more information on ACT certification and to obtain test dates and locations, visit:

Ceramic Tile Education Foundation or call 1-864-222-2131

International Masonry Institute (for installer members of IUBAC) or call 1-800-JOBS-IMI

 

Q&A clears up questions

I am an architect / designer. How will ACT benefit my project?

By requiring installers with one or more ACT certifications, you can be assured that the installers on your project have proven their advanced skills and knowledge of this area of the craft, and you should expect nothing less than a premium installation and performance.

 

I am a tile contractor. How will ACT benefit my business?

By certifying your key installers in the ACT certifications, you will be part of an elite group of contractors eligible to bid projects requiring ACT certified installers. With a movement toward increased focus on quality installation practices, your designation as an employer of ACT certified installers will support and enhance your company’s other certifications, positioning your company as a leader in the tile industry and opening doors for increased work opportunities.

 

In addition to ACT, what other certifications are available to my company?

ACT and CTI certifications reside with individual installers. In addition, there are two well-respected industry programs that certify the company as a whole. One is the Five Star Contractor program offered by the National Tile Contractors Association. The other is the Trowel of Excellence certification program offered by the Tile Contractors Association of America. These company certification programs are recommended in the TCNA Handbook as evidence of a contractor’s qualifications.

For more information, visit www.tilecertifications.com, the National Tile Contractors Association at www.tile-assn.com and choose “ACT” on the left-to-right scrolling menu at the bottom, or The International Masonry Institute at www.imiweb.org and choose “Certifications” under the “Education” tab.

Qualified Labor – September 2014

Johnson Ceramic Tile Inc.: claiming credibility with certification

By Terryn Rutford

johnson-tileMichael Johnson runs a family business started by his dad in 1966. With a team of seven employees including himself, the company specializes in new homes, renovation, commercial, and custom installation. The company has worked all over the East Coast, with lots of projects for the government at Fort Bragg, and intricate work in 2013 at Duke University’s Wallace Stadium when the university remodeled. In addition, Johnson Ceramic Tile (www.johnsonceramic.com) has performed work at most of the major East Coast colleges.

1-QL-0914Johnson inherited Johnson Ceramic Tile from his father when he passed away in 2009. Shortly thereafter he took the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation’s (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer test to demonstrate that he was qualified to take over the family business. He took the written test not far from where his company is located in Spring Lake, N.C.

“There are a lot of bad installers around this area and I know customers would feel a little more comfortable knowing that the company is certified,” he said. While he didn’t find the test hard, Johnson did consider it time consuming.

2-QL-0914The study guide materials remain a source of information for Johnson today, for example, “the moisture rate of certain tiles and materials that you normally don’t think about,” he says. “After reading and learning that part of it [from the test], I do have to refer back to the book. I had been installing for years before I took the test, [and there was] stuff that I never would even have thought about.”

And he has changed some of his methods and materials as a result of the test, as well. Since becoming certified, for instance, he uses Schluter®-KERDI waterproofing and crack-isolation membrane.

3-QL-0914Proud of his status as a Certified Tile Installer, Johnson includes his certification number on his contracts. “If the homeowner or whomever I’m dealing with doesn’t know I started in 1966 or anything about our name, we put [the certification] in our contracts to let them know I am certified,” he said. Johnson also includes the certification on his website.

Johnson said the certification “takes the guesswork out of it for the homeowner or the client because they know that the installer has had some kind of training; it’s kind of like a confirmation that you’re qualified.”

Qualified Labor – August 2014

NTCA Five Star Contractors: “Integrity, Professionalism, Craftsmanship”

By Lesley Goddin

NTCA5starcontractorWhen it comes to “qualified labor,” there are few contracting firms or installers more qualified than the NTCA Five Star Contractor. These contractors are the cream of the crop, adhering to a mission statement, code of ethics and number of criteria that ensure their customers that they are not only qualified contractors, but that they excel in their field.

