Velocity of change: Renewing ASU’s iconic Memorial Union

Artcraft and TEC® partner to perform herculean installation

“Velocity of change” is a premise that is disrupting the traditional concept of higher education at Arizona State University. Accelerating technology is the impetus for the change in teaching, and it’s creating new opportunities for lifelong learning.

In that same dynamic spirit of change, ASU’s Memorial Union (MU) has recently transformed into a modern and beautiful hub to meet the new ways students, faculty and guests spend their time at this central gathering space. Here, too, technology and knowledge played key roles in how a tile contractor and tile setting materials manufacturer were able to partner to perform beyond traditional expectations.

“This was a massive project that evolved into what appeared to be impossible as we learned of one challenge after another,” explained Craig Cummings, Project Manager for general contractor CORE Construction. “Initially, we thought we were dealing with a 50% timeline compression, a complex offset tile pattern, and requirements to keep the businesses and offices open during construction.” 

Knowing that only a technically adept specialty contractor would be able to meet the high expectations and challenges, CORE sought the expertise and experience of Mesa-based Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile Company. Artcraft understood that planning, coordination, and highly efficient tile installation would be vital on the project. The MU’s banks, restaurants, offices and other services attract some 14,000 to 20,000 people to the historic building each day. So work areas on the three floors to be renovated could only be partitioned off for limited periods of time as the demo, prep work and, eventually, tile installation was being done.

But before any work would begin, the challenges mounted. Artcraft was notified that the 40,000 sq. ft. of porcelain floor tile would be delayed some seven weeks – which further compressed the already aggressive timeline down to just six weeks.

Then, what the construction team found as it removed 25,000 sq. ft. of tile and another 15,000 sq. ft. of sheet vinyl, was a multitude of flooring layers, poor transitions and an aged foundation that had seen many additions and modifications as the building’s footprint more than doubled over its 62 years. 

“The existing floors did not meet the architectural specifications of 1/8” in 10’ for flatness,” explained Artcraft President James Woelfel. “We faced a significant amount of remediation with the MU foundation as the time pressures intensified. Our employees were up for the challenge of this high profile job – and we knew TEC® installation materials would provide the advanced technology to support the hard work we were about to undertake.”

TEC installation materials provide advanced technology

Artcraft used TEC® Level Set® 200 Self-Leveling Underlayment to quickly flatten difficult surfaces. In areas where old terrazzo was being covered, TEC® Multipurpose Primer was applied prior to the Level Set 200 to improve its adhesion and bond strength. TEC® Level Set 200 smoothed and flattened all the different elevations of the rough subflooring and was walkable and ready for crack isolation just three hours after application.

TEC® Hydraflex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane, an ANSI 118.12 membrane, was then used to prevent the new tile installation from cracking. Hydraflex dries in as little as one hour, which helped Artcraft save precious time on the project. Woelfel explained that TCNA-125 full coverage method was used on about half of the concrete substrate due to existing substrate cracking and TCNA-125A partial coverage was used for the rest of the installation with limited substrate cracking. 

 With the 2,200 sq. ft. of 2” x 12” glass tile available domestically, and the 24” x 48” porcelain wall tile already in hand, Artcraft began to demo, prep and install the varying applications in 12 sets of bathrooms, mindful that some had to be open at all times. TEC® Super Flex™ Ultra-Premium Thin Set Mortar kept the crews moving without incident as it has a patented bonding formula that is excellent with glass and provides non-slip adhesion for large-format wall tile. Then, TEC® Power Grout® Ultimate Performance Grout was applied to the joints and allowed to dry overnight. 

When the 12” x 24” and 6” x 24” mix of dark grey and black Italian porcelain arrived, Artcraft quickly rescheduled its crews for seven 10-hour workdays. Woelfel saw that the intricacies of the MU’s floor plan would create some problems for expansion joints at every intersection, change of pattern and where sunlight hit the floor. He determined that the “random” pattern had to be reworked to meet specifications. Mindful of accessibility ramps, the multiple surface levels and changes in setting direction, Artcraft provided a series of mock-ups for architectural approval to illustrate how critical expansion joints, pattern and surface breaks would be laid.

TEC Power Grout speeds access to floor traffic

Artcraft selected TEC® Ultimate Large Tile Mortar for its superior bond strength, and crews deployed to strategic areas to begin the herculean installation effort. Artcraft setters and finishers worked around the clock. As sections of the newly set tile dried, finishers began grouting the areas that had already dried. TEC® Power Grout® Ultimate Performance Grout was the ideal choice for this challenging job. The predominant factor in choosing Power Grout was its fast-setting properties. It’s ready for foot traffic in just four hours. That meant Artcraft could grout at 4:00 a.m. each day and open sections of the new floor to foot traffic by 9:00 a.m. Additionally, Power Grout’s breakthrough technology is easy to use, stain proof, guaranteed color consistent and highly resistant to shrinking or cracking – all important considerations in the highly traveled MU. “I credit Power Grout as one of the main reasons we were able to pull this off,” said Woelfel. 

To further ensure the integrity of the installation and prevent cracks, Artcraft added TEC® AccuColor 100® Silicone Caulk at the expansion joints in key locations across the varied elevations and at dissimilar planes per TCNA standards.

“It’s beautiful and we plan on this installation lasting for years to come,” said Executive Director of ASU’s Memorial Union, Michele Grab. “Despite the high level of renovation activity, we required that the building be open and accessible at all times. Artcraft respected our needs while ensuring students, faculty and guests remained safe and minimally inconvenienced by the remodel.”

“Without TEC products and technical support, we couldn’t have turned this project around,” Woelfel commented. “This was really an intense collaboration to resolve issues with technologically advanced products, technical installation knowledge and pure hard work.” 

