MIA Honors AKDO as Educator of the Year for CEU Program

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) recently honored AKDO as “CEU Educator of the Year” for presenting the most MIA CEU classes in 2014. 19 speakers from the Bridgeport, CT, company presented 61 classes, with a total of 747 attendees. CEU class topics included:

·         Natural Stone 101: Everything You Need to Know about the World’s Oldest Building Material

·         Natural Stone & Green Design

·         Marble Use in the Kitchen

·         Stone Care: What You Should Know

MIA's Sarah Gregg presents a certificate to Diane Hayden, AKDO's showroom supervisor. AKDO was named MIA's CEU Educator of the Year for 2014.

MIA’s Sarah Gregg presents a certificate to Diane Hayden, AKDO’s showroom supervisor. AKDO was named MIA’s CEU Educator of the Year for 2014.

MIA CEU classes are designed for architects, designers, and construction professionals to gain continuing education credits to satisfy yearly requirements set by associations including AIA, IDCEC, LACES, NKBA, and GBCI.

Robert Bacon (Daltile), chair of MIA’s CEU Education Committee, said: “Congratulations to AKDO for leading the continuing education charge in 2014. In fully embracing MIA’s CEU program, AKDO has illustrated a true understanding of the mutual benefits available through this program.”

Diane Hayden, AKDO’s showroom supervisor, stated: “AKDO strives to be a go-to source for information about natural stone, and partnering with MIA helps us accomplish our goals. It’s exciting to work with MIA. There is a constant flow of new information and research that benefits our entire industry, and AKDO is grateful for that.”

MIA’s CEU program benefits the natural stone industry as well as the architecture, design, and construction communities. “The general goal is to help these professionals become more knowledgeable on stone and its uses for building and design,” said Sarah Gregg, MIA CEU Administrator. “They become better equipped to answer consumer questions regarding stone. The CEU class attendees are more likely to promote and specify stone for future installations.” Bacon agrees: “Promoting the proper use of genuine stone in construction projects is vital for the continued success of the stone industry.”

Hayden spoke highly about the benefits of joining the MIA CEU speaker’s bureau: “Participating in the speaker’s bureau has resulted in stronger relationships with the designers, architects, and industry professionals we work with day-to-day, because they know we can help with their stone questions.”

For more information about MIA’s CEU program, and to learn how to join the speaker’s bureau or schedule a presentation, please visit www.marble-institute.com/ceu.


About MIA:

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has served as the authoritative source of information on standards of natural stone workmanship and practice and the application of natural stone products for 70 years. Membership in the association is worldwide and includes over 1,700 natural stone producers, exporters/importers, distributors/wholesalers, fabricators, finishers, installers, and industry suppliers in 55 countries committed to the highest standards of workmanship and ethics. MIA offers an industry accreditation program for fabricators and installers, markets a range of technical publications and consumer pamphlets on natural stone, sponsors business and technical meetings and seminars on industry-related topics, provides educational programming for architects and construction specification professionals, and conducts the annual Pinnacle Awards competitions recognizing outstanding natural stone projects worldwide. More information can be found on the association’s website: www.marble-institute.com.


MIA/BSI Washington DC Study Tour Set for November

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Chestertown, NY, and Oberlin, OH, June 9, 2015 – The Building Stone Institute (BSI) and Marble Institute of America (MIA) will jointly host a 2015 study tour with Washington, DC as the backdrop for a 3-day event immersed in its rich heritage of natural stone. Registration is open for this event, with an early bird registration discount available until July 31st.

This is not the first time these two leading stone associations have come together to host a study tour. Both collaborated on a Vermont study tour in 2011, as well as individually leading tours over the past several years to places such as Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Banff, Alberta (Canada), and Georgia. The study tours offer a unique combination of classroom and field-trip experiences about natural stone.

The Washington, DC event dates (November 15-18, 2015) immediately precede Greenbuild’s Expo which affords stone professionals an opportunity to extend their learning experience and see what other building products are competing with natural stone in the green building marketplace.