The newly-minted Five Star Mission statement reads:

“A working group of recognized elite tile contractor professionals/experts in various market segments assembled to identify tile contractor challenges and issues, provide best practices and consensus processes to elevate the members of the group. Long term goals of group efforts include tangible benefits such as awarded projects, higher profits, recognition by peers, customers and suppliers, discounted pricing or rebates, and extended warranties. The group will be responsible for developing training initiatives for leaders and key employees of the members, establishing award recognition, and best practices in both business and in the field.”

The Five Star Contractor program is open to all contractors – residential, commercial, union, non-union, large or small.

“In my first year, 2008, the program had nine members,” said Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director in charge of the program. “As of July 2014, we have 38 Five Star Contractors. The program has not only grown in size, but the application process has become more stringent as we grow.”

NTCA is reviewing applications from three contractors with hopes to add them to the program in the near future, bringing the total to 41 Five Star Contractors. The program goal is to have 50 Five Star Contractors by the end of 2015.

Distinguishing between “low” or “qualified” bid

“Our industry does not have a national licensing program and the end user has a difficult time distinguishing between lowest bid and lowest qualified bid,” Olson added. “The NTCA hopes that the Five Star Contractor program is one of the vehicles that will help bring qualified labor to the masses.”

Five Star Contractors make a monetary commitment to the program and are required to complete a rigorous peer-approval process, demonstrating their commitment to training, service, quality, safety, fiscal responsibility and superior job performance. They also agree to attend two industry events, board meetings or Five Star conferences per year. Additional qualifications for applicants in 2014/15 include:

A minimum of 10% of installers must be CTEF certified (CTI – Certified Tile Installers) or have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor upon submission of the Five Star Contractor application

Must commit to Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) certifications within 12 months of acceptance in Five Star Program

A “Large Project” (LP) section has been added to the application for those Five Star applicants who wish to be referred for large commercial and unique projects.

Code of Ethics for NTCA Five Star Contractors

Each applicant is asked to read, sign and date the Five Star Code of Ethics before their application is accepted. The NTCA Five Star Code of Ethics is derived and adapted from the Model Code of Ethics by the American Subcontractors Association. It states:

Competition. NTCA Five Star Contractors compete fairly for contracts, avoiding any practice that might be construed to be in violation of the letter or spirit of the antitrust laws. Firms avoid any activity that could be construed as bid shopping or peddling. Firms do not knowingly violate any law or regulation governing the competitive process.

Qualifications. NTCA Five Star Contractors seek to perform contracts only for projects for which the firm has technical competence and experience. Firms do not accept contracts for which they are not qualified. Firms assign staff to projects in accordance with their qualifications and commensurate with the demands of the services to be provided under the contract.

Standards of Practice. NTCA Five Star Contractors provide materials and services in a manner consistent with the established and accepted standards of the construction industry and with the laws and regulations that govern it. Firms perform their contracts with competence, reasonable care and diligence. Firms establish prices that are commensurate with their services. They serve their customers with honesty and integrity.

Conflicts of Interest. NTCA Five Star Contractors endeavor to avoid conflicts of interest, both corporate and individual. Where a corporate conflict exists, NTCA Five Star Contractors will disclose such conflicts to their customers or prospective customers. NTCA Five Star Contractors regularly educate their staffs about personal conflicts of interest and have established a procedure for internal disclosure.

Public Safety. NTCA Five Star Contractors assure that the safety of their employees, the employees of others on the job site, and the general public are protected during the provision of their services.

Service Providers and Suppliers. NTCA Five Star Contractors treat their service providers and suppliers in an equitable manner, assuring that they are provided clear direction and prompt payment for service provided. Firms do not knowingly violate any law or regulation governing such relationships.

Employees. NTCA Five Star Contractors comply with the letter and spirit of laws relating to working conditions, equal employment opportunities, and pay practices. Firms do not knowingly violate any law or regulation dealing with public information. NTCA Five Star Contractors assure that all public statements and disclosures they make are truthful. Firms also protect the proprietary interests of their customers.

