Visalia Ceramic Tile honored for apprenticeship training

In October, NTCA Five-Star Contractor Visalia Ceramic Tile (VCT) was awarded the UpSkill Tulare County Award from the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board on behalf of the City of Visalia. In his congratulations letter to VCT, Vice Mayor Bob Link praised VCT for “being a quality employer in our
community.”

VCT was exemplary in implementing an apprenticeship program for its company and sharing its process with Thad Russell, Academic Dean, Technical Education and Workforce Development at the junior college, College of the Sequoias. 

The list of UpSkill Honorees

The list of UpSkill Honorees.

Debbi Barton, Marketing Director and Payroll Manager for Visalia Ceramic Tile, said Russell had been concerned about the lack of apprenticeship programs in construction. VCT’s Sam Bruce shared with Russell the tile finisher program VCT would be implementing – the online program from NTCA University. Once implemented, Russell was struck by how VCT was enriching the skilled and trained workforce in the community. He explored with Bruce VCT’s experience of getting an apprenticeship program approved. 

This effort is even more critical since the passage of California AB566 – a new California law that requires 30% of labor on certain projects to have graduated from an apprenticeship program. This prompted many California construction trades to reach out to different organizations and schools to implement apprenticeship programs, Barton said. In fact, it spurred Russell to explore VCT’s program, with guidance from Sam Bruce, who met with other contractors and college personnel to share VCT’s process. As a result, Russell nominated VCT for the UpSkill Tulare Country Award, which was presented in recognition of the essential effort and information shared by VCT. The award is given by the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board (TCWIB). TCWIB’s goal is to grow skills and talent for the workforce of Tulare County.

The UpSkill Tulare County Award presented to VCT

The UpSkill Tulare County Award was presented to (L to R) John Martinho, Debbi Barton and Sam Bruce of Visalia Ceramic Tile to recognize the company for being a quality employer in the community.

Vice Mayor Link wrote in his letter, “Forming a registered apprenticeship program through the U.S. Department of Labor that connects instruction with relevant, hands-on experience for your employees is demonstrating a clear commitment to investing in your workforce and growing the skills and knowledge base of our citizens, and the community and economy is better for it. The City appreciates your efforts in growing a skilled workforce and formal recognition from College of the Sequoias and the Workforce Investment Board is well deserved.” 

Debbi Barton explained that “Currently we have graduated four tile finishers in the apprenticeship program and have started our next group of four trainees.” Leading this program is Ryan Barton, Training and Development Coordinator/Quality Control.

“Although all eight employees have been with VCT as tile finishers for two years or more, the knowledge they gained/are gaining from the program has been recognized by their foremen and coworkers,” she added. “Between bookwork, online training, hands-on training and field training, our tile finishers are skilled and trained with the knowledge and success of moving up in their career. We are proud of our employees and their drive to want to learn more! Thank you NTCA for your guidance and help setting up the program. We look forward to the Tile Setter program.”

VCT training program

NTCA to sponsor DOL-approved Apprenticeship Programs

Wow, I can’t believe that Total Solutions Plus was October and we will soon be into the holidays! In case you weren’t able to make it to our Training and Education Committee or Board meetings, I wanted to update you on some things that I have been working on.

As you have been reading in these articles, the online Tile Finisher courses are complete, and I am still developing the Tile Setter courses. Over the summer, NTCA staff met with the Department of Labor to discuss apprenticeship programs. Based on this discussion, we have decided to pursue Tile Finisher and Tile Setter Apprenticeship Programs where we will be the sponsor. This means that our members can be under the NTCA umbrella and use our Apprenticeship Program. It is a long process to get everything submitted and approved. As we get further along in the process, I will continue to update members. And as we get closer to approval, I will be able to provide more details about how members can use our program and what they would be responsible to document.

While we get the apprenticeship programs set up, we also need to take a look at ways to recruit people into the industry. This could include going to high schools, career fairs, or even promoting the industry online. Many members have started reaching out to their local high schools and offering to teach some basics on tile installations to high school students so that they understand there are career opportunities in our industry and that this art can’t be taught in a couple of hours. Based on outreach efforts of our members, we are working on a curriculum that could be used to teach a four-week or one-semester course. Once we have finalized the curriculum, we will be making an announcement to our members. 

