Underlayment products support today’s tile sizes

A sound tile installation begins with a firm foundation that is level, flat and treated for crack isolation and, if necessary, waterproofing. Detailed attention to the underlying needs of the installation sets the stage for not only a desirable finished product, but one that will perform for years into the future. With the growth of large, thin gauged porcelain panels, the proper support for the tile system is a must.

Manufacturers have placed a huge amount of effort and money into developing state-of-the-art membrane prep solutions to fit most situations and ways in which contractors like to work, including membranes, lightweight foam-core units, roller-applied and uncoupling membranes.

Dennis Bordin

As Dennis Bordin, CEO, Progress Profiles noted, products nowadays provide several and different functionalities. For example, the company’s systems “can be at the same time waterproofing, uncoupling and neutralizing vapor pressure, supporting load distribution, crack isolation, drainage, drying etc., besides being designed to allow higher adhesion to the support and anchoring of the floor, and to optimize their performances.”

Arthur Mintie

“New technological advancements continue to make it harder to find membrane products that serve a single purpose,” said Arthur Mintie, Senior Technical Advisor for LATICRETE. “New products focus on including a variety of benefits to suit the overall project, for example, underlayments that can be topped with flooring materials or have the ability to be polished and used as the final flooring product.”

“Choosing the right membrane or underlayment can protect from water intrusion, damage and cracking, as well as provide sound reduction properties,” he explained. “These products can also help to present a better overall surface to adhere the finished flooring, so while they may not be the first product thought of on the jobsite, they continue to be vital to the success of installations and a focal point for manufacturers to invest in perfecting.”

Kate Shaddelee

A common need among contractors, builders, tile setters and even designers is finding a product that can save time, money and still provide 100% waterproof solutions for wet areas, noted Kate Schaddelee, Marketing Coordinator, wedi Corp. “At wedi, we provide an easy-to-use premium product that can be tiled upon same day, extensive warranty programs, along with on-site training and support.” The company is addressing customer needs with new vapor-stopping building panels and sealants, and a kit that allows a wedi shower base to be recessed into wood floor construction without cutting into floor joists.


1 ARDEX Americas

The company’s ARDEX S 1-K™ is specifically designed for use in bathrooms, showers and other wet areas prior to the installation of tile. Recommended for use over a wide range of substrates and finishes, the product’s workable consistency can be applied with a paint roller or brush, while minimizing drips and splatters. Flood testing for the waterproofing and crack isolation membrane can begin after just 12 hours. ARDEX S 1-K is also ideal for isolating minor, in-plane substrate cracking up to 1/8” (3 mm) and is available in two sizes: large 3.5 and small 0.7 gallons. ARDEX S 1-K exceeds ANSI A 118.10, ANSI A 118.12, and is IAPMO certified. ardexamericas.com

2 Bostik

Bostik’s SL-Rapid™ self-leveling underlayment is a rapid-setting, cement-based, self-leveling underlayment designed to create a smooth, flat and level surface prior to the installation of floor coverings. Its rapid-setting properties, low shrinkage and leveling properties make it an effective product for time-sensitive and demanding applications on, above, or below grade. Install thickness from 1/8” to 1”. Tile can be installed as soon as one hour after it becomes walkable; moisture-sensitive floor coverings can generally be installed four hours after it’s walkable. bostik.com

3 Custom Building Products

The company’s Crack Buster® Pro Crack Prevention Mat Underlayment is a self-bonding, fabric-reinforced asphaltic mat that is designed to provide protection in extra heavy-duty service conditions. Crack Buster Pro meets ANSI A118.12 for high performance and isolates in-plane substrate movement up to 3/8-inch. The mat is appropriate for TCNA Detail F125 full and partial treatments to address existing shrinkage cracks and help prevent crack transmission though the tile and grout. Crack Buster Pro also delivers an impact sound reduction value of 18 dB in multi-story construction. It is formulated to be easy to install and tile can be bonded immediately to expedite fast track projects. custombuildingproducts.com


Vapor Ban™ Primer ER eliminates the need for broadcasting sand into a moisture barrier or applying a primer after a moisture barrier has cured, saving installers time and money. Vapor Ban Primer ER is an ASTM F-3010-compliant, epoxy-based all-in-one moisture vapor barrier and primer, and is ready for self-leveling underlayment placement in as little as three hours. This product can be used for the installation of vinyl, rubber, VCT, carpet, wood, ceramic tile, stone and other moisture sensitive floor coverings and floor adhesives. laticrete.com