Compliance with Laws. NTCA Five Star Contractors do not knowingly violate any law or regulation.

Image of the Construction Industry. NTCA Five Star Contractors avoid actions that promote their own self-interest at the expense of the construction industry and upholds the standards of the construction industry with honor and dignity.

Internal Procedures. NTCA Five Star Contractors have established internal procedures under which their failure to conform to the above practices will be handled. Each year, the NTCA reviews this code of ethics and its internal procedures with each of its Five Star Contractors. If an employee, customer or other individual becomes aware of a circumstance in which NTCA Five Star Contractor or an employee of that firm fails to conform to the above standards, he/she should immediately report such circumstances to Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director.

Benefits to the industry benefits to the contractor

Being a Five Star Contractor not only benefits customers, it benefits the contractor as well, with quarterly cash rebates from Crossville and Florim (1% each) as well as MAPEI and Schluter (2% each); and product vouchers to use towards all products from Daltile, MAPEI, LATICRETE, Custom Building Products, TEC (including Grout Boost); select products from Schluter; and all products from TexRite in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

In addition to product discounts and benefits, Five Star Contractors have a unique ability to market their companies; network with other Five Star Contractors, receive business and technical training and be referenced in qualified labor language in the MasterSpec by ArCom.

For more information on the Five Star Contractor program, contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or phone 601-939-2071.

Qualified Labor – July 2014

Industry-recognized certifications: a matter of pride and professionalism

Heritage Marble & Tile boasts two installers with recently-obtained ACT certification

By Lesley Goddin

1-QL-0714Since its inception in 2009, more than 1,000 tile setters have gone through the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certification evaluation offered through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, validating their skills and providing credentials to potential customers and general contractors.

The latest certification is the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT), which is offered through the combined efforts of six leading organizations in the tile industry: the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF); the International Masonry Institute (IMI); the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC); the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA); the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

The intent of the ACT certification program is to provide a level of consumer confidence for tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA guidelines for floor and wall. ACT certified installers represent the pinnacle of performance in the tile trade and maintain a level of excellence superior to non-ACT certified installers.

Two of the most recent ACT graduates are veteran tile setters with Heritage Marble & Tile in Mill Valley, Calif., a contracting company that is already a NTCA Five Star Contractor. Gabriel Cortez, who has worked for Heritage for 15 years, and Leonardo Escamilla, who has worked for Heritage for 13 years, completed the ACT certification earlier this year. It all started with a conversation with Heritage owner Martin Brookes a few years earlier, when CTI certification was launched.

“He brought it to us and talked to us about it,” said Cortez “We figured that it was going to help us in the long run and allow us to show our credentials to customers.“ Cortez talks about the value in studying for the first wave of CTI certification years before.”

“Before that – I hadn’t read the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, but now I read it to explain what we are doing to customers,” he said “We also learned a few things about different methods, such as doing the subfloor preparation.”

Added Escamilla, “Now we can show people we know what we are doing. We can show the certificate – that shows we know what we are talking about.“

ACT certification was the next logical step in credentialing work for Cortez and Escamilla. In fact, Escamilla said that although some general contractors are only looking for the cheapest workers, “some contractors really care, and feel that you should know what you are doing,” he said. “They will test you and ask questions.“

Cortez noted that though it was a challenge to complete the tests in the time allotted, studying for the course again helped him learn the importance of some of the methods and referring back to industry documents and the Handbook. “It was hard but in the end, it paid off,” Cortez said. “I know where I am and what I can do.“

Advanced certifications in mud bed, large-format tile installation, shower installations and use of membranes helps generate confidence and assurance for both general contractors and homeowners.

“When you talk to contractors and homeowners, you can tell them a better way to do things; if things are wrong, you can tell them how to do it right,” Cortez said. “You can show your credentials, and if someone questions how I know what I know, I can say, ‘I went to this certification and that’s what I learned.’ It’s a way to prove why you are doing things the right way, and how it should be done.