Throughout the project, TEC Territory Manager Steve Besendorfer was on-site to support Artcraft. Additional support came from Jeff Williams, Manager at Tom Duffy, the setting materials distributor who kept extra TEC product in stock and available six days/week, specifically for the ASU project. Also, TEC’s excellent system warranty further reinforced TEC products as the right choice. 

The transformation of the ASU MU was truly a remarkable example of a motivated team coming together to achieve a nearly impossible goal. The beautiful new building is a testament to the success of their collaboration.

Hollow-sounding tiles and spot bonding

Inspections can be revealing or misleading


Delving into the deep, dark corners of the internet yields some useful intelligence – no, not the dark web, but rather the back side of NTCA-managed websites. Here, using analytics software, plugs-ins, and other virtual gadgets, it’s evident there’s considerable interest in information about hollow-sounding tile as well as the sometimes related topic of spot bonding. It’s no surprise; the contributing factors for both have been on the rise, prompting articles, white papers, and revisions to industry standards over the last several years. This article is being added to the collection to give an overview and to generate member discussion online about these not-always-black-and-white topics.

A hollow-sounding floor is probably fine

When a floor sounds hollow, it may seem as though something is amiss, but usually it’s nothing more than the natural sound transmission of the installation. Central to the question of whether there is a tile installation problem is whether the tile just sounds hollow or if there are visible issues occurring. Because of the various reasons a proper installation can have a hollow sound, language to clarify that a hollow sound alone does not indicate an installation problem was added to the TCNA Handbook in the Membrane Selection Guide. This is a clue that use of a membrane is one of the most common reasons a perfectly-good installation might sound hollow. Other reasons a good-quality installation might have a hollow sound include:

  • a less-dense substrate material, for example, wood versus concrete
  • a substrate or configuration that has open (hollow) spaces, for example, a wood-framed floor or steel-framed wall
  • an installation substrate or component with intentional voids – for example, some uncoupling membranes and hollow-core concrete slabs. 

As flooring materials go, ceramic is more of a transmitter, so hollowness will typically be more obvious, whatever the cause.

A real issue will probably be obvious

Unfortunately, sometimes a hollow sound is because of a tile problem or is worsened by a tile problem. But when this is the case there will generally be more apparent evidence such as cracked, loose, or missing grout or cracked or loose tile, for which there is no other explanation. It might be possible to remove whole or large pieces of tile – without force – to check for any easily identifiable causes or contributing causes – such as “spot bonding” – a means of adhering and leveling tiles with “spots” or blobs of mortar instead of properly troweling out mortar to arrive at a more uniform, consistent bond coat that minimizes the amount of empty space between tile and substrate. (Note: this article applies only to tile intended to be installed by a thin-bed mortar installation method, not to the spot-bonding style installation methods that are used and acceptable only on walls and only in specific, limited applications.)

Because spot bonding leaves larger voids under the tile, cracked tile over voids is a typical observation. Spot-bonded tile is also generally not as well-bonded to a substrate so loose/debonded tile could also occur. However, while workmanship may be an obvious cause of hollow sounds and tile and grout issues, it may not be the only cause. A thorough inspection is required to discern. 

To inspect or not to inspect

A 2013 TileLetter article, well before the TCNA Handbook revision was made, outlined a process of removing tiles and substrate from various areas of a hollow-sounding floor to determine whether tiles have debonded. It also addressed why and whether individual tile replacement or entire installation replacement might be needed. The subsequently-added TCNA Handbook language suggests a more conservative wait-and-see approach: no action necessary in the absence of actual issues. 

A destructive inspection will require repairs resulting from the inspection itself at the very least, and could cause new debonding or weakening of bonds. This might necessitate later repairs that would not have been needed had a destructive inspection not been performed. Furthermore, a premature destructive inspection muddies the waters with regard to the reason or responsibility for later repairs, should such be needed. Accordingly, the physician’s “first, do no harm” guideline may be advisable. The installation itself will, over time, relay its soundness and reliability.

In other words, when tile or grout issues do appear, the tile contractor should be consulted first and any governing workmanship requirements for the project should be scrutinized in order to distinguish installation concerns that don’t meet them from those that do. An inspection may be in order if working with the contractor doesn’t remedy issues, or to explore if other conditions outside the tile contractor’s control are also factors. 

Bias in assessments

When seeking an installation assessment, whether a formal (paid) inspection or a more informal opinion – such as by a manufacturer’s or distributor’s product representative – be aware of the various forms of bias that cause faulty opinions or conclusions. For example, even where spot bonding or poor mortar coverage has been identified, such may be only a contributing factor to tiles debonding. A curing compound that inhibits bonding may have been topically applied to a concrete substrate but not disclosed to the tile contractor. Or perhaps a substrate deflects (bends) beyond what even properly installed tile would endure, caused by overloading or under-designing a floor for anticipated weight/loads. The installer’s work should not be characterized as wholly to blame when there are other
contributing factors.

This is no defense for spot bonding or poor workmanship, but rather a caution about fast, easy conclusions. Too often tile contractors are the only target when things go wrong, perhaps because the installer’s work is easily observable and photographed, comparatively inexpensive to evaluate, and fairly basic to comprehend: a handy smoking gun. A more thorough assessment (e.g., structural evaluations, laboratory testing of concrete, etc.) will be significantly more expensive, more difficult to arrange because of the scarcity of people who can conduct a specialized study, and the results are often more complex even though more accurate. 

Generally, such exhaustive research will not be undertaken over some broken or missing tiles, let alone just a hollow sound. In the field of statistics, terms like missing data bias and omitted-variable bias refer to the inaccuracy of a conclusion resulting from leaving out relevant variables or information. Specifically, conclusions will overestimate the effect of the variables and information that were included. 