Mapesonic™ RM is a high-performance acoustic underlayment designed to reduce the passage of ambient and impact sound transmissions for ceramic tile and stone installations. Composed of dense post-consumer rubber, the product reduces sound transmission and provides crack isolation. It is recommended for multi-floor arrangements like apartments, condominiums, college dormitories, classrooms and office buildings. Mapesonic RM carries a lifetime warranty when it is used in combination with MAPEI’s tile and stone installation products. mapei.com

6 Noble Company

NobleDeck is one of the only sheet membranes approved for primary waterproofing in exterior applications over occupied spaces. NobleDeck exterior-rated sheet membrane is engineered for outdoor use providing waterproofing and high-performance crack isolation for thin-bed tile installations. Tile can be bonded directly to the NobleDeck substrate or can be used under a pedestal system. noblecompany.com

7 Progress Profiles

Prodeso® Sound Membrane is an uncoupling and soundproofing membrane, with a thickness of 2,3mm, which, used with Prodeso Sound Tape and Proecofon, guarantees a reduction of impact noise up to 17dB. The high-density polyethylene membrane is topped with a polypropylene spun-bond cover and backed with a non-woven polypropylene fabric, both thermo-welded to the polyethylene sheet to guarantee the adhesion of the membrane with the adhesive. The product allows installation and soundproofing in any indoor environment, even with problematic supports and old tiles. progressprofiles.com


The USG Durock™ Brand Liquid Waterproofing and Crack Isolation Membrane is a liquid-applied waterproofing and crack isolation membrane and vapor retarder for use in residential and commercial tile and stone applications to waterproof floors and walls in showers and other wet areas, including continuous-use steam rooms. It provides anti-fracture protection up to 1/8” (3 mm) over shrinkage and other non-structural cracks, features a perm rating of 0.38 perms at 20 mil dry thickness (per ASTM E96, Procedure E) and is fast drying. usg.com


Just released in 2019 is Vapor 85, a variant of the wedi® Building Panel and designed for installations in steam showers and steam rooms. It serves as a strong vapor retarder and exceeds the minimum requirements set by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) for vapor retarders used in continuous steam rooms. It also offers all the benefits of the traditional wedi® Building Panel: light and strong, it comes with a fully vaporproof seam and fastener sealant system. wedicorp.com


Membrane overview

Tim P. McDonald

Tim P. McDonald, former CEO of Mer-Kote Products, Inc./Mer-Krete Systems, took a long look back at the evolution of thin-bed waterproofing over the years, from where it all began to where it is now.

Since the inception of “thin bed waterproofing,” (liquid membranes designed specifically for tile/stone application), early in the 1970s, the category has grown significantly. Early latex membranes were compounds – two-part systems – composed of powders and latex additives such as LATICRETE 301/335 or Mer-Krete 300. These were great membranes, rapid-curing, and 100% water tight; however, they had little to no elongation. Single-component liquid membranes followed, allowing for easier application. No mixing or measuring, they were easy to use in roll-on applications with fabric reinforcement.

Sheet-applied membranes direct from the factory with gauged thicknesses such as Compotite or Nobleseal were the favorites of plumbing officials, since their application was more familiar to the building inspectors who were used to seeing the age-old “hot mop” systems, or the dinosaur days of lead pans. These early sheet membranes were also not designed to have tile set directly to them.
This author can attest – as I’m sure others of this time can – changing the mindset of both the tile installer and building code officials was a monumental task. Tile contractors had yet to see the advantages (and the profit) in installing their own systems. Building officials were slow to grasp the new concept and its importance. So where are we now, and where are we going? 

Advancements in chemical technology have allowed for excellent upgrades to formulations over the last four decades. Elongation, rapid curing and increased adhesion are a few of the changes. We even see new chemical compound changes such as urethanes entering the market. Application methods, however, remain mostly unchanged even though we see less and less fabric as part of the overall installation methodology. The future seems status quo for now until new components and chemistry advance. The need for faster-drying membranes and quicker application is something the applicators would welcome overall. As we see building methods change and we move deeper into the 21st century as the saying goes, necessity will always be the mother of invention.
More to come!

Developments in heating cable, uncoupling membranes continue to advance industry

Floor warming systems have become extremely advanced in recent years. Thinner cables, wires and related elements, some paired to work with uncoupling membranes, all translate into faster installations for contractors and higher performance for customers.