Earlier this year we introduced a new recruitment video (See it at https://bit.ly/2xpx9wE) that can be used by members or posted to member sites to promote careers in the tile industry. We will be following this up with additional recruitment material including literature that members can use when they are in front of potential candidates, as well as a recruitment video dedicated to women that set tile.

As you have read, there is a lot going on. And most of my work cannot be done without the help of our great members. So, if you are able to assist with writing scripts for online courses, providing videos for online courses, or know of female tile setters, please email [email protected] or call me at 770-366-2566. 

Utilizing tile industry standards

There have been a few recent online discussions about the need to educate tile setters on industry standards, and in some cases, educate those who know about the standards but don’t know how to use them. In every training session, NTCA spends time talking about and referencing ANSI standards and the TCNA Handbook, so it would only make sense that we also have courses in NTCA University on these subjects too. While most of the courses touch on this information, we have five courses devoted to our industry standards. Here they are:

Introduction to Tile Industry Standards

NTCA trainers Mark Heinlein and Robb Roderick presented an Introduction to Tile Standards at Coverings17. It was an in-depth look at all of the ANSI standards associated with the tile industry. They also discussed TCNA, including the handbook, NTCA, including the NTCA Reference Manual, and they reviewed other standards and building codes that affect a tile installation.

ANSI Standards courses

There are currently two courses covering the ANSI book: Introduction to ANSI A108.01 and Introduction to ANSI A108.02. Neither course reviews word for word all of the information found in each standard, but both courses highlight the type of information that can be found there. The idea is that these courses will get learners to open the ANSI book to understand the type of information that these standards contain and to comprehend the basic requirements for tile installations.

TCNA Handbook courses

There are also two courses available on the TCNA Handbook. The first course is TCNA Handbook Specifications Section. This course focuses on the information found in the section titled Using the TCNA Handbook for Specification Writing. This course uses actual methods in the Handbook to show where tile setters can find and use information from components of an installation method. While the course is mainly focused on this area, it does review all items found in this section of the actual book. 

The second course is How to Find/Use TCNA Handbook Methods. Many Handbook users state that it is difficult to find the method they want to use. This course reviews information available in a method number, why methods don’t always appear numerically, and different ways that you can search for methods within the Handbook.

Even though all of these courses are recommended for the start of a tile setter’s career, anyone that has been in the industry will benefit from taking these courses, especially if they feel intimidated by the books and never open them. Also, these courses could be taken by someone who is planning to take the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test. These courses are a good way to get someone to open each publication and explore the type of information that is available.

To purchase your subscription to NTCA University, visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 or http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your selection. If you have any questions or ideas for courses that we should offer, please give me a call at 770-366-2566 or send an email to [email protected].

Dragonfly Tile and Stone Works: Investing in the next generation of craftspeople and artisans

“We don’t want to train tile setters. We want to train the next generation of true craftspeople and artisans. We want to provide them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to take the craft to the highest levels”. 

– Lee Callewaert, Dragonfly Tile


This statement is at the heart of the apprenticeship program that has been implemented at NTCA member Dragonfly Tile and Stone Works, Inc., for nearly its entire 15-year existence. 

This unique residential contractor in Grafton, Wis., evolved from the reputation Lee Callewaert had built previously in 20 years of high-end, technical and distinctive work in the area. Fifteen years ago, almost overnight, Lee and his wife Jane decided to start their own business to capitalize on a year-long project and also have the flexibility to support and nurture the couple’s four boys. 

Dragonfly Tile and Stone Works evolved from the reputation Lee Callewaert had built for high-end, technical and distinctive work in the area. Fifteen years ago, Lee and his wife Jane decided to start their own business.

Where Lee brought tile trade know-how, a loyal customer base, and a legacy of artistry and craftsmanship handed down through the generations, Jane brought a background and passion derived from corporate training in the medical industry where she blasted into traditionally male-dominated roles in the ‘70s and ‘80s. 

The company began training their own apprentices 14 years ago when they realized it was impossible to hire someone with the particular combination of enthusiasm, interest, motivation, math skills, reliability and trust, detail, artistry, creativity, familiarity with tools, craftsmanship and excellence that high-end customers had come to expect from Lee. 

“Gaining the respect of the customers, the other trades, the architects, GCs, designers, etc. takes time and has to be earned,” Jane explained. “But the result lands you in a place where you can become an integral part of the team from the design phase and onward. Receiving a place at the table at the earliest stages, as a trusted partner, consultant and advisor is where you want to be. This requires depth of skill and knowledge but it also requires breadth.