There’s also confirmation bias, which makes it difficult for people to interpret information objectively, particularly when something significant is at stake. It’s a cognitive phenomenon that makes it equally challenging for the tile contractor, product rep, building designer, etc., to believe negative information about their work or product.

To avoid faulty conclusions about tile installations when complete research will not be commissioned, those weighing in on installation issues can provide fairer assessments by making a point to include known biases. For example, they can list information and relevant variables that have not been factored in. This is the case for any tile-related issue being assessed but is especially relevant to hollow-sounding tile and tile with less-than-ideal mortar coverage. The ease of “sounding” a floor to find hollow sounds or photographing tiles with poor mortar coverage makes these issues popular subjects of reports that inaccurately paint the picture that only the tilework is subpar. 

Mitigating factors

In addition to more field information, what about looking into compressed schedules and decisions made in the course of construction? An NTCA bulletin (https://bit.ly/2N7G76H) makes the point that sometimes the practice of spot bonding is less about unskilled installers than it is about designs that require flat substrates and reasonable schedules that – when the time comes – aren’t provided. For example, general contractors often refuse to pay to flatten an out-of-tolerance substrate. Is it reasonable then, when substrate requirements are actively disregarded, to expect the various workmanship standards predicated on substrate flatness to be met? 

There can be many answers and approaches to such philosophical questions with no single right answer.  “What went wrong?” is a less subjective question. But the answer is only accurate when conclusion bias is specifically avoided by seeking out and including all relevant information. 

Be part of the discussion

For those searching on “hollow sounding floors” or “spot bonding,” hopefully this article provides a heightened understanding of the complexities around two topics that are often oversimplified. 

With regard to spot bonding in particular, tile contractors cannot routinely absorb costs to provide installation conditions they need and expect, based on project documents. However, the legal/contractual issues, safety considerations, and workmanship standards don’t dissolve just because proper conditions aren’t provided, including when there is abject refusal to provide them. In fact, because spot bonding introduces just as many (or more) issues than it fixes, NTCA workshops and other educational efforts focus heavily on mortar coverage requirements and the many reasons spot bonding is never recommended and is in no way condoned by NTCA. 

While industry standards and association resources can relay unambiguously various “do’s and don’ts,” they cannot so easily prescribe the best path for tile contractors confronted with perfect-world versus real-world issues. What works well for one company or project may not work at all for another. That’s why a core benefit of NTCA membership is the opportunity to dialog with and learn from other members when it comes to the many unavoidable gray areas and business decisions that must be made. NTCA members: What do you or other contractors you know do in this scenario? Or what should tile contractors do? What works and what doesn’t? Can the issue be better addressed by industry standards? Share your experiences and ideas on the “NTCA Members Only” Facebook group. 

Training and certification take center stage in the tile industry

Numbers don’t lie. The numbers tell us as leaders in the tile industry that we have a challenge we must overcome, and it is two-fold. First, we are facing a tile market poised for growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics forecasts that prospective employment of flooring installers and tile and marble installers should grow at least ten percent by 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Technology in the tile industry, coupled with a healthy construction economy, creates opportunities to exceed these projections. This is the good news. 

Innovative manufacturing technology has created a stronger need for the development of training and certification programs.

The bad news is that currently it does not appear as if there are enough trained and qualified people working in our industry to meet this demand.

Industry leaders are aware of this dilemma. In 2016, there were approximately 58,000 tile and marble setters working in the trade, and that is expected to grow to almost 65,000 in the next several years. As workers retire or leave the trade, we must not only replace them with new ones, we must recruit thousands more if we are going to help the industry meet expectations. The entire construction industry realizes that recruiting new people into the trade is a daunting challenge, so the competition to find quality people is fierce and the winners will be the ones that act quickly and aggressively. 

Ceramic tile installation takes years to master. Experts believe that to be a craftsperson who can master most tile installations, it requires a minimum of three to four years of experience in the field, coupled with a strong training program to reinforce product knowledge and create awareness of industry standards and best practices.

Training is the second part of the challenge that our industry is facing. It is not enough to just find workers to choose the tile industry over other career choices. Instead, we must make sure these workers are being trained and certified in a professional manner, helping them to establish a strong career path and meet our industry needs.

The National Tile Contractors Association is investing time and money into helping address this challenge. We have added professional staff to develop programs that can make a big impact on training, recruitment and certification. Here is a snapshot of how we see this developing: 

NTCA University

Becky Serbin,
Training and Education Coordinator

Becky Serbin is the NTCA Training and Education Coordinator. She is overseeing the development of apprenticeship training curriculum, utilizing online learning modules available for members to train both new installers entering the trade and current installers on product knowledge and industry standards. Currently, NTCA members can use these courses to develop their own company apprenticeship programs, and they can work with federal and state Departments of Labor to have the program monitored and approved. 

In a new development, NTCA is working now to gain federal approval to be an administrator of our own apprenticeship program. This should allow the association to seek partners in educational and vocational schools, and use our members to offer supportive training and most importantly, jobsite experience to go with the curriculum. This is important because

Stephanie Samulski, Director of Technical Services

companies that only need a few apprentices to come to work for them – but who don’t have the resources to develop their own program – could work with NTCA to solve this challenge. We hope to roll out this program in 2019 to our members. 

Technical Services

NTCA has hired Stephanie Samulski, formerly with the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), as our Director of Technical Services. She will work closely with our Technical Director Mark Heinlein, Technical Trainers and Training and Education Coordinator to provide technical content, consistency and accuracy in our program development. 