Tour highlights include many member-led, open forum workshops; tours of the MLK and FDR memorials and other monuments; a visit to the National Cathedral for a presentation on earthquake repairs and routine restoration efforts; and an interactive “Stone Experience” at Luck Stone Center in Sterling, VA.

Peter Miller, Vice President, Publisher, and General Manger of the Home Group of Active Interest Media (AIM) – whose work serves the information needs of old house owners, architects, contractors, building owners, developers and facilities managers who do residential and non-residential historic preservation and traditional building – will speak on trends in the building and design communities.

Participants will also have an opportunity to attend two MIA “Women in Stone” facilitated programs. The “Stone Experience” Workshops will feature hands-on learning stations including:

·         Thin Veneer Stone

·         Anchored Stone

·         Paving

·         Stone Architectural Carving

·         Stone Letter Carving

·         Care and Maintenance

·         Splitting and Trimming

·         Dry Stone Wall Building

·         Building Stone Geology

·         Stone Tools

Early event sponsors include Custom Building Products, EuroStone Machine USA, Luck Stone Center, Miles Supply, Park Industries, Rock of Ages, and Stone Source. The stone experience workshops are being hosted by Red Leaf Stone Anchors, Manassas Granite & Marble, Coldspring and Northern Stone Supply, Custom Building Products, Tompkins Bluestone, The Stone Store, Rundle Rock Building Stone, and Trow and Holden.

Registration information for this joint MIA-BSI event can be found at: www.buildingstoneinstitute.org/2015-study-tour/ (early bird registration ends July 31st).

About the Marble Institute of America

For over 70 years the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has been the world’s leading information resource and advocate for the natural dimension stone industry. MIA members include marble, granite, limestone, sandstone, and other natural stone producers and quarriers, fabricators, installers, distributors, and contractors in over 55 countries around the world. www.marble-institute.com

About the Building Stone Institute
Since 1919, the Building Stone Institute (BSI) has worked on behalf of a diverse membership, representing all aspects of the natural stone industry. BSI provides resources, programs, and services that empower member companies to offer the highest level of quality products and services and to educate the architectural and design communities on the benefits and uses of natural stone. For more information visit www.buildingstoneinstitute.org


Stone – April 2015

mapei_sponsorTo fill or not to fill, that is the question

The pros and cons of using natural
travertine on floors and walls

By Lesley Goddin

Our stone story originates from a dilemma from a homeowner who purchased high-end, travertine stone flooring with a “very natural, pitted surface.” The vendor provided a list of suggested installers, one of which the homeowner selected. The installer set the travertine tile and grouted the pits in the travertine floor as well as the joints between tiles, filling in all the natural holes with grout.

The homeowner was livid. “I spent the extra money to buy the natural pitted stone and this installer has altered the product, making a unilateral decision to grout the entire surface, doing away with the pitting effect,” he said. “I understand that it is simpler to grout the entire surface than to only grout the seams. But, this was not my expectation at all. Can you help me understand if there is a way to remove the grouted pits without damaging the original character of the stone floor? Or, do you have any other suggestions or opinions about these unexpected actions?”

This question came through the NTCA technical department, and the answer was not what the homeowner expected.

1-STONE-0415Michael Whistler, NTCA presenter and trainer responded that he had encountered this situation many times during his years as a tile contractor. And though he agreed the tile contractor should have consulted with the homeowner before grouting the entire floor, he took the contractor’s part in the wise decision to fill the holes with grout.

He explained, “My company was asked many times to leave the faces of unfilled travertine ungrouted, and in all but one case we were able to convince the client that this was a very unwise decision.

“Most travertine comes filled (with a cementitious or epoxy filler) from the factory for a good reason,” he added. “Except in very unusual situations, tile receives traffic or use of some sort that requires cleaning. When trying to clean unfilled travertine, all those voids become contaminated and eventually filled with dirt or other unsanitary (and unsavory) stuff.