Dragonfly has attracted its apprentices from various sources: word of mouth, a Craigslist ad, a package of information Jane developed for high schools explaining what the tile trade is and what is means to be an apprentice at Dragonfly, referrals, and career days.

Developing a program

In recent years, Dragonfly has incorporated NTCA University and its slew of courses into its program. Apprentices are enrolled in the university and use NTCA materials, including TileLetter magazine for independent study. 

“Even small employers like us can have an apprenticeship program,” said Jane Callewaert. “Thanks to the many other organizations, like the NTCA and its online university, and the various state-sponsored apprenticeship programs, there are resources available to assist us. We have outlined a process that includes online learning, independent study, industry-sponsored workshops, and on-the-job learning that includes instruction and practice in the various proficiency areas. Progress is measured by observed behavior on the job and participation in the other programs.”

Jane reveals that the apprenticeships aren’t “Tile 101. On the job, our apprentices get a lot of ‘trial by fire,’” she said. “We believe in the ‘tell them, show then, let them, and show them again’ methodology. Our setters aren’t just asking our apprentices to make a standard cut. They are asking them to take three moldings or trims and to miter a frame molding, a quarter-round and a liner, all in line with each other for the same corner. If it comes back not quite right, then the setter says, ‘OK, come with me.’ Back to the ‘let them and then show them again’ method.”

There’s a price tag with training this way – to allow failure to happen and absorb the cost of it as part of the training process. “We have days when we tag a few hours as ‘non-billable’ (but still payable to the apprentice), because it was just one of those days. But it’s worth the cost to us to allow them to fail, to practice, and then ultimately to succeed.”

Progress in the program is monitored simply by observations, feedback and nudges to complete the online studies. “They know that their 6-, 9- and 12-month reviews – as well as their compensation – will be dependent on their progress,” Jane said.

Maria Meyer – from UWM to tile apprentice

Maria Meyer, 23, made the leap from college studies to tile apprentice with Dragonfly.

One of the apprentices currently in the program is Maria Meyer, 23, who hails from Mankato, Minn. She started out studying conservation sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (UWM), and in short order learned it really wasn’t her passion.

She applied at a wood-finishing shop, but it still didn’t hit all the marks for her. A friend directed her to the Dragonfly website, and it “blew me out of the water,” she said. She met the owners and applied. “They took me on with little-to-no experience, except for painting and finishing. I was drawn to the people they were, and the art background of the company.”

Meyer has been in the program for seven months so far, and spends a lot of time in the shop, including weekends learning online through NTCA University. “Learning online is so helpful in preparing for the next week; the following week you are doing the things I just learned. So your mind is always on it,” she said. “I really like the format, with the videos and the tests afterwards.”

The training at Dragonfly has laid the groundwork for Maria to be excited about her future, interested in following in the example and level of craftsmanship Lee has set. 

“It seems like a very good life to have,” she said. “I love the attention to detail [being able to use] my creativity, and being a spokesperson as a woman in the trades, as well as working with people who are masters in the craft. I’ve been a little bit of a spokesperson for my friends, especially the art students. They have a fear of not knowing what to do with their degree; they don’t want to go into gallery art. So learning about trades is beneficial.”

Maria and Jane with the NTCA University curriculum, which is an essential component of Dragonfly’s apprenticeship program.

Meyer loves the variety of the work: “The tile work is all very unique, and different every day, whereas wood finishing was kind of repetitive. Everything is done very artistically and you are a designer as well as a craftsperson.” 

Being “pressure tested” as an apprentice has its hurdles as well, with daily challenges and new things that have never been attempted before. “It can be frustrating, but it’s challenging in a good way, to work with high-end materials in the home,” Meyer said. “It’s a lot of pressure but very fun.”

Jane noted that Dragonfly manages the program with “high expectations. Many young people are not accustomed to that level of personal challenge – being pushed beyond the comfort zone, and at an accelerated pace,” she said. “It can be hard and frustrating for them but has proven to be a great way to help them gain self-confidence. And Lee is pledged to modeling a lifelong commitment to learning, recently taking the Certified Tile Installer exam himself. 

Meyer enjoys the attention to detail, being creative, and being a spokesperson as a woman in the industry and for peers who are studying art and looking for a creative outlet after graduation.