Mark Heinlein, Technical Director

Training and Certification programs

NTCA Technical Trainers now offer regional hands-on training in many areas, helping installers master their skills, and preparing them for certification tests being offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. Certification is important to help instill consumer confidence in our industry’s ability to perform successful installations with today’s innovative but changing technology. Large-format, gauged porcelain tile panels and slabs are a perfect example of this. Certification and training are essential for these products because even highly skilled installers who have been in the field for years will admit this is a different type of installation than what they were trained for. 

Marketing focus on recruitment

Avia Haynes, Marketing and Communications Director

One thing we’ve realized is we need to promote and market our training and industry certification programs to our industry and to consumers, builders and general contractors who are looking to us to solve their problems. So NTCA hired Avia Haynes as Director of Marketing and Communications to help create programs to recruit workers, promote certification and training, increase participation and engagement in our programs. 

We realize that many things will need to happen for us to be successful. Recruiting young people into our industry who have the desire to learn a trade is essential. NTCA provides important tools to our members – apprenticeship programs and online learning systems such as NTCA University – to help prepare workers quickly, and to help them to become certified and highly skilled. Marketing their skills to consumers to instill confidence in our industry is the final piece to this puzzle.

NTCA prides itself on being a leader in the tile industry, and we will continue to work with manufacturers, distributors and our contractor members to help ensure our trade can meet this important challenge in the next several years.

Focusing on the Future: An in-depth look at the leading color and design trends

On Tuesday, May 8 from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. Leatrice Eiseman, the Executive Director for Color Information and Training and the Executive Director of the Pantone Institute, will talk about Focusing on the Future: An In-Depth Look at the Leading Color and Design Trends in room B312 at Coverings.

Eiseman, a color specialist who has been called “the international color guru,” will use The PANTONEVIEW home + interiors 2019 annual trend forecasting tool as a basis of her talk. This tool is developed specifically for the home furnishings and interiors market by the Pantone Color Institute. Containing visual inspiration, key color direction and suggested harmonies, the theme for its 2019 forecast is FOCUS and showcases 72 colors distilled into eight palettes that you’ll see in interiors a year ahead.

This year, Pantone is highlighting two palettes:

CRAVINGS tempts the eye as well as the taste buds with spicy reds, sweet flamingo orange and rich purples. Seductive allusions to “fetish foods” deepen the irresistible message of the palette. The neutrals of tasty Butterum and Cappuccino serve up a delectable warming presence, while grassy green promises a cooling respite from the heat of the surrounding shades. These exceptional flavors will draw upon memorable sensory experiences to inspire new ones that will be just as pleasing.

CLASSICO hues are fundamental, basic and everlasting, while at the same time, elegant and forever fashionable. This is the palette where a graceful swan white and camel-colors can co-exist effortlessly with deep teal, chic gray flannel, burgundy red and caviar black. Rich gold and apricot brandy provide finishing elements to a color language spoken worldwide, across product categories and throughout all levels of the marketplace.

For more information about the PANTONEVIEW home + interiors 2019 tool, visit http://bit.ly/2HvrrMg. 

Coverings Industry Ambassador – Alena Capra

New and old combine for exciting show in Atlanta

I’m looking forward to another great Coverings this year in Atlanta! Not only am I excited to see all of the new products and amazing tile displays, but there are a lot of exciting events to check out on the show floor! 

New this year is the Installation Experience, where you will be able to learn about installation best practices, tips to make your projects shine, find out what you need to get certified, and watch an installation competition in this beautiful and dynamic exhibit. 

This year also will include extended show hours on Tuesday May 8th (with some fun networking opportunities as well), and the Orientation Theatre, which will help you get the info you need and make the most of your time at the show, as well as suggestions for tackling the show floor. 

The Coverings mobile app will also include a new feature: what “new products” are available to see on the show floor. 

In addition to so many exciting new things, there are some Coverings favorites returning this year, like the Installation & Design Showcase, where we will see three Tiny Homes built live at the show! There will also be Audio Tours, the Coverings Connect lounge, Live Installation Demos, and the Stone Zone. 

I’m so excited for the show’s return to Atlanta, one of my favorite cities for sourcing design products for my projects. There’s so much to see and do in Atlanta, including the Coverings Celebration, tailgate style, at the College Football Hall of Fame! Get your tickets and have some fun celebrating at the end of this year’s Coverings, in your favorite sports team attire!

Looking forward to seeing you at this year’s show!

– Alena

Stone Products – TRENDS 2018

Ann Sacks

Ann Sacks by the Kohler Co. unveiled Terrazzo Renata, a new collection that brings the beauty of Old Italy terrazzo into the homes of today. Terrazzo Renata includes marbles from Tuscany’s Carrara quarries, which the Italian government recently approved for limited usage, with a 28% pre-consumer recycled content, making it an ecologically sound choice, which can contribute to LEED v4 certification. www.us.kohler.com

Arizona Tile

Opal White Satin is quarried from a bedrock quarry about 135 miles from Hanoi, Vietnam. This white marble has a consistent structure and the slab sizes are large. Because this is a very pure calcite it can be back lit like onyx. Opal White has an elegant, clean look that lends itself to the modern contemporary kitchen. www.arizonatile.com

Artistic Tile

With a design that alludes to the ancient citadel of Athens, Acropolis is a stepped 2”x12” decorative dimensional tile carved from one of Greece’s most elegant stones-peerless crystalline-white Thassos. Finished with a clean polish, Acropolis’ sparkling white tiered surface creates a geometric pattern in a field or when used as an accent. www.artistictile.com

Bedrosians
Booth #1304

Offering the luxurious look of marble and the practical advantages of granite, quartzite (White Macaubas 3cm Quartzite shown) has gained increased popularity for homeowners and interior designers. Its stylish appearance combined with unsurpassed durability and resistance to wear-and-tear make it suitable for all kinds of surfaces – from outdoor paving and feature walls to kitchen countertops and bathroom vanities. www.bedrosians.com