“In the case of our very insistent client, we bagged the joints masonry style and left the faces unfilled,” Whistler continued. “This project was very high-end and included over 4,000 sq. ft. of unfilled travertine flooring. Within three months of owner occupation, we received a call that there was a problem. Cleaning of the floors had begun with standard mopping practices, and then been stepped up to mopping followed by a wet-vacuum. The pits in the travertine were unable to be cleaned, and were quickly filling up with soap residue, which unfortunately attracted the dirt more quickly. Since we were at this point unable to grout over the contaminated stone (because grout won’t bond to soap or dirt), we had to move all the furnishings, protect all the other finishes (walls, baseboard, etc.) and steam clean and wet-vacuum all the floors before re-grouting.

2-stone-0415“As you can probably imagine, going back and properly cleaning and filling the faces of the tiles with grout matching that in the joints added up to quite a sum,” he said. “I think you actually got lucky that your installer was smart, and couldn’t imagine that you would want your tile any other way.”

To further investigate this situation, TileLetter requested the expert opinion of Rod Sigmon, CTC, CCTS business development manager, Technical Installation and Care Systems for Custom Building Products.

He explained that most clients are looking for easy-care floors, and a travertine floor that is left unfilled “is not a great choice for most customers, as maintaining it is very impractical,” he said, echoing Whistler’s perspective. “Dirt and other common contaminants will fill the voids once placed into use and will become unsightly and virtually impossible to clean short of a pressure washer and truck mounted system that large cleaning and maintenance companies use.”

Sigmon suggested using care to fill the pits in travertine. “In essence the grout ties in the joints with the fill and it looks more consistent,” he said. “I have literally seen pinkish/red fill used on cream-colored travertine many times for whatever reason.” Because of this, he said, “unfilled travertine sometimes is installed to avoid this type of potential issue.”

3-stone-0415There is another option to unfilled travertine, and that is having the pits filled with a clear epoxy or resin material, then sealing the stone. But Whistler reiterates, “In my experience, all filled travertine tiles I’ve seen were filled with a colored material, mostly well-matched to the stone, others quite poorly. The only times I have encountered travertine filled with a clear epoxy was in 2cm or 3cm slabs. This was only occasional though, as most of the travertine slabs we bought were filled using the same material as tiles. On one project, we actually special-ordered the slabs and tiles cut from the same blocks and specified that the same batch of filler be used on all material since the client was VERY picky.”

In the case of walls, Whistler said, “Walls do not receive the extensive traffic that floors are subject to, but walls do become soiled and require cleaning.”

One thing is clear from this discussion – talk to the client about the maintenance and installation particulars of unfilled travertine, ideally before purchase, but certainly before installation. Communicating with your client will eliminate shocking surprises and lead to exceeded expectations.

Stone – February 2015

mapei_sponsorMIA receives Macael Award in Spain from AEMA

On November 21, 2014, MIA president Tony Malisani (Malisani, Inc. of Great Falls, Mont.) accepted the coveted “Institution Award” at the 28th edition of the Macael Awards in Macael, Spain. This award was one of nine awards given by the Asociación de Empresarios del Mármol de Andalucía (AEMA), the leading natural stone association in the Almeria region of Spain.

“It is my honor and great privilege to receive this award on behalf of the members of the MIA,” Malisani said. “The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has 1,700 members that are located in 56 counties around the world. It is our belief that one way to strengthen the stone industry in the United States is to strengthen our ties with the international natural stone community. The marble industry here is one of the oldest, and is also one of the most innovative. Certainly there is much we can learn. We are hoping to continue our outreach and increase cooperation, communication, and education with the Asociación de Empresarios del Mármol de Andalucía.”

0215-STONE-1During the event, AEME president Antonio Martinez highlighted that a strong global stone market demands that collaboration occur between stone associations. He acknowledged that the MIA’s standing in the natural stone industry for developing technical standards, safety initiatives, current development of an international import/export handbook, and innovation were factors that caused the AEME to recognize the MIA with the “Institution Award,” a special award for stone trade associations.

The event drew 500 attendees from several countries and was an impressive presentation and recognition of outstanding stonework. Malisani noted that “with over 10% of the MIA membership residing outside of North America, it is rewarding for the MIA to be recognized for outstanding programs that benefit the entire global stone industry.”