“It takes character and commitment to rise to the challenges they are faced with from day one,” she added. “We are so proud of them and they know we are always there for them at the end of the day.
They will be the ‘best of the best’ in the future. They are already talking about that ‘some day’ when they can take the CTI test. We hope we live long enough to see them become ambassadors in the industry.”

W2 or 1099 worker classification: which will you choose and why?

W2 form

NTCA University helps employees determine the differences of each worker classification

Based on conversations that I am having with members, it sounds like everyone is really busy. This often means that you are competing with other tile contractors to keep your employees. In fact, one of the biggest issues in our industry today is business owners who employ W2 workers competing to keep them, compared with those who employ 1099 workers. To that end, NTCA University developed a course to educate the employee on the differences of being a W2 or 1099 worker. 

I don’t know of a single employee who would quickly say no to a job offer elsewhere for more money and equal work without at least taking time to consider the offer. Unfortunately, in the construction industry, higher pay does not always mean that all things are equal. Hopefully, you have employees that value your opinion and would let you have the opportunity to explain or make a counter offer instead of just sending a text or calling to say “I quit.” Before it gets to this point, you should have your employees take the NTCA University course to learn the differences between W2 and 1099 workers and the benefits and advantages offered by each situation. 

For those who employ W2 workers, I recommend sitting down with them before an offer is made and educating them on these differences. Use NTCA University to reinforce the information that you are explaining. This allows your employee to make educated decisions when more pay is dangled in front of them. This isn’t to say that they won’t decide to leave but if they do they will at least understand how their responsibilities will change.

The course goes through differences of each employment situation. It details the W2 worker benefits and taxes paid by the employer versus the 1099 worker’s responsibility for taxes, insurance, carrying workers compensation and vehicle to get to job sites, etc. 

The course also talks about how your work is structured as a W2 or a 1099 worker. There are those who prefer to have paid vacation time and a steady paycheck versus those who want to pick and choose when they work.

W2 and 1099 workers are apples and oranges – they aren’t comparable or equal. One needs to look at the whole package offered by each company to decide what is best for them in the long run.

To purchase your subscription to NTCA University, you can visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 or http://bit.ly/2taYmOO. If you have any questions or ideas about courses that we should have available, please give me a call or send me an email: 770-366-2566 or [email protected].

LATICRETE Founds Henry B. Rothberg Endowed Scholarship to Benefit Future Skilled Workers

Leading manufacturing company commits $25,000 to students enrolled in the masonry craft specialization program at American College of Building Arts

 

September 5, 2018, Bethany, Conn. — LATICRETE, a leading manufacturer of globally proven construction solutions for the building industry, has established an annual $25,000 merit-based scholarship available for students enrolled in the masonry craft specialization program at the American College of Building Arts in Charleston, South Carolina. Named after LATICRETE Co-Owner and Senior Vice President of Training Henry B. Rothberg, the scholarship is designed to provide financial assistance to students who have demonstrated skill and a commitment to pursuing work in masonry restoration.

David (l.) and Henry B. Rothberg, LATICRETE

“The American College of Business Arts is the only school in the United States to offer a bachelor’s degree in traditional building trades, while also providing a liberal arts education that includes courses such as math and business management to fight the “no college” stigma of skilled workers. With the Henry B. Rothberg Endowed Scholarship, LATICRETE can support future industry workers and have a strong influence on shaping their talent,” said Ed Metcalf, LATICRETE North America President and COO.

In addition to the scholarship, select LATICRETE employees will be guest speakers and regularly lead class discussions about materials and installation methods. Materials will be donated to the college for students to learn new methods and repairs using the industry’s most innovative products on the market, a feat that would not have been possible without LATICRETE. For a more hands-on experience, LATICRETE will also host field trips to the company’s South Carolina factory to learn about production.

“LATICRETE has a direct connection to South Carolina. This is where our company’s founder earned his Chemical Engineering degree from the University of South Carolina, as well as where he married and started his family and his career in the building materials industry,” added Metcalf. “Much the same as founding LATICRETE was his father’s legacy, this scholarship is Henry’s. He has done a tremendous job molding skilled workers throughout his extensive career of more than 50 years with the company and will continue to do so through the American College of Business Arts.”

For more information, visit laticrete.com.

 

52 HIGH SCHOOL SKILLED TRADES TEACHERS UP FOR $1 MILLION IN PRIZES AS SEMIFINALISTS FOR HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS FOR SCHOOLS 2018 PRIZE FOR TEACHING EXCELLENCE

 

 
CALABASAS, Calif.— Fifty-two skilled trades teachers and teaching teams from across the country and their high schools were named today as semifinalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence and are in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards.