The category’s most recent developments feature thermostats and controls that can be operated remotely from tablets, smart phones and computers – systems that learn the customer’s heating habits to activate the floors so a cozy atmosphere greets customers as they walk through the door. These smart controls maximize energy efficiency, as well, providing heat only as needed.

Arthur Mintie

Electric radiant floor heating is a high-end design feature that is growing in popularity in both new homes and those renovations that focus on clean, comfortable living. These systems come with many benefits such as consistent, energy-efficient warmth, noted Arthur Mintie, Senior Technical Services Advisor for LATICRETE. “Through a series of wires, electric radiant floor heating systems produce heat through thermal radiation, which is absorbed by surrounding objects that in turn help warm the entire room.

“With the electric radiant floor heating systems that are produced today, customers can significantly lower their home or business’ kilowatt usage and reduce energy costs,” he explained. “These product developments are increasingly important as the world continues to seek products that focus on their ability to contribute to green, sustainable living, and the industry continues to produce them with innovations in speed and accessibility.”

Several manufacturers have now incorporated thermal breaks into their products, which will reflect warmth from the heating elements back up into the room, and prevent cold concrete slabs from sucking the warmth and energy efficiency, back into the slab.

Julia Billen

One trend that has continued to develop in the tile radiant heating industry is the growth in popularity for installing floor-heating cable with an uncoupling membrane, noted Julia Billen, Owner and President, WarmlyYours Radiant Heating. “This combination has shown strong, sustainable sales growth for several years among both homeowners and trade professionals because it greatly decreases installation time (versus traditional embed-and-wait install methods). In fact, many installations for bathrooms – the most common room for floor heating – can be completed in a single day. 

“Another attractive quality is that these membranes provide long-lasting uncoupling and crack-isolation benefits, which can greatly extend the life of relatively fragile flooring materials like tile,” she explained. “Uncoupling membranes also allow for some variety in the space between runs of the heating cable. With more space between cables, you can decrease the wattage per square foot, lowering both operating costs and product costs, which can prove attractive to homeowners.”

Floor Warming

1 ARDEX Americas

The company’s single-source, in-floor radiant heat system, Flexbone® Heat, combines German engineering with design. The company claims it delivers customizable heat faster and more efficiently than any other electric in-floor heating system available. Flexbone Heat is a complete system that includes a 3-in-1 membrane for heating, uncoupling and waterproofing, cables, and three thermostat options. It is recommended for all types of tile, stone and other manufacturer-approved floor coverings, and comes with a 10-year complete system warranty. ardexamericas.com


Strata_Heat™ electric radiant floor heating system consists of a heat-conductive thinset additive which utilizes Thermal Diffusion Technology™ to uniformly distribute heat through the adhesive to eliminate cold spots and quickly achieve the desired floor temperature. The system also includes a high-performance floor heating wire, an uncoupling mat and a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat. Strata Heat system transfers heat quickly in order to reduce energy costs and provide customers with a totally customizable floor heating product. laticrete.com

3 Progress Profiles

The company’s Prodeso Heat Grip System is an electrical heating system for floors and coverings, designed to be a cost-effective, time- and energy-saving solution. The uncoupling and waterproofing Prodeso Heat Grip Membrane, with an 8,5 mm thickness, is adaptable to any floor or existing surface. Shaped reliefs hold the Prodeso Heat Grip Cable where desired. It works with the new Prodeso Heat Grip Thermostat, allowing a user to remotely control all settings for heat and schedule via Android or Apple apps. The Prodeso Heat Grip System is internationally patented. progressprofiles.com

4 WarmlyYours

The WarmlyYours TempZone Floor Heating Cable provides 3.7-watts of heat output per linear foot and between nine and 15-watts per square foot (depending on spacing between the runs of cable). This cable can be installed economically with fixing strips or quickly and easily with the Prodeso uncoupling membrane. The cable is designed to be embedded in thinset or self-leveling cement beneath some of the most commonly heated flooring types like tile, marble, and stone. warmlyyours.com

5 Schluter Systems

Schluter-DITRA-HEAT-TB electric floor warming system, engineered with an integrated thermal break, and is ideal for tiled floors over concrete. The thermal break directs heat up into the tile rather than down into the subfloor, resulting in tiled floors that warm up to 70% faster over concrete substrates, providing energy savings and comfort even with tiled floors that are traditionally cold when installed over concrete. DITRA-HEAT-TB ensures a thin, quick, and simple assembly by providing heating, uncoupling, and a thermal break in one single layer as well as waterproofing, vapor management, and load support to ensure a long-lasting tile installation. schluter.com

Tariffs, CVD and ADD subsidy rates impact Chinese tile imports

One of the realities of life in the U.S. right now is the imposition of tariffs on goods that are being imported from China. This politico-economic move on the part of the current administration has the declared intent of leveling the playing field when trading with China. At this writing in September, tariffs on Chinese ceramic tile (and other goods in a range of sectors) are set at 25%, and are expected to rise to 30% in October.