As an employer, Brookes has “found CTEF and ACT to be beneficial in the way I market and sell the jobs we are invited to bid. We are able to demonstrate that we are active within the industry in techniques that are required in today’s complex tile installs. Keeping my workforce current on standards and methods and having them certified gives the customer peace of mind that we are the right company for the install.”

In addition to the benefits in business, the certifications are also a matter of pride. “Gabriel and Leonardo are very proud of their achievements, and with the ACT program are able to build off their skill set to demonstrate to the tile world they are vested in their own careers as master tile setters,” Brookes said. “We look forward to future certifications that the ACT program will have to offer to build on the certifications that we currently have.”

For more information on Certified Tile Installer certifications, visit http://tilecareer.com/courses/certified-tile-installer/; visit www.tilecertifications.com for ACT certification information.

Qualified Labor – June 2014

QLLATICRETE MVP points fund CTI/ACT registration fees

As we’ve been reporting for a while, the industry is moving toward an industry-wide recognized standard of competence and skill, known as the Certified Tile Installer/CTI (for basic skills validation) and the advanced knowledge and know-how of the ACT installer (for Advanced Certified Tile Installer).

Though there is a modest cost for these programs, money can be tight sometimes.

Now LATICRETE – which has been a supporter of the certification programs since their inception – is taking another step to support industry-wide excellence by permitting its MVP program members to use earned points for CTI and ACT registrations.

LATICRETE’s MVP program operates like this: for every dollar spent on LATICRETE products, points are awarded, depending on status level. Typically points are used for trips to places like Italy, Napa Valley, and Ireland, where LATICRETE personnel and MVP customers can enjoy travel adventures and build camaraderie.

But LATICRETE is expanding the use of points toward rewards that are more oriented towards philanthropy and industry support, said Ron Nash, vice president of sales and marketing – North America at LATICRETE International.

qualified_labor-1“We’re involved in the Wounded Warrior Project, golf tournaments to benefit those living with multiple sclerosis – causes that are consistent with the Rothberg philosophy. Part of our corporate mission is giving back, since we are blessed people – and those things tend to come back around to us.

“This program is a portal to find cream of the crop – the best of the best installers,” he said. “We want those installers to help out the industry as well,” Nash added. “Certifications and trainings, NTCA, TCAA membership, etc. – this is all geared toward making the industry better. None of it will really thrive unless contractors participate.

“We want to say: ‘Don’t let money stop you’,” he added. “As a professional, you’d have organizations you’d support or be part of, like a doctor or architect. Construction is changing so fast that if you are not staying up to date on training and don’t know the best practice, you’ll be leapfrogged by people you haven’t met yet.”

Scott Carothers, training director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), commented about the first tile contractor to make use of this new MVP reward-points option.

“The first tile contracting company to utilize the LATICRETE MVP certification option was the David Allen Company (DAC) at its branch location in Bristow, Va., on March 25, 2014. The David Allen Company has been a long-time supporter of the CTI program and now with the assistance of LATICRETE, that support is growing.”

Christopher Walker, vice president of David Allen Company, said, “LATICRETE made it extremely easy to use MVP points for CTI training in our warehouse for NTCA contractors.” DAC sponsored CTI training for installers from DAC, as well as nearby contractors Collins Tile and Stone and FBT Tile and Marble, and used MVP points to fund the registration fees for the DAC installers.

“We plan to do the same thing with ACT certification later this year,” Walker said.

MVP points will have an even farther reach later this summer – LATICRETE is developing a system where points can be used for association dues in addition to the CTI/ACT registration fees.

“We will target those advancements in July,” Nash added. “MVP members will be able to use MVP points to pay for NTCA dues and TCAA dues, and purchase industry manuals as well, like the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, the ANSI manuals and specifications. We are developing a rewards site that allows members to order all those things.“

In addition, Nash mentioned that “companies like Crossville are looking to put together additional trainings. MVP members will be first to hear about those trainings as well.”

Carothers concluded by stating, “LATICRETE has raised the bar by adding the certification option into its MVP program.”

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