The semifinalists hail from 27 states and specialize in trades ranging from construction and carpentry to automotive repair, welding, advanced manufacturing and agriculture mechanics. Their collective experience includes teaching students to work with solar power systems and hydraulics systems, build tiny houses and rebuild diesel engines, and more.  The semi-finalists—some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams—were selected by an independent panel of judges from among a field of more than 500 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The list of the 52 semifinalists is available here.

Through two more rounds of judging, the field of 52 semi-finalists will be narrowed to 18 first- and second-place winners, who will split $1 million in total cash awards. The three first-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. The 15 second-place winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team. Semi-finalists whose school, district or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. The first- and second-place winners are expected to be announced on Nov. 15.

“These semi-finalists represent amazing depth and breadth in high school skilled trades education, and they exhibit incredible enthusiasm for teaching students to work with their hands, to love learning and be prepared for the future,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “We are thrilled to recognize their exceptional teaching and to raise the profile of their excellent work through these awards.”

For the second round application, the semi-finalists will respond to a series of online expert-led video learning modules that are designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about their teaching practices and how to inspire their students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

Each round of winners is selected by separate panels of judges independent of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

This is the second year of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which was started by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in American public high schools.

“Skilled trades teachers are unsung heroes,” Smidt said. “They teach our students skills that help them in life and in careers. We respect and value the men and women who work with their hands to design, build and repair homes, schools, hospitals and businesses in our towns and cities, as well as our cars, trucks and tractors. These skilled and creative workers keep our communities thriving. At the same time, there are now hundreds of thousands of great skilled trades job openings, and that number is expected to grow. We want to elevate the dignity and importance of this work by recognizing exceptional skilled trades teachers from our country’s public schools who open the door to learning and opportunity.”

News of the prize and other information about skilled trades education will be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is an initiative of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt, to support the advancement of skilled trades education in America.  With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, this program was created to foster and shine a light on excellence in skilled trades education in public high schools. Believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to stimulate greater understanding, support and investment by public entities and others in skilled trades education.  Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. For more information, visit https://harborfreighttoolsforschools.org.

Belknap White Group has huge success with thin tile training event

More than 20 installers came out to learn more about thin gauged porcelain tile panels and the new ANSI 108.19 standards of installation at Belknap White Group’s Woburn, Mass., Solution Center.

The Belknap White Group (BWG), one of America’s leading full-service flooring distributors and an NTCA associate member, recently hosted a full day of hands-on, classroom style training at its Woburn, Massachusetts, Solution Center. More than 20 installers came out to learn more about thin gauged porcelain tile panels and the new ANSI 108.19 standards of installation in this classroom environment.

Representatives from Crossville Inc., LATICRETE International and Montolit Tools were on hand to conduct the training, which leads to attendees being named and listed as qualified panel/slab installers on Crossville’s Laminam website (https://crossvilleinc.com/laminam-by-crossville/) and certified under the new ANSI standards. The training event not only taught the origin of Laminam, but attendees were meticulously trained on tools required, how to handle it, how to cut it, appropriate setting materials, work time, and proper installation procedure.

Attendees were meticulously trained on tools required, how to handle Laminam by Crossville gauged porcelain tile panels, how to cut it, appropriate setting materials, work time, and proper installation procedure.

“There is a lot of interest in large-format tiles these days and especially Laminam,” stated Bill Prescott, Executive Vice President of Sales for BWG. “It is a superb product that offers exceptional design and a variety of applications.” 

“Hosting this training event was not only beneficial to local installers but also to the industry as a whole,” stated Paul Castagliuolo, President of BWG. “We strive to provide our customers what they need to be successful, including the latest trainings. The new standards require specialized training for thin gauged porcelain installation and we are committed to providing it. The Belknap White Group has always taken education seriously and will continue to do so as we look forward to future training events.”

The event was well received by attendees, who also enjoyed breakfast, lunch and the opportunity to win fun door prizes, like an iPad, GoPro and Yeti Cooler. 

Representatives from Crossville Inc., LATICRETE International and Montolit Tools were on hand to conduct the training, which leads to attendees being named and listed as qualified panel/slab installers on Crossville’s Laminam website.