Tariffs on Chinese ceramic tile (and other goods in a range of sectors) are set at 25%, and are expected to rise to 30% in October

Along with these tariffs, which are basically a tax U.S. companies and consumers pay on goods purchased from China, on September 9, the U.S. Commerce Department (Commerce) found that imports of ceramic tile from the People’s Republic of China are being unfairly subsidized. Commerce assigned preliminary subsidy rates of 103.77% to Foshan Sanfi Imp & Exp Co., Ltd., 222.24% to Temgoo International Trading Limited, and 103.77% for all other Chinese tile producers and exporters. 

In early November, Commerce will issue its preliminary decision on the anti-dumping (ADD)/anti-subsidy investigation, which was opened in May after it received a petition from a coalition of eight U.S. tile producers who claimed injury. The members of Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile consists of American Wonder Porcelain (Lebanon, Tenn.), Crossville, Inc. (Crossville, Tenn.), Dal-Tile Corporation (Dallas, Texas), Del Conca USA, Inc. (Loudon, Tenn.), Florida Tile, Inc. (Lexington, Ky.), Florim USA (Clarksville, Tenn.), Landmark Ceramics (Mount Pleasant, Tenn.), and StonePeak Ceramics (Chicago, Ill.). Commerce will make a preliminary decision around November 6, 2019, with a final determination coming on or about January 22, 2020. If this is affirmative, and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) also determines that imports of ceramic tile from China materially injures, or threatens material injury to, the domestic industry, Commerce will issue a countervailing duty (CVD) order. If either Commerce’s or the ITC’s final determination is negative, no CVD order will be issued. The ITC is scheduled to make its final injury determination approximately 45 days after Commerce issues its final determination, if affirmative. 

What does this mean for the tile industry? In a word, upheaval. China has been a growing source of supply to the tile industry in the U.S. and many distributors are heavily invested in Chinese factories as sources of supply. Commerce revealed the volume of ceramic tile from China increased from 583.4 million sq. ft. in 2016 to 657.2 million sq. ft. in 2017 and 692.1 million sq. ft. in 2018, for a total increase of 18.6%. Subsequently, the market share for Chinese imports in the U.S. grew from 20.4% in 2016 to 21.8% in 2017 and 22.5% in 2018. The ITC reported in June that, “For purposes of these preliminary determinations, we find that the volume of subject imports, and their increase, were significant in both absolute terms and relative to consumption in the United States during the POI (period of investigation).”

Steve Vogel

With tariffs against China and the ADD/CVD penalties, it’s time for a course correction with many distributors. We talked with a few companies to get a feel for how they are approaching this situation and what it will mean for supply and pricing. 

Distributors who contributed to this story – Floor & Decor, Arley Wholesale, Conestoga Tile and Virginia Tile – had a varying ratio of product sourced from China, from only 1% at Conestoga Tile to 5%-10% at Virginia Tile, to 30% at Arley and 50% of all merchandise at Floor & Decor. So, the tariffs, the CVD and ADD decisions didn’t have much impact on Conestoga, but Steve Vogel, Conestoga Tile Executive Vice President, Hanover, Pa., said that it has caused one of its vendors – Bellavita Tile – to shutter its business. Going forward, Vogel said Conestoga will neither be sourcing or promoting Chinese tile.

Randy Hays, Account Manager, Commercial Business Team with Virginia Tile, headquartered in Livonia, Mich., also has suppliers who were affected by the current situation, but no direct business relationships with Chinese factories. “We have not adjusted our current selling strategy, though we have made decisions to discontinue a few lines that we know are sourced from China,” Hays said. “This has really been a combination of sales history and also price increases due to the tariffs increases.”

At Arley Wholesale, Inc., Scranton, Pa., Scott Levy, President, explained that, “Our suppliers have been shifting production from China to other countries. On the porcelain side it is much easier to shift production than in the past due to digital printing technology. We are finding it more difficult to shift production with our mosaics.”


