President’s Letter – Tech 2016

JWoelfel_headshotNew tile technology may resurrect old installation methods

Qualified installers are key to large thin porcelain tile and plank success

As many of you know, I wear two hats for the NTCA: President, and Chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee. As a tile contractor it is the technical aspect of our business that will determine the success or failure of that installation.

The NTCA is blessed with some very intelligent contractor members who are actively involved in both the NTCA Reference Manual and national industry installation standards committees. Our association was very successful at the recent TCNA Handbook meeting this past June. New inspection standards and nominal sizing criteria in regards to multi-size tile patterns will help alleviate a lot of headaches for our members. I would like to shine a light and give credit to the following members for their hard work in helping our members save time and money when it comes to all of our tile installations:

  • Methods and Standards Committee Chairman Kevin Fox
  • Education Chairman and NTCA Technical Committee member Jan Hohn
  • ANSI Chairman, TCNA Committee and NTCA Technical Committee member Chris Walker
  • ANSI Vice-Chairman, NTCA Technical Committee Vice-Chairman and TCNA Committee member Nyle Wadford
  • Technical Committee and ANSI Committee members John Cox and Martin Howard
  • Technical Committee, and Methods and Standards Committee members Joe Kerber and Martin Brookes
  • TCNA Handbook and NTCA Technical Committee members Brad Trostrud and Rich Galliani
    Technical Committee member and Apprenticeship Guru Dan Welch

These hard-working tile contractors have gone above and beyond when it comes to fighting for both union and non-union tile contractors, both NTCA members and non-members.

I want to commend all of these people for volunteering their valuable time and energy to make our industry better. We at NTCA have committed to our members that their thoughts and concerns are heard and disseminated in front of national industry installation standards committees. Please know that there are a lot of NTCA tile contractors that I failed to mention who work very hard and volunteer their time as well, and I want to say thank you to all of them too.

As you can see, there are a lot of NTCA members who give their time and effort to make sure the entire tile installation community can be more successful. If you have a chance at the next meeting, go ahead and tell them great job or nice work – it will mean a lot.

James Woelfel, President NTCA
Chairman NTCA Technical Committee

Publisher’s Letter – Tech 2016

bart_0114Inaugural Installation Summit sparks awareness for floor covering job opportunities

By Bart Bettiga

In early August, the National Tile Contractors Association participated in an invitation-only Installation Summit, promoted by leaders of the Floorcovering Leadership Council and managed by Informa Exhibitions. The event took place at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Over 70 industry professionals, including 25 from the tile and stone industry, came together to address what many people are now referring to as an installation crisis, especially as it relates to overall quality and availability of a trained workforce.

This was an important first step in addressing a serious issue. For many years, the lack of qualified installers has plagued our industry. With the economic recession now past, and a steady increase in growth in all flooring segments, we find ourselves faced once again with this shortage. What makes this even more challenging is that a new generation of workers does not appear to be on the horizon. Discussion at the Summit centered around all the great jobs available in the flooring industry, and the realization that there is very little awareness of these opportunities – not just in installation, but in sales, design, management, etc.

pub-02By holding an Installation Summit, we’ve brought all the groups together to identify common challenges, with the hope of a collective approach to address a potential crisis in all segments. Training and apprenticeship programs, certification, on-line education, and recruitment of new people into the trades were all listed as critical items to work on collectively.

Following this town-hall group approach, tile and stone leaders met in intensive breakout sessions, seeking feedback to association direction in our industry. Representatives of the NTCA, MIA and BSI, and the CTEF were able to engage with our members for a focused discussion of how to work with other flooring industry segments.

pub-01On the second day of the Summit, all the attendees got back together to discuss next steps. The leaders of the Summit came out of the meeting with some clear direction. The group agreed an awareness campaign needs to be developed to inform people of job opportunities in the industry, with a special emphasis on installation as a trade. In order to accomplish this, Summit leaders agreed that a small group representing a cross-section of the industry will need to be created to brainstorm how to achieve these steps. This group will be appointed by Summit leaders, and will work closely with the Floorcovering Leadership Council for support and direction.