Cosentino

Cosentino’s latest collaboration with with architect/designer Daniel Germani draws inspiration from Dekton Trilium. Germani envisioned three new designs that capture the organic texture of weather-worn stone and aged metals. Relaxed and modern with a rough aesthetic, the Dekton Industrial Collection can be installed indoors and out. It also embraces Cosentino’s commitment to sustainability: 80% of the content used to make Trilium and Radium is post-production material from the Dekton manufacturing process. Orix mimics the industrial appearance of eroded cement with a multi-tonal color palette of greys, blues and greens. Nilium (shown) blends hues of silver and white, conveying the elegance and strength of metal. Radium resembles acid-washed steel, juxtaposing earth tones against cold blue/green hues. Trilium, the first of the collection, captures the visual texture and color variation of aged and oxidized stainless steel.
www.cosentino.com

Daltile

Stone A’ La Mod is a collection of unique stone mosaics that will set your design apart with the luxury of popular species like bluestone and marble in exotic shapes and patterns, both flat and three-dimensional. Let your wall tile set the standard for excellent design. www.daltile.com 

Emser

Building on the popular Metro line, Metro Blue expands the marble and limestone series to include three-dimensional split face and chiseled textures, as well as a linear pattern. Available in various shapes and sizes, Metro Blue celebrates a neutral, rustic aesthetic ideal for walls and surfaces. www.emser.com

Levantina

Caliza Capri white sandstone exhibits a variety of whites evoking the bright Mediterranean light. This white sandstone creates an elegant and striking look. White sandstone is perfect for creating a noble appearance, which is why so many façades display these radiant and immaculate stones. It is ideal for exteriors, pool surrounds and outdoor staircases thanks to their special texture. These natural stones stand out for their porosity, which gives them non-slip properties. Their chromatic variety also allows them to adapt to very different projects. www.levantina.com

Neolith

Influenced by early-Renaissance Venetian architecture, Neolith introduces its new sintered stone décor: Retrostone (Fusion collection). The bold composition is a mosaic of marble and granite chips set in concrete stone. Its earthy elegance produces a mesmerizing kaleidoscopic effect, based on terrazzo that is ideal for flooring, countertops, walls and more. Retrostone is 100% natural, composed of raw materials – clays, feldspar, silica and natural mineral oxides – and is recyclable, durable and low maintenance.
www.neolith.com

The Timelessness of Natural Stone

In a world where trends can come and go in the blink of an eye, natural stone withstands the test of time. Around the world, eager designers continue to turn to natural stone, making it a top-selling solution for countertops, floors and walls. As new offerings hit the market in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures, natural stone continues to offer a timeless look for spaces.

The popularity of natural stone can be attributed to its innate uniqueness, as each cut is unlike any other. With no two pieces alike, natural stone inherently brings individuality to spaces. Natural stone also offers customers the flexibility of customization because of its ability to be cut into different shapes and sizes. 

Warming palettes favor grey, white, black and “greige”

One of the most appealing qualities of natural stone is the variety of options, allowing stone to provide a solution regardless of the design vision. From a color perspective, the industry has shifted toward grey, white and black, colors often found in limestone and marble. Additionally, the color combination of grey and beige, fondly known as “greige,” is a trend we’re seeing come into play more and more. Greige is a fresh way to incorporate warmer shades into spaces, while still giving a contemporary feel. This color blend can range from sand tones, to deeper charcoal tones. A nice 

example of this color range is found in the American Olean Ascend™ marble and limestone collection, which offers beautiful shades of greige.

Marble, granite and quartzite reign supreme; colorful stone emerges

From a trend perspective, designers are shifting toward specific stone types in designs. Exuding luxury, marble has risen as a top option. New color variations boost its appeal as a solution for modern designs, while still maintaining its timeless style. Granite has remained a classic, sought-after option, bringing an upscale feel to any space. Its distinctive granular appearance is a more traditional choice for those looking for a natural stone countertop. The vast color offerings of granite, which include deeper hues with specks of intriguing color for a more striking look, make it an appealing option. The hot new trend product in stone is natural quartzite. Natural quartzites feature the look and feel of marble, with all of the benefits of granite’s durability and hardness.

Customers looking to stand out from the norm are seeking options that divert from the traditional characteristics of natural stone. As a result, there has been an increase in colorful natural stone offerings, a stark difference from the more muted hues often associated with natural stone. Distinctive veining paired with unexpected pigments such as Daltile’s Mercury is an example of this growing color trend. 

Large sizes sizzle; mosaics multiply

In addition to colors, specific sizes are growing in popularity within the natural stone segment. One of the hottest trends in the industry is extra-large pieces. This size category is appealing because it empowers customers to create continuous, seamless design. From floors and walls to countertops, large-format natural stone creates a luxurious statement in spaces.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we are seeing growth in stone mosaics. A space once dominated by glass mosaics, stone has stolen the spotlight, as it allows designers to show off their personal style. Available in polished, honed and split face finishes, these natural stone decorative pieces provide an unexpected break of texture in otherwise continuous, sleek spaces.

A growing trend in applications, more designers are utilizing natural stone on areas beyond countertops. After primarily using natural stone on floors and countertops, designers are now using stone to create a contemporary, continuous feeling on walls or as an eye-catching accent wall. This trend is being boosted by the new extra-large slab offerings, which help to create a statement in rooms. Additionally, natural stone is beginning to be used more frequently in outdoor spaces, particularly to create a cohesive look throughout the entire design. From large-format sizes being used as a countertop surface throughout a space to small mosaic details as backsplash in an outdoor kitchen, stone is beginning to appear in new, unexpected spaces, a trend that is positioned to grow over the next five years.