Tom Taylor

Floor & Décor Holdings, Smyrna, Ga., in its Q2 2019 Earnings Call, discussed the situation with China, which Tom Taylor, Floor & Decor CEO, said has been the source for about 50% of its merchandise. He credited Floor & Decor’s flexible global supply chain of over 20 countries with the ability to begin a shift in 2018 to diversify its countries of origin, which he expects will result in a drop from 50% of materials sourced from China to 30% by the end of 2019. 

Passing on price increases

Trevor Lang, Floor & Decor Executive Vice President and CFO, said that with the 25% tariffs now in effect, prices have been modestly increased at retail for those items that have not been sourced from other countries. He said, “The implementation of higher tariffs will modestly lower our gross margin expectations as we intend to only pass along the incremental cost we incur versus making a margin on the new tariffs.”

At Virginia Tile, Hays said, “As suppliers raise our pricing, we have passed these increases on to customers (both tariff increases). At times we will wait and see what the competition is doing, before moving forward with the increases.”

Levy admitted that at Arley, prices rose “at different levels” each time there was a tariff imposed. “We absorbed what we could but ultimately, had to pass on the tariff cost to our customers, who ultimately had to pass them on to consumers.”

Seeking other sources

Going forward, like Floor & Decor, other distributors are looking to find alternative sources for imported ceramic tile. The need to switch to other countries is even more intense as duties of up to 222% due to CVD and ADD decisions loom over the industry. 

Hays said conversations he’s had with suppliers who do source from China indicate a shift away from that country, “especially since the countervailing and anti-dumping penalties have been announced.” With Cersaie coming up (at this writing), Hays said Virginia Tile will be on the hunt there for alternate supply of decorative wall tile and backsplash material. Italy will continue to be a strong supplier of floor tile to Virginia Tile. 

Arley’s Levy said, “Our manufacturers made the ultimate decision as the anti-dumping and countervailing legal proceedings made it necessary for them to move production.” He’s confident that other countries can meet the demands of Arley’s customers, as the distributor has enjoyed established relationships with Italy, Spain, Israel, Brazil – as well as China, and the USA – for decades. “We have and are always looking at all parts of the world for product. We import from countries that have a strong infrastructure in tile. We need to make sure that we can buy enough from a factory or group of factories to easily move containers and keep our inventory current and turning for our customers. There is no one ‘perfect’ source for product for our company. It doesn’t matter where it comes from as long as it is a quality product that has ‘the look’ that people want.”

The swing away from Chinese products will intensify due to the proposed anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

Looking to the future

Going forward into 2020, the swing away from Chinese products will intensify due to the proposed anti-dumping and countervailing duties expected from Commerce and the ITC. Floor & Decor’s Taylor said, “We see and have planned for a significant reduction in ceramic tiles that are sourced from China by the end of 2019 from our accelerated actions to diversify our countries of origin. Tile, wall tile and tile deco are all subject to proposed new duties, and accounted for about 34% of our sales this year, of which approximately 39% was sourced from China. We believe we can lower our China-sourced tile exposure to the low single-digit range as a percentage of total sales by the end of 2019 due to the early actions we have taken in moving sourcing to other countries.”

The tariffs were one thing, but CVD and ADD decisions make importing tile from China a whole new ball game. “The tariff has affected us and our customers as the price points for everyday items that they purchased jumped by 25% and then will go up another 5% in October,” Arley’s Levy said. “The real strategy change is from the anti-dumping and countervailing. The countervailing has gone through and U.S. Customs will be taking cash deposits of a minimum of 103.77% from all importers of any Chinese goods that come into the country. We are working hand in hand with our suppliers to minimize the disruption to our customers as we evaluate the situation. We will not be importing any new items from China.”

For Hays at Virginia Tile, the concern is with wall tile and backsplash products. “The good majority of budget-oriented decorative products are from suppliers who source this material from China,” he said. “We still have to determine if our customers will pay the potential dollar increases on these products.” Hays wondered if this situation will limit the offering of these types of decorative items. “Products like this are rarely produced in the U.S., so we will see if we can source these products from other countries.” 

Levy said, “I do not expect Chinese tile to be a major force in the USA moving forward. Manufacturers and distributors have moved production to other countries, and we do not see it coming back. There will be some production that stays in China that comes to the USA for now (primarily glass mosaics), but that will eventually move as well. The lower cost of production in other countries (if you take the tariff, anti-dumping and countervailing into account) will lead manufacturing to open new facilities in a place that will not have the restrictions.”