The NTCA would like to thank its staff, contractor and associate members who attended the event and provided valuable feedback. We are committed to participating in the committee, and will give a full report to our board of directors at our annual meeting, held in conjunction with Total Solutions Plus October 22nd-25th in Indian Wells (Palm Springs), Calif.

Editor’s Letter – Tech 2016

Lesley psf head shot“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
– Arthur C. Clarke

As science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke aptly stated, advanced technology is a bit of magic. We see the stuff of this today – surface treatments, glazes and inkjet printing processes for tiles that replicate anything from lace to wood with perfect authenticity or quirky artistry; tiles that are thinner than the diameter of a pencil; mortar that can bend and flex…the list is endless. Our industry truly is a marvel of advanced engineering that provides a spectrum of amazing surfacing materials, setting materials, tools, and accessories with which to make projects more enduring and better performing, while streamlining the process for the installer. The magazine you hold in your hands pays homage to this.

Welcome to the 2016 repeat performance of our TECH issue of TileLetter. NTCA debuted this publication in 2015, and it’s back this year by popular demand.

Overall, this issue takes an in-depth look at new technologies and advances of a range of product categories: substrate preparation; electric floor warming; shower systems; mortars; grout; tools, accessories, and apps; and this year we added a sustainability category.

Within each category, you’ll find manufacturer comments about the direction the category is taking and what advances we can expect to see emerging over the next year. As an adjunct to each category, we present a range of new products that demonstrate these cutting-edge advances.

And in many categories we include comments from contractors and installers working in the field. These give a view on what REALLY works and what doesn’t by those putting them to the test on the job – and occasionally ideas for improvement.

In addition to our category content, we have a cover feature by TEC about the expansion of The Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, Ind., and a collection of stories that support the advance of technology and standards in our industry. Kevin Fox, Methods and Standards Committee chairman discusses the development of some new submissions and additions to the 2017 TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. Crossville’s Noah Chitty updates us on the latest in the quest for product and installation standards for gauged porcelain tile, the tile formerly known as large thin porcelain tile. NTCA president Bart Bettiga uses his Publisher Letter to report on the first-ever Installation Summit, held in Dallas at the beginning of August, which brought together 70 representatives from all flooring installation sectors (25 from tile and stone alone!) to put their heads together about what is being called an “installation crisis” – particularly quality work and lack of experienced installers.

Something that’s new for this year is the Regional Sales Snapshot, where several major suppliers share information about what is selling in their region, in terms of setting materials, tools and tile and stone products.

We’re grateful to everyone who shared their wisdom and perspectives in this issue. We hope it’s a useful reference document for the entire year to come, and brings technological magic within reach for your upcoming projects. Think of something you’d like to see in the 2017 edition? Send your ideas to me at [email protected]

God bless,

Editor’s Letter – February 2016

Lesley psf head shot


“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”  – Albert Einstein

A couple of topics for this letter.

First, I want to post this photo, taken in December 2015 at association headquarters in Jackson, Miss., of the brand new, updated NTCA logo and most of the NTCA staff and distinguished guests. The porcelain logo was created for the association by Tom Ade and Filling Marble & Tile in Egg Harbor City, N.J. It just so happened that the installation of the logo coincided with a visit of most of the staff to headquarters for year-end meetings, planning , and a holiday dinner. Shown are (l. to r.): Sandy Bettiga, Bart Bettiga, Lesley Goddin, Mark Heinlein, Mary Shaw-Olson, Jim Olson, Becky Serbin, Scott Carothers, Michael Whistler, Jill Whistler, Tricia Moss and Michelle Chapman. Missing is Lisa Murphy, NTCA accountant, and Joe Tarver, NTCA executive director emeritus.

Second, I want to further the discussion, started in the December Editor Letter, about solutions to the labor shortage in the U.S.

Just this second week in January, we received a report from the Associated General Contractors of America that showed in December, construction firms added 45,000 workers, as construction unemployment continued its decline from 8.3% a year ago to the current 7.5%.