A far cry from the stone of yesteryear, the natural stone category has completely transformed. Boosted by the uniqueness of the products, the ability of stone to combine function and beauty has it positioned for continued growth. With what seems like infinite application possibilities and color options, these natural stone trends are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Tile Products – TRENDS 2018

American Olean
Booth #2817

Offering an authentic interpretation of time-worn and weathered concrete factory floors, Union by American Olean captures the uniqueness of the industrial concrete chic trend in a beautiful way. The modern mosaics and five tone-on-tone color options available in large-format sizes bring contemporary artistry to any space for the ultimate urban industrial look. www.americanolean.com

Crossville
Booth #7654

The new Java Joint porcelain tile collection reflects the trend toward the warming of neutrals, as well as the popularity of bold, linear striations. The line’s five hues are an arsenal of on-point colors, punctuated with the movement of luxe striations. The line comes in a 12” x 24” field tile, 2” x 2” mosaics, and a full trim package, and is suited for walls and floors in commercial and residential applications.
www.crossvilleinc.com 

Daltile

Reinvent the acclaimed look of mid-century modern design with RetroSpace™. A modern interpretation of a nostalgic aesthetic, this translucent-glazed wall tile beautifully reflects light in your space. A subtle undulated surface is the foundation of this wall tile, and is available in soft green and blue hues and neutral colors. www.daltile.com

Emser Tile

Embodying the latest trends in tile including large-format dimensional wall tile and wood-look porcelain planks are Motif and Porch. With Motif, a delicate lace overlay defines this glazed ceramic subway tile collection. Featuring a selection of neutrals, the collection’s understated texture and glossy finish combine to create a unique aesthetic. Porch (shown, in Coffee) features subtle wood grain movement with caramel- and coffee-inspired tones and provides color variation on interior and exterior floors, walls, and fireplace façades. An understated satin finish completes the glazed porcelain tile for visual depth.
www.emser.com

Florida Tile
Booth #7620

Responding to the on-trend demand for the cement look, Florida Tile NY2LA HDP features compelling characteristics of cement and plaster fused into a porcelain representation of urban sophistication.
www.floridatile.com

Interceramic

Vintage meets modern in Interceramic’s Emma, a glazed ceramic wall tile echoing the handmade wall tile of years past. Emma offers an undulating texture with elegant gloss finish, for a sophisticated high-design look. This USA-made ceramic tile incorporates modern accent colors in blues and greens that can transition from Cosmopolitan to Country French. www.interceramic.com

Lunada Bay
Booth # 8062

Origami Field is a collection of glass field tiles that reflects the iconic Japanese art of geometric paper folding. Featuring nine opalescent colors and three-dimensional shapes, the distinctive glass tile designs play with light and shadow. Origami Field comes in six shapes – Moxie (shown), Verve, Trapeze, Lacuna, Elation and Ambit – each with a unique pattern that emerges both visually and dimensionally. Origami Field is an extension of Lunada Bay Tile’s Origami line, which also includes mosaic tiles in four patterns and eight colors.
www.LunadaBayTile.com

Marazzi
Booth #2817

Marazzi’s D_Segni™ offers a vast assortment of encaustic-look tiles that bring energy to any room.
D_Segni’s decorative designs range from geometrical, vintage and metropolitan patterns that can be used individually or mixed-and-matched for personalized designs, providing a bohemian romance feel. Seven coordinating solid colors are also available to complete the look.
www.marazziusa.com

Modomo: The Art of Italian Tile
Booth #3671

Organza conveys a contemporary fabric/linen interpretation. Three surface options available – natural, semi-polished/lappato, and outdoor/anti-skid – with four complementary field sizes, from wall to large- format floors – 2” x 2”, 4” x 24”, 12” x 24”, 24” x 24”, and 24” x 48”– to accommodate any environment. All sizes are color-body and rectified.
www.modomotiles.com 

Tile Trends for 2018

By Joe Lundren, Joseph Lundgren Consulting

As we prepare for Coverings in Atlanta, be assured that we will see a large turnout of buyers since the economy is strong and the show will be full of factories from around the globe showing their newest products and innovations for 2018 and beyond. 

The big question is “What are the trends and how can I be at the forefront to capitalize on them?” Equally important is “How does one keep inventory of the right products on hand – and devote a portion of that inventory to ‘edgy or trending looks’ to be at the leading edge of the competition?” 

First, let’s look at what’s selling and how it may evolve into newer generations of that style. Remember, a trend is a pattern of gradual change that we see in the industry and not a “one-hit wonder” that fills a niche and is not a broad selling category. We have seen those come and go in our industry, but this article focuses on solid trends. 

Technology

Ink jet has changed the industry and has taken us to a level of design no one could have imagined, and it alone has allowed us to continue to grow with the development of other floor coverings. In addition, we see the large panels/slabs being promoted by manufacturers and distributors alike. Finally, we see the U.S. market being more accustomed to larger sizes from around the world, including 24″ x 24″ and 24″ x 48″. 

When we discuss technology, we cannot forgo the next step of some of these new products, which is how they are installed. We are fortunate to have industry associations and leaders such as Bart Bettiga (Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association), Eric Astrachan (Executive Director of the Tile Council of North America), and Scott Carothers (Training Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation) that ensure our industry is focused on quality installation with certification programs such as the Certified Tile Installer (CTI)and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT). The CTI credential certifies installers in basic installation knowledge and skills, and ACT certifies installers in seven specific areas: in setting large-format porcelain tile and subfloor preparation, mud walls and floors, showers and membranes, grouts and thin porcelain tile.