In addition, The MIA also had the opportunity to meet with AEME officials to present several key industry initiatives including the newly adopted, ANSI-approved sustainability standard championed by the Natural Stone Council (NSC). AEME’s first vice president and MIA member Eduardo Cosentino hosted the MIA delegation that included Malisani, MIA secretary David Castellucci (Kenneth Castellucci and Associates of Lincoln, R.I.), and MIA executive vice president Jim Hieb.

In the upcoming months, the MIA and AEME will also be collaborating on a translation of the MIA’s Dimension Stone Design Manual (DSDM) into Spanish to further expand the use and understanding of technical standards.

MIA’s Castellucci added, “We also had a very good conversation about safety, quality standards, and education for architects, as well as stone professionals. It was also great to tour their technology center (Fundación Centro Tecnológico Andaluz de la Piedra) and discuss advances in stone testing and other technology.”

TexaStone Quarries earns NSF sustainable stone certification

NSF Sustainability, a division of global independent public health organization NSF International, has certified TexaStone Quarries to the sustainability assessment standard for stone – ANSI/NSC 373 Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone.

0215-stone-2Certification to ANSI/NSC 373 is based on point totals to achieve Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level certification. TexaStone’s quarry earned Gold level certification and its processing facility earned Silver level certification, which includes criteria for the environmental aspects of stone production including water, transportation, site management, land reclamation and adaptive reuse, and management of excess process materials and waste. Monitoring and periodic re-evaluation is required to maintain certification. Once a full chain of custody is established and certified, stone products moving from quarry to customer can also carry the ANSI/NSC 373 Genuine Stone mark.

“Dimension stone is a sustainable product because it is natural and has a long durability, but the industry wanted to identify how the stone was processed from the quarries and the processors,” said Tom Bruursema, general manager of NSF Sustainability. “As the first to earn certification to ANSI/NSC 373, TexaStone leads its industry in adopting more sustainable practices that help its customers and organizations meet the continued growth in green buildings.”

Transparent, credible standards along with independent third-party certification are important to meet the demands of members of the construction industry seeking more sustainable stone products. This includes government agencies (local, state and federal) and others seeking to comply with U.S. Executive Order 13514, which aims for 95% of governmental contracts to include products and services with sustainable attributes, as well as a U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) standard for sustainable construction (GSA PBS-P100 facilities standards for the public building service).

“The purpose of the ANSI/ NSC 373 standard is to drive sustainability practices in the natural stone industry. At TexaStone, we have made a commitment to transforming our organization into a more sustainable company to lead our industry in the transition to verified, more sustainably extracted and processed natural dimension stone,” said Brenda Edwards, owner of TexaStone Quarries.

Certification to ANSI/NSC 373 by quarries and processors such as TexaStone is the first step in the product certification process for natural dimension stone. Full certification for stone products will be achieved through a combination of ANSI/NSC 373 certification for quarries and processors along with the Natural Stone Council Chain of Custody Standard for Natural Dimension Stone (NSC COC) requirements for the rest of the distribution chain.


Vitória Stone Fair – Marmomacc Latin America 2015 has announced the dates for one of the largest Marble and Granite Fairs in the world; February 3 – 6, 2015.  Ornamental and raw stone buyers from all over the world will fly to Espírito Santo in the southeast region of Brazil to negotiate products and services. In 2014, this fair closed over $200 million in businesses. There will be 420 exhibiting companies, 120 foreign companies and over 25,000 visitors from 66 countries.

The exhibition will be held in Vitória, the capital of Espírito Santo, a state with one of the biggest marble and granite reserves in the country, with a great variety of colors and textures. The host state of Vitória Stone Fair has been significantly contributing to the Brazilian trade balance. The stone production in the state represents about 5 million tons a year. The event attracts visitors from Brazil and Latin America, such as stone importers and exporters, contractors, decorators, architects and professionals from the sector; companies dedicated to extraction, processing and commercialization of ornamental stones; suppliers of abrasives, consumables, machines, equipment, tools and services.