One of the telling aspects of the report, however, was this statement: “Association officials noted that most contractors remain concerned about shortages of available construction workers, noting that 70% of contractors report having a hard time finding workers. They urged federal, state and local officials to act on measures outlined in the association’s Workforce Development Plan to support new career and technical education programs. In particular, they called on Congress to enact needed reforms and increase funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”

SEVENTY percent. That’s huge. I don’t currently have a figure for the tile industry, but I suspect it would be in a similar ballpark. Which brings us back to the December letter.

We received a lot of feedback to this letter – phone calls to Bart in the office and emails to me – thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! Some respondents were very favorable to the idea of exploring the possibility of importing labor in the form of skilled, certified Mexican workers on a temporary basis to help alleviate some of the immediate labor shortages that are plaguing our industry; some also cited personal experience with excellent work of Mexican laborers they had worked alongside.

Others misunderstood the intent of the letter, fearing an influx of unskilled, undocumented workers, which was never part of the original discussion. But the point was made numerous times about the importance of developing U.S. resources, whether in trade schools, recruiting ex-military – goals NTCA is involved in at various levels, including our online apprentice program in development. And in fact, NTCA president James Woelfel added this comment:

“Young African-American males between the ages of 16-19 are unemployed at the rate of over 20% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young women are in the same range. Here in Arizona young Navajo males are at around 70% unemployment, these numbers are staggering.

“Have we as an industry done our best to reach out to these diverse groups? I don’t think so. Are we selling our own citizens short? We need to do better in outreach to the younger people in our country, no matter the ethnicity (Ed. note – And, I would add, the gender). We have plenty of opportunity in our industry to employ young Americans.”

Well said, and great points. And yet I can’t help thinking that while all the plans to develop U.S. resources are good ones that should definitely be pursued, this issue is that educating, training, enticing and convincing U.S. citizens to enter the field, obtain necessary training and certification and make tile setting their life’s work takes a long time. Certainly, a great goal to shoot for and to attract more U.S. workers into the field from trade school paths, ex-military, inner city populations.

Yet we have an immediate need  – a NOW need – for workers. SEVENTY percent of construction contractors report a shortage. Would a program to certify skilled Mexican workers to help alleviate this situation be able to be implemented more quickly? That is anyone’s guess. But it might make sense to initiate efforts on both fronts. Once any obstacles are overcome in getting these trained workers here legally, we would be working with a population that has the desire to work in this field vs. starting from square one when it comes to plans to recruit U.S. workers.

I invite continuing discussion on this topic, and let’s see what arises!


[email protected]

Developing Trends – TRENDS 2016

From inspiration to installation – tile design unwrapped

How the pros at Dal-Tile cull global trends to cultivate designs for the U.S. market

By Shelly Halbert, director of Product Design, Dal-Tile Corporation



Every great design starts with an inspiration. From art, to fashion, to engineering and interior design, an end product doesn’t simply appear, it comes with a story to tell.

Most people don’t think too much about what the surface underfoot or on the wall would say if it could talk, but the origins might surprise you, and become the center of conversation.

At Dal-Tile, our inspiration for new tile designs can come from cosmopolitan to couture to cutting boards, as we create new collections to adorn the floors and walls of commercial and residential spaces.

Roots in the motherland

We tend to start in the motherland of tile, Italy. Our Marazzi brand was born there, and we naturally gravitate back to our roots to learn the tricks of the trade. At least twice a year, our design team visits the city of Sassuolo, the tile design and manufacturing capital of the country.

We meet not only with the Marazzi Italy team, but also local design studios that source rare European materials. They reproduce the materials as graphics for tile manufacturers, providing textures and imagery not available on a global scale. When rollers were the sole form of printing, these design studios were essential to obtaining new designs, however, with the sophistication of digital printing technology, we can now produce our own images or customize those that are sourced, resulting in an even wider array of looks available.

The largest tile show in the world, Cersaie, takes place in Italy each fall, and we take the cutting edge trends from the show back to our design boards as inspiration. Traditionally, European style has set the stage for trends, and the rest of the world followed. However, we have recently seen more European manufacturers and designers flock to the Coverings show stateside, borrowing looks from the U.S.