But Conestoga’s Vogel thought this is not likely the end of the story. “As I am told, large Chinese tile producers are setting up in other countries and the buyers are following them,” he said. “We’ll see where this goes. It’s conceivable to believe that the same problems that existed with Chinese tile will be launched from some other country. But, now that there is a precedent developed and momentum moving for the Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile, they can take this fight to wherever they feel they need to. And they will.”

TECH 2019 – explore emerging trends in technology that meet the demands of today’s tiles, and the contractors that install them

Every fall, as the leaves start to change and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING starts to appear in all the stores, it’s also time for the TECH issue of TileLetter. It’s hard to believe we are in the fifth year for this annual issue, bringing you news of technological trends in setting materials, tools, accessories and related products. 

The backbone of this issue is our product sections that explore emerging trends in technology from industry experts and present products that meet the demands of today’s tiles, and the contractors that install them. Interspersed in these sections are perspectives from contractors who work in the trenches with these products every day – Ashley Andrews, Pavlo Starkov and Tom Cravillion. 

In addition, we offer several stories for your consideration. NTCA Technical Director Stephanie Samulski gives you a guided tour through what’s involved in developing a product or installation standard. Do you ever wonder how a standard gets proposed, debated, and adopted? Samulski gives you the lowdown on this process and suggests ways you can get involved to have your voice heard and influence the outcome. Then NTCA President Chris Walker adds his perspective on the rise of technology, as well as the standards process, in his President’s Letter. 

NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga issues a “Call to Arms” concerning the growth of plastic-based materials (PBM) such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT) in the hard surface market. He posits the fact that customers are often choosing these products due to misperceptions about performance and longevity they believe these products offer, but which manufacturers don’t stand behind. Take a look at this story and arm yourself with knowledge as this battle heats up in the marketplace.

Yours truly offers an article about the effect tariffs – mostly against China – are having on our industry from the perspective of some of our top distributors. With tile from China comprising increasing amounts of imports in recent years, how are distributors dealing with the monthly increase in tariffs and what is their strategy going into 2020? Read and find out!

Lou Iannoco

Once again, a big shout out to Contributing Editor Lou Iannoco, who gathered much of the trend and product information in the materials categories. It’s a monumental job to compile all this data into a coherent, cohesive format for your reading pleasure and edification, and we would be hard-pressed to do it without him. 

So, pull up a comfy chair, grab a pumpkin spice latte, curl up with this issue of TECH, and arm yourself with knowledge for the year ahead. 

God bless,
Lesley Goddin
[email protected]

TRENDS you’ll see in 2019

We’ve been publishing this TRENDS issue of Tileletter for half a decade now, with the intent of giving you a leg up on the new year in terms of trends, style, sales patterns and new products that you will see at Coverings this year in Orlando, Fla., April 9-12, and beyond.

This year we add a bit of a twist – this issue focuses solely on the aesthetics of surfaces and colors and how designers benefit from working with qualified labor in challenging tile installations (See our TECH issue in the fall for the latest and greatest in setting materials, accessories, equipment and sundries). Take a look at our A&D story to learn why Glenda Wright of HHCP – one of the vignette designers in Coverings’ Installation & Design Experience this year – chooses to work with skilled labor and how that benefits her clients and projects. And Chris Walker has some important perspectives about qualified labor in this issue’s President Letter.

We delve into the broad cultural and historic influences on style and color with product designers Shelly Halbert and Laura Grilli of Dal-Tile Corporation, and take a journey through the world of tile trends with Joe Lundgren, who travels the country – and the globe – to stay abreast of cutting-edge technologies and fresh new aesthetics when it comes to tile. Natural Stone Institute has provided us with an overview of stone designs, trends and uses for baths and kitchens. And we present the hottest new looks in tile from Italy, Spain and Turkey to bring an international flair to our offerings. 

Contributing editor Lou Iannoco has culled together data from suppliers and distributors to bring you a report of what looks are selling in different regions of the country. He’s also compiled a product listing of new tile and stone offerings, many of which will be on display at Coverings. 

Kicking the whole thing off is a welcome from industry Ambassador Alena Capra, who walks you through a few of the changes you’ll see in the Installation & Design Experience and highlighted features you won’t want to miss on the show floor. 