Brazil is the third largest granite exporter of the world. The state of Espírito Santo accounts for 50% of the national production of ornamental stones and for more than 70% of the Brazilian export operations. Today, the country is the main supplier of stones to the North-American market, responsible for 30% of the volume imported by the USA. In 2014, the stone exports to the North-American market totaled $790 million.

From 12th place in the consumption ranking in 2001, Brazil now occupies the 4th place (source XXIV Report Marble and Stone in the World) and is already being seen as one of the largest players in the ornamental stone and finishing sector in the world, only after China, India, and the United States. The position was conquered in just a decade by offering a big range of extremely differentiated natural stones and investments made in the industrial parks with acquisitions of more modern machines for the stone extraction and processing operations.


Vitória Stone Fair / Marmomacc Latin America 2015 is promoted by the Trade Union of the Industry of Ornamental Stones, Lime and Limestone in Espírito Santo (SINDIROCHAS) and the Technological Marble and Granite Center (CETEMAG). It is organized by Milanez & Milaneze, in cooperation with the VeronaFiere Group and counts on the support of the Brazilian Center of Ornamental Stones Exporters (CENTROROCHAS), the Brazilian Association of the Ornamental Stone Industry (ABIROCHAS) and Marble Institute of America (MIA) in the United States.

Show hours

February 3 to 6, 2015     From 01:00 p.m. to 08:00 p.m. with access until 07:00 p.m.

Floriano Varejão Exhibition Park – Rodovia do Contorno
BR 101 Norte – Carapina – Serra – ES – Brazil
CEP 29161-064
Online Credentials:


Stone Section – November 2014

mapei_sponsorStacking the deck: manufactured/natural stone veneers pros and cons

By Lesley Goddin

A couple of years ago, at a local Albuquerque NTCA Tile & Stone Workshop, NTCA presenter Michael Whistler told the assembled group of tile contractors about a great opportunity just waiting to be grasped. That opportunity was installing masonry or manufactured stone (concrete) veneers over backer board using a tile-setting method. Traditionally, these products – as well as stacked natural stone veneers – have been installed with a masonry lath-and-mortar method. But the masonry method has been subject to bond failures, so using a cement backer board, liquid waterproofing membrane and thin-set mortar so familiar to tile installers – has proved to be a superior method and profit opportunity for some tile contractors.

Manufactured stone is “great stuff,” said Whistler. “Tile setters should have embraced it wholeheartedly, but they gave it to the masons. A few smart guys are installing it – it’s easy to do.”

1-stone-1114Whistler said that the masonry method involves paper and wire lath, then it’s covered with type S standard masonry mortar, which has very little bond strength. “This is made for stacked block or bricks on top of each other; it’s not made for gluing one thing to something else. “

In contrast, he pointed out that “thin-set mortar is made to glue an object to a substrate. The tile guys put up cement backer board and waterproof it completely with a completely waterproof membrane – not just a vapor barrier or retarder, like tar paper or Visqueen that may be nailed to the substrate, creating a breach in the waterproofing. Then the veneer is installed with thin-set mortar on top of that, which actually makes the veneer stick to the wall.”

2-stone-1114Whistler noted that all major tile setting manufacturers produce a system of products that are geared towards installing manufactured stone veneers.

“LATICRETE and Custom Building Products have modified some packaging for products to address this installation specifically,” said Brian Pistulka, business manager, Tile & Stone Installation Systems, MAPEI. “At this time Mapei hasn’t pursued this approach.”

But MAPEI has supported this market category with specifications and two reference guides – one created in conjunction with Daltile and its now-discontinued line of masonry stone veneer, and the second for the wholesale distribution market. “Both guides featured existing branded products MAPEI tested and recommended as systems for this category,” Pistulka said. “The guide contained installation systems for various substrates and conditions.”

3-stone-1114Working with a single-source system like those offered by setting material manufacturers affords these installations with a warranty, another benefit of the tile-setting approach, he said.