Dal-Tile’s manufacturing facilities in China, Russia and Mexico also give us a feel for design trends in those regions, and serve as inspiration in our designs domestically.

There is a lot of inspiration that can be gleaned domestically as well. Associations, like the Color Marketing Group, set the tone for hues, and we participate both in creating the forecasts and following them through in our designs.

Back to the U.S.: local influences inspire design

Additionally, visiting model homes and showrooms across the country gives us a feel for trends in various regions. It is interesting to see varying tastes in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast. California is quick to adopt new trends, while the Midwest harbors late adopters. Larger format tiles and lighter colorways help beat the heat in more arid climates.

We find inspiration in the everyday as well. A beautiful cutting board inspired a member of our design team to create Daltile’s Acacia Wood collection, and we recently scanned metal plates from an antique store to get a patina look for a new print.

Getting technical – digitizing design

Once we find an inspirational material or image and scan it in to a digital file for printing, we still have a lot of work to do. The structure – or the material base the graphic is printed on – can be designed to have ridges, bumps and other textures, giving the design not only a visual, but tactile enhancement. Once printing is complete, the finishes and glazes can also add another element of detail to the design. A single graphic can look very different depending on the surface, and glaze you apply.

With the design layers finalized, we decide where the tile gets produced based on a variety of factors. One interesting element that determines location is the type of clay needed to create the tile. Dal-Tile’s manufacturing facilities in Alabama source clay locally, and the material there is very different from what you find underfoot in Texas. Size is also a factor. We’re excited to open a new manufacturing facility in Dickson, Tenn., this year, that in the future will produce tiles as large as 72 inches.

Then comes branding and selling the product. With four strong brands in the Dal-Tile family (Daltile, American Olean, Marazzi and Ragno), it is hard to play favorites. Luckily we don’t have to. Each brand has a unique personality. For example, if the design is bold and very trend forward, Marazzi is a natural choice, whereas a more sophisticated, monochromatic design works well for American Olean’s commercial applications.

A great example of this is our new brick-look collections for Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean. They each reflect the trend, while showing a unique variation of it. American Olean’s Bricktown is monochromatic, Daltile’s Brickwork is versatile and classic, and Marazzi’s Urban District BRX is a striking variation of urban industrial.

Inspiration is limitless and the tile industry has a lot of new trends coming down the pipeline.

We’re seeing larger, and larger format tiles being manufactured domestically, while at the same time smaller formats and unique shapes are taking hold. Popular rectangle and subway tile will see competition from classic squares, hexagons and abstract shapes. As with fashion, a lot of bygone era looks are coming to the forefront.

One thing is for certain; tile will always have a tale to tell.

Shelly Halbert is director of Product Design for the Dal-Tile Corporation, the largest North American manufacturer of ceramic tile and natural stone products. Halbert, who earned her degree in Interior Design from University of Louisiana, began her career in the tile industry when she started with Marazzi 19 years ago. Before becoming a product designer, she worked in sales and managed showroom room design for the Italian inspired company. As product designer, Halbert believes in rolling up her sleeves and being hands-on with the products she develops. From the shape to color, she loves being involved in every aspect of her products.

Color Trends – TRENDS 2016

Laura Greenwood with Scarlet Opus.

Laura Greenwood, with Scarlet Opus, a trend forecasting outfit in Beverley, UK ( walked me through the firm’s Top Ten Colors for 2016 during the TISE West show in Las Vegas in January. Visitors to the Trends Hub at TISE West could vote for their favorite color with pompom felt balls, handmade in Nepal for Masmosa Crafts and view the Living Magazine in the booth, which contained trend pages for floor coverings.

The Top Ten Colors for interiors are taken from Scarlet Opus’ Spring/Summer 2016 and Fall/Winter 2016/17 palettes, expected to make the biggest impact throughout the year. In her blog on the website, Greenwood noted that colors “range from bold, earth shades to dusty mid-toned hues, each swatch is designed to be worked into your own palette (not together) and are placed in no specific order.”