We hope this issue whets your appetite for seeing the real deal in person on the show floor come early April in Orlando. There’s nothing quite like strolling through miles of stunning tile and stone exhibits (wear your comfy shoes!) and partaking of the many educational opportunities the show offers. A few inspiring days at Coverings will fire up your creativity and expand your palette of color and design options for upcoming projects. Don’t miss it. Find out more at coverings.com.

God bless,
[email protected]

Trend insights, networking and education await you at Coverings in Orlando

I’m looking forward to another great show this year, as Coverings makes its return to sunny Orlando, Florida! With more than 1,100 exhibitors from over 40 countries, there are so many new products and trends to look forward to. Keep an eye out for gauged porcelain panels, colorful patchwork patterns, geometric and botanical prints, interesting new stone look-alikes on porcelain, large-format looks and much more. 

To make the most of your time at the show, plan must-see conference sessions, exhibits and products in advance. Details on each will be available at coverings.com, and registered attendees can use the online pre-event planner to create a schedule and favorite exhibitors. Download the Coverings mobile app as well, to navigate show information while onsite and coordinate networking opportunities through your user profile.

In particular – be sure to take advantage of the free education sessions and CEUs at Coverings. With ample topics including project case studies, economic forecasts, industry trends, labor shortages and solutions, installation demos and cross-segment collaboration, there are learning opportunities for attendees of all backgrounds. For those of you seeking tile trend insights – I’ll be leading a tour of global tile trends on the show floor and would love for you to join!

New for 2019, Coverings has expanded the Installation & Design Experience, which will offer first-hand exploration of tile implemented by trained and certified installers, with vignettes created by local designers. Stop by to check out the latest in installation techniques, gain design inspiration and explore interactive learning features. 

With industry leaders from across the globe at the show, Coverings is also one of the best networking destinations. Connect with long-standing colleagues and coordinate time to meet new contacts at the Coverings Connect lounge and floor happy hours. 

For anyone who hasn’t yet signed up, visit coverings.com/register for free registration and details on show travel partners. It’s never too early to start planning, and I can’t wait to see you all there!

– Alena

2019 home décor trends for tile and stone

A trend trio sets the stage for fashionable interiors

From the brilliant, creative minds of Dal-Tile product designers comes a trio of fashion trends that will affect interiors for the next year. Shelly Halbert, Director of Product Design for Marazzi and American Olean – together with Laura Grilli, Senior Product Designer for Daltile and Ragno – have identified a range of home décor trends that you’ll see reflected in tile and stone products in this issue, at the Coverings expo and in showrooms across the country.

The three trends are: Wabi-Sabi, the principle of being “perfectly imperfect;” Revitalizing the Past, in which the past inspires today’s new designs; and Biophilia Design, which is all about connecting with nature. We’ll explore these trends and view products that exemplify each one.



Wabi-Sabi design is the Japanese-inspired interior trend that celebrates imperfection. Halbert and Grilli predict that it will become one of the favorite styles in home décor, evoking optimism that accepts our imperfections and making the most of them.

The principles of this philosophy are simplicity, irregularity, beauty in understatement, naturalness without artificiality, subtle elegance, freedom and calmness, impermanence and incompleteness. It celebrates finding beauty in imperfection. Wabi-Sabi shows up in popular culture when movie stars reveal themselves in authentic ways without filters and makeup. We all want to be accepted for what we really are because being perfect is too stressful.

Translated to interior design, Wabi-Sabi manifests in asymmetrical layouts, surfaces with texture and brush strokes, lime-washed finishes, handmade products, as well as raw and natural materials.

Wabi-Sabi colors include Blush, which creates soft and cozy rooms that make interiors feel warmer and welcoming. The vibrancy of spring is evident in mid-tone greens with a hint of yellow that evoke a sense of a fresh start. 

Waterwood™ by American Olean (seen on page 12) reflects the Wabi-Sabi trend. Inspired by European Bricola wood that graces the waterways of Venice, Waterwood is not your everyday oak look. Natural imperfections are formed after years of water exposure and these details are what bring the character and charm to Waterwood. Graceful porcelain planks in 8” x 40” or a 1-1/2” hexagon mosaic are perfect complements to uncommon designs.

Revitalizing the Past

Revitalizing the Past

Revitalizing the Past

In this trend, everything old is new again. Revitalizing the past is about romanticizing bygone times and bringing them back with fresh new design interpretations. We are seeing it not only in design but in TV shows like Downton Abbey, Outlander, Mad Men, The Goldbergs, as well as in establishments like speakeasy bars, cocktails and fashion.