The problem is, this profit center hasn’t fully caught on with tile contractors yet, and for several reasons.

Masons’ purview

Dan Welch, NTCA president and a NTCA Five Star Contractor said, his company, Welch Tile & Marble, out of Kent City, Mich., doesn’t do much manufactured stone veneer installation since it’s not in its bid category.

4-stone-1114“Masons would have manufactured stone veneer on their contract,” Welch said. “We would have to go into their category and subcontract to the mason.” Similarly, Welch said, in Michigan, granite countertops are in the cabinetmaker’s scope. “We would have to bid through the countertop guy,” he said.

Tommy Conner, CEO of NTCA Five Star Contractor Superior Tile & Stone of Oakland, Calif., agreed. “From a union perspective, masonry veneer stone is mason’s work,” he said.

In addition, licensing statutes may preclude tile setters from setting manufactured stone veneer, Conner said. License parameters vary from state to state, and often the licensing board is focusing on the composition of the material. Since manufactured stone veneer is generally concrete, many licensing boards consider this the mason’s territory. Tile contractors like Superior are more focused on the “tile-like unit” being installed and HOW it is installed, regardless of composition.

5-stone-1114Elizabeth and Dan Lambert, of Lambert Tile & Stone in Eagle, Colo., another NTCA Five Star Contractor, prefer to invest their energy into the tile portion of the project. “We have done maybe one or two stone veneer jobs in the past five years,” Elizabeth Lambert said. “Since the homes in our market area are so big, we feel all our focus should be on the tile installation. We don’t feel a need to branch out to stone veneers, as there aren’t enough tile installers to keep up with the demand in our area.”

Occasionally, Lambert will install PetraSlate’s natural stacked ledgestone veneer on fireplaces and wainscots in 6” x 24” formats or veneer from Robinson Brick.

6-stone-1114In addition to setting material manufacturers supplying product to install these materials, they are keeping their eyes on the possible evolution of this market. “Most of the business is still serviced by the masonry contractor, but it is evolving to premium systems and products to address failures with original methods,” Pistulka said.

Thin brick and veneer installs

This being said, Conner commented that his company has done “tons” of thin brick and cut-stone veneer and even developed a proprietary method of installing these products that “reduced failures to nothing,” he said. This “Lombard Method” reduces the thickness of back-buttered mortar and mortared substrate so it doesn’t glaze over in warm weather and thus lose bond and create sagging. Superior installed thin brick using this method throughout the Embarcadero in San Francisco and also in many thin stone applications in Las Vegas projects. Conner said his company considers thin brick, stacked stone, and stone veneer bonded to a substrate to be “tilework.”

At Welch Tile, when it is within the scope of their work, the company installs a lot of stacked stone – typically interior work, such as veneers around a fireplace, in universities, casinos, and some bigger residential jobs and colleges, Welch said. It is installed using a tile setting method. We “stack them up like tile and thinset to a backer board,” he said.

Stone Section – The rise of stone

SponsoredbyMAPEIBy Jeremy Werthan, Werthan LLC

Demand for countertops in the United States is projected to increase 5.1 % annually to 750 million square feet in 2017, according to a recent study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm. This increased demand is sparked by a recovery in building construction and an easing of credit requirements for financing remodeling projects.

Of all countertop materials, natural stone is expected to have the highest rate of growth, at 7.6% per year.

This is not surprising. Granite is known for its hardness, strength and beauty. Marble is a softer, more porous stone that can easily be sculpted and shaped.

Homeowners, architects and designers are drawn to natural stone, namely granite and marble, for its unique qualities. No two pieces are alike, and its variation in pattern, color and texture allows virtually limitless design options.

Today, the one-of-a-kind feature of natural stone is not the only reason why granite and marble are among the most popular countertop materials on the market. Once amenities reserved for new, high-end homes, granite and marble countertops are becoming affordable luxuries for most houses and condominiums.

Few custom homes are built today without stone countertops in either the kitchen or bathroom, or both. The availability, efficiency and affordability of natural stone are all factors that contribute to its sense of commonplace use in today’s homes.