The Top Ten Colors for interiors are taken from Scarlet Opus’ Spring/Summer 2016 and Fall/Winter 2016/17 palettes.

Here is the palette from the firm’s blog, interspersed with observations during the walkthrough at TISE West. What’s your favorite color? The winner is revealed at the end of the story!

1. Nude – This is a design essential to balance the brighter tones in the trends palette. It lends classic qualities and creates an elegant counterpoint imbued with warmth. This soft and gentle tone makes us feel good.

2. Muted Pink–This tone reigns in soft minimalism, where there is a focus on well-being, comfort, and warmth. Matte, with a chalky finish, this relaxing pastel can be paired with warm metallics for a luxurious feel.

3. Deep Purple –Rich. Opulent. Sophisticated. Luxurious. These are just a few descriptors for Deep Purple hues. This intense shade allows a play of light and dark in residential settings, hotels and bars, with a strong connection to nature and luxury with dark floral wallpaper and tile designs, blurring the lines between modern and traditional fashions. The jeweled opulence of Deep Purple combines with warm brass metallic shades to inspire a dramatic, luxurious vibe.

4. True Red – Sporty, optimistic, youthful and daring, True Red mixes with geometrics and graphics as subtle hints and highlights or primary color blocking. It portrays an artisanal, handcrafted aesthetic where craftsmanship is valued and the beauty of ‘basic’ is admired.

5. Indigo Blue – Indigo make its presence felt throughout 2016, trending across both fashion and interiors. It is deep, mysterious yet stylish and sophisticated. Indigo is at its most striking and sumptuous alongside rich shades of wine, teal, warm metals, grays, dark wood tones and off white. This color longs for unconventional pairings to emphasis the unexpectedness of how it can be used within an interior, with a trend towards kitchen use and presence in ombres and tie-dyed effects.

6. Hot Pink–Joyful and vibrant, hot pink evokes cultural, ethnic and tribal influences and carefree combinations. Use it as a highlighter on feature walls, where there is a desire to be bold and daring.

7. Cobalt Blue – This color works in both contrasting and complementary ways; it can be paired with a True Red for a bold, contemporary union, or combined with a crisp white for a more radiant effect. When paired with the Indigo Blue and Mint Green it suggests a more tonal, pleasing mixture. This color can be used both as an accent and a mono solid, where its unique, fresh vibrancy makes this a popular choice for 2016.

8. Pale Lilac–From the Woodland Walk Trend, Pale Lilac offers a discreet, restrained unisex feel with a slight grey tone. Soft, pastel and matte, it offers a muted, softer take on industrial concrete looks. This pastel can be combined with moody tinted grays and muted corals and pinks with a chalky, powder-coated finish.

9. Green – This organic color emanates from Scarlet Opus’ Woodland Walk trend, with mossy, grounded hues that reflect consciousness of the environment. It’s paired with brown, neutral, and deep purples as luscious rainforest greens in the firm’s Belo Rio trend.

10. Mars Brown – These terracotta tones will land in commercial settings in the coming 2016-2017 fashion season, especially in upholstery and soft goods. This grounded color is taken from Scarlet Opus’ Astro Trend, which is inspired by the grittiness and raw textures of planetary surfaces. This baked-earth tone brings a sophisticated essence into interiors and can be used alongside deep reds, terracotta and space-aged metallics.

Other trending colors from Scarlet Opus to keep an eye out for:

Muted Coral – Earthy, sun-baked and low-key, Muted Coral evolves from the 2015 fashions staple Coral Shrimp as solid and accent color. Muted Coral is more diffused, restrained and low-key. It sits within a palette that suggests honesty and long-lived values – it is warm, sophisticated, all-encompassing. It works well with textured textiles and raw, oxidized focus, greens and mauve/purple tones.

Lunar Gray – An extended palette of muted grays play a leading role as an important hue for this year. Taken from a trend that places focus on privacy, time and experience this color works alongside refined neutrals to portray elegance and timeless fashions. Seen in a matte finish with tone-on-tone neutrals that are beautiful in their simplicity, this color remains important as the endurance of the new industrial style continues to strengthen.