Estimating courses are in development

As I have stated in previous articles, we have a lot of new members and they are looking for help with their businesses. If you take a look at our membership, most of our contractor members employ up to five people including themselves. I’m also assuming that most of these owners are tile contractors first and business owners second so the fact that they need help running their businesses should not come as a surprise to anyone.

That being said, one of the Training and Education subcommittees, led by Dirk Sullivan with Hawthorne Tile, has started developing estimating courses. The team realized that there are several different types of estimating needs based on the customer and size of the project, so they started with a course on estimating small residential projects in which you would be working in a home where a homeowner could be present.

The course starts with explaining what you should do during your initial visit including how to make a good impression and the type of information that you should gather while you are at the potential job site. Here is a tip: never give a price to a potential customer off the top of your head! Always take the information from the job such as substrate prep needs, size of project, potential material needs, and any important details with you, then take the time to write up a formal estimate in your office.

The course then progresses into everything that you should include in your estimate. Many contractors forget about overhead or what to do if the homeowner is adamant about buying the tile themselves. Will it meet ANSI A137.1? Will you be required to do extra work because of this tile? The course gets into these concerns and others. It also identifies what you should do to protect yourself.

Remember, you are a business owner and you must protect your business and be profitable. You are no longer only a tile setter. Do you only have a handshake agreement? Or do you detail deposits and payment schedules with a signed contract? Finally, the course reviews contracts and terms. It also discusses liens and the proper way to notify the homeowner in writing of your process to recoup any unpaid contractual services.

As I stated, this is the first in a series of estimating courses. As they become available I will be updating everyone in TileLetter since these courses are in such high demand.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store. Go to www.tile-assn.com and hover over Education & Certification on the home page, then click NTCA University. Or point your browser to http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your purchase. If you have any questions or ideas for courses that we should have available, please give me a call at 770-366-2566 or send me an email at [email protected].

The First Ever CTI Challenge – Coverings 2018

Did you have a chance to witness the first ever CTI Challenge? It took place during Coverings 2018 in the Installation Experience space, pitting two intensely passionate Certified Tile Installer teams to complete an ambitious installation over three days. The installation had to meet tile industry standards and guidelines.

Here’s a recap.

What was the CTI Challenge?

The “CTI Challenge” was a live event designed by CTEF training and certification director Scott Carothers, and took place between rival teams who are both NTCA members and Certified Tile Installers.

It consisted of:

  • Identical 11’ x 13’ areas with 8’ walls common to the Installation Experience
  • The layout was as follows: The 20” x 20” tile was installed on the floor in a straight pattern which continued up two walls to a height of 8’. Within the floor, the plan called for the pebble stones to create a lazy river that connected at the doorway (which remained closed during the tile installation) to the other team’s layout providing a common river flow through both areas.  Combining the pebble stone with the floor tile required very intricate and labor-intensive scribing onto the floor tile. The difficult part of this process lies in the ability to cut the rounded and oval shapes accurately into the large floor tile.  Likewise, the stacked stone on the walls required similar scribing skills to connect it seamlessly to the surrounding tile.
  • Products included: Daltile 20” x 20” Veranda Dune # P527 Porcelain Tile, #DA06 Creamy Sand Pebble Stones, and # S703 Haikou Grey Stacked Stone. All grouted with Custom Building Products Polyblend grout # 386 Oyster Grey. Substrate products included WonderBoard by Custom Building Products and KERDI-BOARD by Schluter Systems.
  • Timeframe: Beginning Monday, May 7th, each team conducted its own assessment of the wall and floor substrates and executed the necessary corrections using trowel-applied patch. KERDI-BOARD was used as the wall substrate while WonderBoard was used on the floor. The Challenge took place on Tuesday, May 8th and 9th. After the teams completed the tile work, the construction fencing and blocked doorway were removed to allow Coverings attendees to view the beautiful and high-quality workmanship of these tile artists.

Alena Capra of Alena Capra Designs provided design assistance and material selections.

How did the CTI Challenge demonstrate the work of Qualified Labor? 

All of the work followed these industry standards and guidelines:

  • Floor tile according to TCNA Handbook Detail F144, Cement Backer Board and Ceramic Tile

“For tiles with at least one edge 15” (381 mm) or longer, the substrate shall have a maximum permissible variation of 1/8”in 10’ (3 mm in 3 m) from the required plane, and no more than 1/16” variation in 24” (2 mm in 610 mm) when measured from the high points in the surface.”