Natural stone is being mined from more places than ever. Granite generally comes from Brazil, Italy, China and India, while a majority of marble is sourced from Turkey, China and Italy.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the United States imported 908,934 tons of granite and 954,941 tons of marble in 2002. Last year, those numbers were 1,508,822 tons of granite and 959,647 tons of marble.

In addition, more and more stone fabricators and stone yards are going into business, and nearly all supply granite and marble for countertops.


New technologies make the process of adding stone countertops to a home a lot quicker, easier and less expensive for both the homeowner and fabricator.

Starting from the beginning stages of estimation, tools like Cloud Takeoff allow contractors to bid more work in less time and with greater accuracy. With Cloud Takeoff construction estimating software, suppliers can instantly measure surfaces and perform detailed blueprint takeoffs.

Likewise, new techniques in fabrication have helped dramatically reduce the time and cost of cutting and shaping stone. A trade that was once mastered by hand is now heavily reliant on automated machines. With new CNC technology, fabricators can control cutting and polishing machines with digital technology. Even shaping the most intricate designs has become fast and simple.

Both estimating software and CNC technology have increased production, and have contributed significantly to the reduction of costs and increase in quality of finished products.


The price of any material is determined by its demand and availability. The large supply of natural stone coupled with the new fabrication techniques have contributed to the affordability of the surface material.

For instance, when granite was first introduced into homes in the 1980s, there was a very limited selection and a large cost, about $70 per square foot or even more. Now, granite comes in a variety of colors and patterns and at a much more reasonable price, anywhere from $35 to $100 per square foot. Marble is priced similarly.

Cost of natural stone varies depending on the type of stone, level of difficulty to quarry and fabricating techniques.

So how will high-end homeowners distinguish their countertops from the mass market? New countertop materials, such as engineered stone, exotic granites and marbles, stainless steel, concrete and recycled glass will be the new symbols of luxury homes.


Jeremy Werthan is the owner of Nashville-based Werthan LLC, the largest stone fabricator in Tennessee. Werthan LLC supplies and installs the finest in natural stone, tile, quartz and solid surface materials throughout Middle Tennessee. The company’s mission is to provide customers with superior service, state-of-the-art craftsmanship and uncompromising quality.

Natural Stone Council issues position statement on OSHA’s Silica PEL Proposal


Last November, the Natural Stone Council MSHA/OSHA Committee issued a position statement about OSHA’S recently released proposed silica rule. What follows is the Natural Stone Council’s (NSC) position statement in its entirety, with the caveat that the position paper is a working document and will be updated and revised as needed.

stonecouncilPosition statement on OSHA’S Silica PEL Proposal

The following position paper is written on the behalf of The Natural Stone Council (NSC), which is comprised of 12 organizations representing all types of dimensional stone businesses that quarry and fabricate in the United States. The members include Allied Stone Industries, Building Stone Institute, Elberton Granite Association, Indiana Limestone Institute, Marble Institute of America, Mason Contractors Association of America, National Building Granite Quarries Association, National Slate Association, Natural Stone Alliance, New York State Bluestone Association, Northwest Granite Manufacturers Association, and Pennsylvania Bluestone Association. Collectively, all agree that employee safety is the first priority of the dimension stone industry.


On August 23, 2013, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released a proposal (Docket ID# OSHA-2010-0034) to reduce the permissible exposure level (PEL) for silica by 50%. The new level would be 50 micrograms of respirable silica per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period. The U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) has stated its intent to issue a similar proposal for the mining industry. OSHA’s proposal has been published in the Federal Register and the public has until January 25, 2014 to submit written comments.

NSC position:

All NSC member organizations agree that airborne crystalline silica is dangerous and proven measures are necessary to protect exposed employees, but also believe that OSHA’s current silica PEL standard provides protection when best practices are applied in the workplace. If adopted into the Code of Federal Regulations, this new proposal will impact all dimension stone industry businesses that mine and process natural stone containing silica by increasing compliance costs and likely jeopardizing jobs.