Mint Green – This color adds a fresh, contemporary sharpness when used as an accent within a palette. It almost glows when paired against deeper shades. Not only does it portray a pop of optimism and express a desire to be more adventurous, but it also encourages unconventional pairings, inspiring a confident use of color. Ombrés, color washes and gradations are the dominant effects when using this tone.

The winning color?TISE West visitors selected Cobalt Blue (fourth column of pompoms from right) as the favorite hue, with a slight margin over Indigo Blue.

Coverings Industry Ambassador

Welcome to the show!

By Alena Capra, CKD, CBD

I’m so excited to be working with Coverings as its Industry Ambassador again this year. Last year’s show in Orlando was a great one, and I’m looking forward to Coverings 2016 in Chicago this April.

I love Chicago – it’s such an amazing city, with great design resources, and beautiful architecture. As a designer, visiting there is always such a huge source of inspiration for me, and I often get a chance to source many of my materials at the Merchandise Mart, one of my favorite design centers in the country. Prior to the show, I will be traveling to speak to groups of designers and architects in the Chicago area, about all of the upcoming tile trends they will see at Coverings in April.

This year’s show is extra special for me, since I am also going to be participating in the Installation & Design Showcase (IDS). Years ago, I was part of the very first IDS, and it’s exciting to get a chance to be part of it once again. It’s an added bonus to be paired with the same amazing team of installers – Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co. We’ll create a boutique store setting with Ceramics of Italy tiles and MAPEI materials! I can’t wait to see all of the participating designers’ and installers’ creations come to life at the show! Besides my vignette, other teams include: Susan El-Naggar from Healing Environments, partnering with Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co., to create a spa lobby with Crossville tile and MAPEI setting materials; FGM’s Raegan Porter partnering with Welch Tile & Marble on a bar/lounge project using StonePeak tile and H.B. Fuller setting materials; and Sharon Exley from Architecture is Fun, working along with Grazzini Brothers using Florim tile and LATICRETE setting materials to design and craft a hotel lobby setting. Read more from these IDS designers in the Q&A in this issue.

I also can’t wait to see all of the new tile introductions, which always get me thinking ahead about how I can incorporate them into many of my future design projects. There are so many great tile trends to look forward to seeing this year at Coverings, as well as numerous educational seminars to get your CEUs, and a host of networking opportunities; I am hoping to see you all there! You don’t want to miss it!

President’s Letter – TRENDS 2016

James Woelfel

New tile technology may resurrect old installation methods

Qualified installers are key to large thin porcelain tile and plank success

As many of you reading this know, it is clear that larger, linear tiles and thin porcelain tiles are here. Wood-looking plank tiles are everywhere and very popular. I have seen these plank tiles as large as 8” x 72” and they are beautiful and more realistic than ever. Thin porcelain panels are gaining steam; we are fielding at least one call per week asking about the installation of these panels.

More than ever, finding a quality, qualified contractor to install these tiles is paramount. Tile contractors need to stay up to date on the latest technologies when installing tiles this large. Knowing industry standards for substrates is the key for successful installation. The flatter the substrate the better, and knowing the latest technologies in leveling materials and mortars will help the tile installer with a successful installation.

Distributors need to direct their customers to good tile contractors. These tiles are, in my opinion, specialty installations. The issues with warpage in the plank tiles could lead to lippage issues and hollow tiles. We in the industry need to make sure these installations are successful so the market will continue to grow. I believe that distributors are key in educating their customers that the low price is not the best price.

Manufacturers of large thin porcelain tiles (LTPT) need to update their distributors and end users on the latest installation guidelines and the proper specifications of where these tiles can and cannot be used. LTPT is an exciting technology, and more square footage is being made and shipped at lower costs. These panels can be used in tile-over-tile applications that can update bathrooms, showers and other areas of homes, hotels and other residential and commercial settings.