Wood

Rest assured, one of the categories in which we will see new introductions is wood. Wood has become a category on its own with some distributors saying wood looks account for 30%-40% of their tile sales. The question is, how many wood looks do you need to ensure you have the right mix and you limit the cannibalization? We have seen multiple new generations of wood looks that target both the residential and commercial market. Ink jet technology has allowed us to emulate the look of real wood and we have the ability to press or cut plank sizes that we see in real wood. In addition, users love the differentiating factor that comes with tile, which is durability and ease of maintenance.

Porcelain slabs/panels 

A trend that we see continuously evolving is the gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) and slabs. These products are manufactured differently from traditional dust-pressed tile with technology like Lamina or Continua machinery. We have seen the thickness gauge of the products range from as thin as a 3mm to as thick as 30mm, the latter of which allows it to be used on countertops and compete with the traditional stone and quartz market. The beauty of the technology is that it allows you to get a wide variation in the graphic and retain the virtues of porcelain. I believe as we train installers and our specifiers become more acquainted with it, we will see this material replace a portion of the countertop market as well as traditional wall coverings as consumers and designers look to differentiate their projects.

Terrazzo

Terrazzo is a product we traditionally view as a competing flooring product to the tile industry, however, with the emergence of ink jet, manufacturers can now produce porcelain tile with the majestic look of real poured terrazzo. Porcelain terrazzo tile brings the benefits of porcelain with the visual of the real mixed product modeling embedded marble, granite, quartz or glass chips.

Marble looks

Wow, this is one of my favorite products with the advances we see in ink jet technology! Again, the virtues of porcelain combine with the beauty of marble curated from around the world. In addition, porcelain provides the ability to perfect a finish from matte to honed and a perfect polish. Tile now rivals the beauty of real stones’ intricate veining and realistic color palettes.

Encaustic cement tiles

Manufacturers have reproduced traditional hand-made encaustic cement tiles, which evolved in the 13th century. The look allows you to romance a space with designs that vary from classic, geometric, and metropolitan patterns that can be used individually, or mixed.

Cement Looks

Cement looks aren’t new, but they continue to trend higher with each new generation of product, from the conventional concrete to refined visuals. Consumers and designers love the industrial look, and cement visuals lends themselves to the growing design trend of more modern or contemporary looks. Manufacturers have and will continue to evolve this style with new textures, formats and colors replicating the stained, stamped, and polished effects to create a much more classy and enduring floor. 

Glass

Glass is here to stay and continues to mature, utilizing the ever-popular ink jet technology. In addition, we will see new sizes and shapes (manufactured via casting, pressing and slumping) with colors that add translucency and a shimmer to an installation. We see glass as what makes a room pop and catches the eye of everyone who enters it.

Fabric Looks

Fabric in tile? Yes, we have seen some manufacturers take it to the extreme of emulating tartan patterns while others focus on simple woven patterns. This allows us to displace the growth of carpet tiles in lieu of a porcelain tile that will have the benefits of easy maintenance and endurance of porcelain. 

 

Wall Tiles

Specifically, you’ll see rectangular looks that have evolved from the traditional subway tiles into larger sizes including 3″ and 4″ x 12″ tiles and even larger, and patterned tiles (domed, beveled, arched, and sculptural) that allow the usual monochromatic look to move into the next generation with endless design possibilities. Furthermore, larger wall tiles including 12″ x 24″ sizes are becoming more commonplace.

Stone

The rustic stone look still is here to stay as consumers love the appeal of natural stone, but not the maintenance and cost that accompany it. Manufacturers endlessly pursue new designs as we see the capability to create a tile with wide-ranging graphics has flourished, and has allowed us to see visuals emulating the real stone graphics and colors.

 

Colors, what will we see?

Yes, white, beige and grey – our industry neutrals will continue to be the “go to colors,” with a palette of warming tones, moody dark tones and warm creams. Some refer to neutral colors as any hue that doesn’t compete with other colors, yet ceramic tile typically involves a large space, therefore giving the eye the ability to flow from one point to the next without the distraction of a singular color. Furthermore, regardless of your design style, there is a place for neutral colors in your décor. 

Additionally, when feature colors are used in the room it enhances the “pop” more when amidst neutrals. With the introduction of additional shapes and textures in the tile, industry neutral colors benefit these without becoming an eyesore. 

To reach Joe, phone 214-641-7773 or visit josephlundgrenconsulting.com.

Sales Trends for 2018 – What’s selling around the country

Arizona Tile

Anaheim, Calif. – Trending in Anaheim is large-format tile (24”x 48”, 24”x24”), in 8” wide minimum wood planks, and cement aesthetics. Matte finishes prevail, and more color, moving away from white and into warm neutrals like greige, taupe, cream and off-white. Textures are in demand, as are linear sizes for backplashes and mixing of elements – modern with traditional touches such as brick or wood-like tile together with chevron glass. Textile aesthetics have not yet taken off in this market, though some customers do seek them. 

In terms of stone, satin and honed slabs are very popular right now since they camouflage etching or imperfections.

Ontario, Calif. – Large-format is king in Ontario, with sizes such as 36” x 36”, 24” x 48”, 16” x 32” and 24” x 24” as well as large wall sizes like 8” x 24” and 12” x 24.” Stone and wood aesthetics are key. Colors are darkening, with dark tone-on-tone popular. Variety also is in demand, with more textured surfaces, colored penny rounds, geometric shapes and iridescent and shimmery glass tiles pairing with trending colors and shapes. The Digital Art series, a collection of Italian-made, fabric-inspired rectified glazed porcelain with rich textures, is very trendy here. 

Satin-finished natural stone slabs are the rage with Fantasy Brown Satin one of the top selling species.

Palm Desert, Calif. – This market continues the trend to large-format tile in cement, wood, and textile aesthetics as well as patterned tile. In stone, both satin and polished finishes reign. 