These four craftsmen demonstrated the truest sense of Qualified Labor as defined in Tile Council of North America Handbook. Qualified Labor and true artistic talent combined to provide Coverings attendees with a fine example of tile installed as it should be.

Who participated in the first ever Challenge?

Two teams of two expert installers participated. All four were Certified Tile Installers and active members of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).

The Chicago, Illinois team included:

The Portland, Oregon team included:

What sparked the idea of a CTI Challenge?

Definitely a strong competitive spirit, friendly rivalry and great pride in tile workmanship! Not to mention a great deal of enthusiasm that both teams shared in the Global Tile Posse Facebook Group.

As Greg Twarog explains, “Jason and I talked in the beginning about having an installation challenge when we got to Coverings and we didn’t really know what we wanted to do as the challenge, but the main focus was to create a scenario in which we could see and talk with other installers and industry professionals about proper standards and installation techniques that we practice every day as we install our projects in the actual installation setting.”

Jason McDaniel was thrilled when Scott Carothers took the idea seriously; he was ready to do something cool. Since there wasn’t enough time to work out the logistics of the challenge for TISE18, the Challenge was moved to Coverings 2018 and incorporated into the Installation Experience Hall of Excellence.

Expect the Unexpected in a CTI Challenge!

The two teams arrived at Coverings 2018 without a single idea of what to expect for the challenge. Jason envisioned an over-sized CTI hands-on test to specific methods and standards. Neither team expected a 20-foot pebble-scribe installation to be completed in three days!

Greg explains, “Once Scott was on the task, it was all too clear to me that the unexpected was to be expected. So, I prepared by not preparing. There is no point to over think the situation that is an unknown.

The scale of the project was a little ambitious so once we all realized the scale should be paired back we did as in any normal good team project going on across America. We talked openly about the best solutions to get it paired back and keep it moving so we could finish in the 3-day time frame.

We completed as much as we all could within that framework. That was the success of this Challenge: the work itself not so much the full completion of it.

In my eyes, each piece of tile there was cut, shaped and installed by our industry’s top CTI professionals. It would have lasted decades not just days because it was all installed using the proper methods and standards.”

As you can see these photos, the workmanship was outstanding! It generated conversation, awareness and awe. Crowds asked about the pebble stone scribing process . Some thought it was ordered already cut and ready to install, but of course it wasn’t  It was all custom-cut and fit on site.

Other attendees asked about the lippage control systems, trowel sizes, and grouting techniques being used.  They were eager to interact with both teams.

And the Best Part About Participating in the CTI Challenge?

Greg Twarog says: “The best parts were where I did slow down and stop to talk with passersby about how do you do that, or what are you doing there .

It was as if we were installing in a home or business and someone was stopping to ask a question that, if they had been at home, they may not have asked. And that is true enlightenment for some people. They then understand that the lines on the walls have a purpose; the trowel size is important to get proper adhesion, or the lippage control clips keep the tiles into plane with one another to limit the Lippage that’s seen in the large format tiles.

It was those moments that were most enjoyable to me. Aside from ribbing Jason and Shon of course! 

Who won the first ever CTI Challenge?

Judges Mark Heinlein and Scott Carothers agreed that this first ever CTI Challenge was a draw. Both teams worked tirelessly to create great installations! They set a new standard.

As Jason explains, “How could there be a winner or loser? We are the first people to do this. This is too extraordinary a situation!”

Greg adds, “I hope this will be a continued challenge to be celebrated year after year at Coverings. What better tribute is there to our industry than to invite CTI challengers to go to our leading industry event and show how they install using their industry knowledge and craftsmanship in a public group setting.

That’s not happening anywhere else in the world. I feel it was a great honor to tile in that setting next to some of the greatest. I consider all of them friends. John, Jason, Shon and thank you to Keith Barnett who was a great help as well. I look forward to seeing what next year’s Challenge and Challengers bring to all of us watching!” 

Thank You, CTI Challengers 2018!

And thank you to all who came by to encourage the challengers, witness the challenge, celebrate when it was over and generally be amazed by the work they completed.

Here you see many of the top tile industry installers and fans posing with the CTI Challengers of 2018.

What’s your reaction to the first ever CTI Challenge? Did you enjoy what you saw? Are you ready to be challenged?

This story was taken from the CTEF Blog. More information on CTEF can be found by visiting their website at www.ceramictilefoundation.org or visiting the CTEF Blog by clicking this LINK.

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