This technology is also being used for thicker tile panels as well, meaning that slabs of 3/4” porcelain can and are being used for walls, floors and counter tops. Just think: these slabs of porcelain are stain and scratch resistant. This means that long-term maintenance costs can go down. It also means that “old” installation techniques like plastering walls and mud-set floors could be making a comeback; something old is new again.

It is a very exciting time for the ceramic tile industry with these and other new tile products. Designers have more products from which to choose. If manufacturers, distributors, designers and contractors work together, it means that installations can last longer, maintenance costs can go down and the customer wins in the end.

James Woelfel, President NTCA
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – TRENDS 2016

Welcome back to the TRENDS issue of TileLetter, your spring report on all things new in tile and stone.

This second annual edition of the latest and greatest our industry has to offer – including setting and ancillary materials – culls information from around the world, and around the block.

You’ll find a view into the new from Joe Lundgren of Joseph Lundgren Consulting, style directions from Italy, Spain, and a look into what Turkish producers are introducing into the U.S. marketplace. You’ll find a color forecast from Scarlet Opus (and a look into Pantone’s Color of the Year) and a take on stone stylings from Josh Levinson and Jill Cohen of Artistic Tile. Dal-Tile Corporation’s Shelly Halbert gives us a peek into what it takes to develop on-trend products for the U.S. marketplace. And the A&D professionals who are participating in the Coverings Installation Design Showcase this year – including Coverings Industry Ambassador Alena Capra – weigh in on design directions, and how tile and stone are being used to support fresh new fashions for interiors and exteriors.

Accompanying these stories are new product sections for tile, stone and setting materials, to give you a leg up on what you’ll see this spring and at Coverings.

NTCA continues strong in its efforts to support and foster collaboration among the A&D, manufacturing, distributing and installation sectors for appropriately specified, properly installed installations that not only look stunning, but perform flawlessly. While you’re at Coverings, find NTCA at 8436, as well as with a presence in the North American Pavilion near TCNA at information central, booth 7325. Visit the Installation Design Showcase in booth 6245, sponsored this year by The Home Depot, to watch the four vignettes come to life in real time over the course of the show through the efforts of the A&D professionals, NTCA Five Star Contractors and material sponsors. For the backstory, come to the Installation Design Showcase Deconstructed Session followed by the Final Reveal and Reception on Wednesday, April 20 from 3:30 – 5:30 PM.

While you’re at the show, be sure to attend the Coverings Installation Design (CID) Awards and Opening Night Celebration, which honors outstanding projects and allows you to meet the winners in an interactive showcase of the winning projects. The “Taste of Chicago” themed reception takes place Monday, April 18 at 5:30 p.m.

Of course the show itself will unveil even more than we can fit in the pages of this book. Be one of our roving reporters and let us know what you see at the show that knocked your socks off. Email me at [email protected], and your comments may appear in an upcoming issue of TileLetter.

Here’s to the timeless and the trendy in tile and stone!


[email protected]

TRENDS 2016 Feature – LATICRETE International, Inc.

LATICRETE systems support expansive natural stone tile Mall of San Juan project


With Nordstrom® and Saks Fifth Avenue® serving as its retail anchors, the Mall of San Juan is the first upscale mall in Puerto Rico.

This two-level, enclosed mall features a 179,000 sq. ft. (16,630 m2) natural stone floor spanning the property’s common areas. The floor uses several different types of stone in varying colors to create a sweeping wave pattern.

LATICRETE was deeply involved in the project and helped its owner, the Taubman Company, and its architects, Hobbs + Black, design and construct a state-of-the-art facility.



The Mall of San Juan project faced three major challenges:

3-trends-featureLocation and scale — As with any island, Puerto Rico is limited in its ability to produce large quantities of materials. This is an especially difficult hurdle for such a large project. The Taubman Company needed a supplier that could deliver the right materials on time.

Exacting design specifications — The project required the highest level of quality and care. For example, to reduce the chance of cracking the Mall of San Juan’s design team insisted that all stone be installed upon a 2” (50 mm) wire-reinforced mortar bed rather than directly over concrete. The Taubman Company needed a partner that could assist with the design and testing of their approach.