Dallas, Texas – In addition to the ubiquitous demand for large-format tiles in 24” x 48”, 16” x 32” and 24” x 24” in wood and concrete looks, porcelain tile with a realistic marble and limestone style are the rage. Minimalism with bold, neutral contrast is in demand here, with textile textures adding interest. But at the same time rustic brick aesthetics – like those in the Castle Brick series – add warmth and variety. 

Stone slabs in all finishes are equally in demand.

Tempe, Ariz. – Larger sizes in wood and concrete porcelain styles are joined by a passion for subway tile and solid backsplashes in this market. Matte, semi-polished surfaces are in demand, along with rustic wood and brick aesthetics and marble looks. Textile-textured tile is getting a slow start in this market, but in natural stone, honed and satin finishes are in fashion. 

Bedrosians

According to Eddie Bedrosian, marketing director for the company – which has branches located throughout California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Washington, North Carolina and Florida and delivers nationwide – 2018’s top design trends will take shape with some older aesthetics making a re-appearance; mixing old with new, and bold with soft.

Navy Blue – Dark navy blue tones add allure and mystique. Used as a neutral, it is the perfect substitute for black, making a rich base color that breathes elegance and class or an accent to make a statement. Reminiscent of the ocean, navy blue is a calming and soothing color, making it a design favorite.

Wallpaper look tile – This look is prized for offering the elaborate patterning of modern-day wallpapers while being durable enough to wipe down with mild soap and water. Pattern packs a heavy punch when it comes to design, so it may work better as an accent wall, rather than an entire room. Since it will be on the wall for decades to come, it’s best to choose a style and color scheme you know you enjoy vs. something novel you’ve recently discovered. 

Patterned floors and walls – Ornate or simple, patterned floors add drama to a room. Designers and trendsetters are showcasing their floors as eye-catching, modern décor. Options are endless. You can choose tile with distinct designs or find simple geometric shapes you can set in a pattern. 

Shapes – Whether shapes are used loudly in a room or in a subtle way, they greatly impact the mood and tone of the space. Simple shapes, like triangles, hexagons, diamonds and chevrons, are incredibly versatile and will liven up your space and even make it seem bigger than it actually is. 

Metallic accents – Customers are inviting copper, brass, rose, gold, silver and shiny mirrors into interiors. These metallic accents bring light in to a room seamlessly and add a luxe appeal.

Bold backsplashes – Bold colors, shapes and textures are being installed on kitchen backsplashes as a way to express individuality and personality.

Quartz – Quartz is highly resistant to staining and is one of the most hygienic countertop options for homeowners. Add to the fact that quartz is extremely strong; it is one of the most durable and desired kitchen surfaces. Bedrosians’ Sequel Quartz is offered in 44 of the most popular and enduring colors, polished and matte finishes, plus pre-fab options for smaller projects. 

Porcelain slabs – Porcelain slabs allow customers to achieve the look of timeless stone and contemporary design with durable, large porcelain panels. The thin profile options and large dimensions of Magnifica Porcelain by Bedrosians lends itself to creating seamless countertops, islands, floors, walls and ventilated building facades. Designers and architects are drawn to its sleek aesthetic that allows for minimal grout lines and the grandeur of a solid wall or floor.

Wood-look porcelain – While wood-look porcelain floors have been around for some time, recent improvements in ink-jet technologies make the wood effect more realistic than ever. It’s a beautiful, durable and easy to maintain flooring option.

Earth tones – Soft shades of grey and beige create a rejuvenating home spa, a place that’s a healing retreat.

Bright kitchen colors – White will always be a classic palette for kitchens, but people want to add a little oomph to the white and put their personality into the space. White kitchens continue as favorites, but expect a rise in bold color kitchen accents, richer and warmer color cabinets, rugs, accents and patterned tiles on walls and backsplashes.

Fish scale tiles – These tiles create an interesting pattern, bringing visual interest to spaces in a fun way, that’s a departure from traditional subway tile, offering an updated look. They work well in the kitchen, as well as the bathroom for floors and walls.

Black matte – Look out for matte black in all parts of the home. Designers and homeowners want that statement look that is everyday-comfortable, yet doesn’t dominate the room. This bold look is contemporary and complements a variety of materials and styles on countertops, floors, walls or backsplashes. Matte black is also appearing in kitchen and bathroom faucets and showerhead and also lighting fixtures. 

Black and white – Simple and traditional, classic black adds a focal point of color that grounds, anchors, and adds a sophisticated look to a room. White acts as a striking contrast that balances the bold, adding a spark of light. 

Emser Tile

According to Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing for Emser – which has showrooms located coast to coast throughout the U.S. – in addition to large-format tiles for floors and walls from 24” x 48” up to 63” x 126” and larger, gauged porcelain panels are heating up the market and will continue to do so throughout 2018. Gauged porcelain panels are creating never-before-seen aesthetics for wall, fireplace façade, shower and exterior cladding applications. In addition to panels, these other trends are prevalent for 2018:

  • Accent walls with color, dimensionality, texture and pattern are being achieved through large-format ceramic wall tile in 18” x 36” and larger sizes.
  • Metallic finishes are creating a captivating, shimmering effect across mosaic series and are intertwined with a mixture of materials and textures. We’re seeing alternating gloss and matte finishes in series, with both glass and metal, or marble and porcelain materials for subtle contrast.
  • Shades of blue, soft greens and even pastels are emerging as we enter the spring season, especially in the form of glass mosaics. 
  • From small-scale, fabric-look textures to large-scale graphic patterns, textile aesthetics are experiencing growth in the market.
  • Wood-look tile is evolving with refreshing approaches, including bold color variation, enabling customizable installations with striking detail.
  • Concrete looks continue to resonate in residential and commercial design with porcelain tile in a range of aesthetics, including formed concrete with a plaster effect or raised textile or diagonal texture. 
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