In an effort to join with other industries affected by this proposal and to respond to OSHA with one voice, the NSC joined the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC). The CISC is comprised of several industry trade associations whose members represent thousands of employers and hundreds of thousands of working men and women.

one2Arguments against the proposal:

1. Data on silicosis cases does not show a need to modify the present PEL. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that the incidence of silica-related deaths declined by 93% from 1968 to 2007 under the current silica PEL. OSHA says a reduced PEL is needed and estimates that the change will save 700 lives per year and reduce the number of silicosis cases by 1600 per year. It is estimated that over 50% of businesses with airborne silica exposure have never been tested. How can the current PEL be deemed inadequate if it is not known whether or not the majority of the regulated businesses are in compliance?

2. OSHA has underestimated the compliance costs for affected businesses. Figures presented by OSHA estimate the rule will cost industry approximately $640 million to implement (an estimated cost of $550.00 per year for a business with fewer than 20 employees), and provide $3-5 billion in benefits. The American Chemistry Council estimates an implementation cost of $5.5 billion with $1.1 billion in lost revenue, and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition estimates the cost to implement at $1-2 billion with $700 million in benefits. Given the requirements of the new PEL, it appears that the Department of Labor has underestimated the cost to implement the change. If these figures are incorrect, the credibility of the entire OSHA report and proposal comes into question. The need for any federal rule change needs to be based on accurate data.

In addition to the cost of compliance, new regulations take away capital essential for expansion and/or improvement. While safety is vital, regulations that are not correlated to specifically-quantified diseases and/or injuries make U.S. companies less competitive in the global market.

3. There are serious questions about whether or not available sampling equipment and analytical methods can produce accurate results for the proposed limits. Evironomics, Inc. and the URS Corporation advised the American Chemistry Council (ACC) that measuring exposure to a 50 microgram PEL would be “impossible.” The testing methods for measuring silica concentrations below 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air are not accurate, and the margin of error is almost equal to the proposed PEL. How can compliance be determined if the technology does not exist to accurately determine the exposure level?

Proposed solutions:

1. OSHA should indefinitely extend the comment period until their extensive report can be fully studied to determine the accuracy of the data. 135 days is not enough time to do this and address all questions.

2. To determine the true cost of the proposed PEL, and whether or not it is actually needed, we recommend these steps.

  • First – perform an industry-wide analysis and investigation as to the actual number of businesses that present a silica exposure to their employees. Ascertain how many of these businesses have been inspected, and how many have silica-dust containment and controls in place for their workers. Quantify the number of businesses that potentially do not have controls in place or have never been inspected to establish the real effectiveness of the current PEL.
  • Second – the Department of Labor should publish detailed information on actual diagnosed silicosis cases in OSHA-regulated businesses that were using proven engineering controls and NIOSH-recommended respirators.
  • Third – OSHA should work with the stone industry to determine accurate costs of implementing the proposal.

3. Conduct independently-verified, risk-assessment studies to determine the true risks of silicosis in a compliant workplace. OSHA is obligated to provide the “best available evidence” on any new proposal, and this guideline must be followed. Sound decisions must be based on accurate information.

4. The NSC offers to work with OSHA (and MSHA) for practical and cost-effective crystalline silica regulation based on sound and proven data that will improve the safety and health protection of workers.

The dimension stone industry is a major part of the nation’s economy. According to recent Department of Labor figures, 4,380 stone quarries directly employed 35,248 workers, and 2,125 fabrication facilities directly employed 23,666 workers. Additional indirect employment is estimated to be greater than 100,000 people with a total estimated payroll for the industry approaching $4 billion annually. It is the Natural Stone Council’s belief that our government should be responsive to the needs and concerns of this industry.

Formed in 2003, the NSC unites a diverse industry of natural stone producers by bringing together the various natural stone associations to actively promote the attributes of natural stone. The NSC is funded entirely through donations. To learn about the NSC, its initiatives, and to pledge support, visit www.naturalstonecouncil.org. Duke Pointer, executive director, can be contacted at [email protected].

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