“Concrete always cracks and Taubman needed a true high-performance solution to protect from cracks coming through the tile,” said Wayne Hoerning, LATICRETE International Regional manager for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. “Mall floors must be exceptionally flat, and on a floor this size, it would be complicated and needlessly expensive to line up all the mortar joints with the concrete expansion joints,” he said.

4-trends-featureVarying tile orientation and type – The project called for differing types of stone in varying colors to be used on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. The Taubman Company benefited from a team that could supply expert testing, technical services and creative problem solving.

Fortunately, LATICRETE and the tile contractor GemStar Group were on hand to supply the best products in a timely manner, serve as true project partners and provide expert counsel when needed.


A LATICRETE solution

LATICRETE provided critical support to the architects and contractors well before any materials arrived onsite, determining the proper bed and adhesive required for each of the multiple different stone types. LATICRETE arranged for testing conducted by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) prior to specifying the materials.

Once construction began, LATICRETE facilities were able to quickly deliver materials from its production facilities. This was especially important when 53 ocean shipping containers were required for the delivery of the mortar alone.

6-trends-featureInitial application specifications called for LATICRETE® 4XLT polymer-fortified adhesive mortar, as it’s designed for large-module tile and stone. 4-XLT can be built up thicker than traditional thin-set mortars and provided a good solution for the heavy-and-large module tile and stone finishes. TCNA’s extensive testing provided assurance the 4-XLT would provide the proper adhesion.

4-XLT is a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar. 4-XLT offers tremendous utility including non-sag wall installations, large and heavy tile mortar build up of up to 3/4” (19 mm) and thin-set applications of floors.

A full thick-bed installation system consisting of multiple LATICRETE materials was utilized on the project, starting with 3701 Fortified Mortar Bed.

3701 Fortified Mortar Bed is a polymer-fortified blend of carefully selected polymers, portland cement and graded aggregates. 3701 Fortified Mortar Bed does not require the use of latex admix; one only needs to add water to produce thick bed mortar with exceptional strength.

Since mall projects typically have aggressive timetables, the project specs called for rapid-setting and easy-to-use PERMACOLOR® Grout and LATASIL™ sealant.

PERMACOLOR is an ANSI A118.7-compliant rapid-setting, high-performance, color-consistent cement grout that provides a grout joint that is dense and hard.

LATASIL sealant is a high-performance, one-component, neutral-cure, 100% silicone sealant designed for ceramic tile and stone applications. Applicable wherever stone must abut another type of surface, LATASIL provides a flexible sealant joint that matches the color of PERMACOLOR Grout.

As the job unfolded, tile contractor GemStar noticed the stone on the walls called for mechanical anchors which, affected the space’s uniform appearance. GemStar recommended the Mall of San Juan instead use LATAPOXY 310 Stone Adhesive to adhere the large stone panels on all the interior walls.

“We know that one key to saving time and money is fast installation times,” said Dano Rossi, project engineer with GemStar Canada, Inc. “So we proposed using a non-mechanical method – LATAPOXY® 310 – to adhere large stone panels on all the interior walls. The Mall of San Juan’s owners agreed to this approach and the outcome speaks for itself,” Rossi said.

LATAPOXY 310 Stone Adhesive is a two-component, high-strength epoxy adhesive, formulated for spot- bonding of tile and stone installations on vertical surfaces. It maintains its non-sag consistency at high temperatures up to 95°F (35°C) and offers a fast, permanent bond with a rapid 45-minute to one-hour set time.



LATICRETE, GemStar and the Taubman Company are all happy with the project’s outcome.

In fact, the Mall of San Juan project is being done in conjunction with several other Taubman malls in the continental U.S., all of them very challenging projects. LATICRETE products are being used extensively throughout. The Taubman Company and Hobbs + Black know that LATICRETE products perform well from previous experience, recently at five malls including Sarasota, Fla., and Springfield, Va. LATICRETE is proud to now be included in Taubman’s specifications, and to have earned sufficient trust to be called upon to help resolve demanding problems when they arise.

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