This trend draws on influences from the Victorian, Art Deco, Mid Century Modern, and Memphis eras. 

  • Victorian The romantic Victorian Era was characterized by drama, wealth and luxury. Victorian design is rich and bold with deep, saturated, moody colors and textures. Homes were decorated with lavish wallpaper patterns, like paisley, stripes or florals, and lush fabrics such as velvet. Wood in parquet and chevron patterns, encaustics and marbles graced floors. Victorians loved color and used it to create drama from room to room. Dramatic Victorian colors are saturated tones of black, purple, red, yellow, gray, emerald green and navy blue. On the softer side, Victorian hues include mauve, powder pink, violet, sage, French blue and teal. Following are influences at work within the Revitalizing the Past trend.
  • Art Deco – This era was a pastiche of many different styles, sometimes contradictory, united by the desire to be modern. This style was associated with luxury and incorporated mixed metals such as bronze, brushed steel and nickel, polished or inlaid hardwood with unusual graining or patterning, dynamic marbles, circular and geometric shapes such as triangles, hex and chevrons. Art Deco colors are daring and deeply saturated – lavish cream, taupe, blackest black, stark white, orange, yellow, green, blue and pink.
  • Mid-Century Modern – From the ornate Art Deco influence, we swing to the simplicity of Mid-Century Modern, with a focus on clean lines and function. Wood is the main material in both flooring and furniture, with organic design that focuses on seamless indoor/outdoor interplay. This trend breathes through a neutral palette of brown, gray and white with accents of color, such as Dijon mustard yellow, burnt orange, teal, navy blue, olive green and deep red. The renewed Mid-Century modern also features pastel colors including Millennial pink, peach, mint green, orange sorbet and pale yellow.
  • Memphis – Memphis was a reaction against the status quo of minimalism in the ’70s. The Memphis Group wanted to turn the design world upside down with bold, funky outrageous design. Memphis means bright multi-colored furniture in asymmetrical shapes, with bold Pop Art colors and pastels. Terrazzo and laminate were used in flooring and furniture. 
Revitalizing the Past

Revitalizing the Past

Revitalizing the Past features strong and deep colors you’ll see relating to these trends. The center bar – reading from left to right on page 14 – illustrates these tones:

  • Marmalade walks the tightrope between yellow and red, adding a fresh pop of color to any modern design.
  • Spiced Nectar’s reddish orange hue evokes passion and gives energy to any design.
  • Royal Rose – Bright and powerful, this pink is a way to add playfulness to your design.
  • Vintage Violet – A passionate violet that is gentle, caring and sweet.
  • Crushed Lilac – Powdery, warm and moody, this hue fits comfortably in both past and present.
  • Starry Night – Romantic and classic, this deep blue is making a strong comeback in the design world. 
  • Windsor Green – With a gray undertone, it’s a transitional hue between gray and green. 

Conversely, Revitalizing the Past features also contain airy and pastel hues. The center bar from page 16 – reading from left to right – exemplifies these tones:

  • Pale Reflection-A mature evolution from Millennial pink, this is the perfect tone to carry us over the next few years.
  • Misty Blue-Soft and sweet, this color reflects our childhood, bringing us back down to earth. 
  • Wisteria-A timeless progression from soft pink.
  • Veranda – This muted sage green is a fresh interpretation of green for 2019.
  • Iris speaks romance! It’s sophisticated and raw.
  • Sea Side-Vibrant and playful, this blue-green can be a sweet or a bold accent. 
  • Living Coral is Pantone’s Color of the Year. 

Historia™ by MarazziEpitomizing the Revitalizing the Past trend, Historia™ by Marazzi is a classic reinterpretation of aged stones that will forever be part of our past and future, a truly timeless design. The collection features four unique stone looks that transcend both traditional and modern designs. The deep, rich visuals range from timeless marbles to a classic limestone. Layered into the designs are the natural imperfections and time-worn marks that tell the history of every piece. 




We are architects, creators, engineers and builders, but we operate in relationship to the natural environment. Biophilia design is all about connecting with nature. With the modern world immersed in technology, people want an organic environment in which to live and work. Studies have shown that visual connections with nature positively impact attitude and overall happiness. 

Today, architects and designers are designing spaces that connect with nature and that are environmentally friendly. This includes sustainable architecture with large windows that allow a view of the outdoors, and outdoor spaces to work and unwind.

Tile looks such as wood and natural stones are great elements to complete these spaces, because they replicate nature and are environmentally friendly. In addition to the aesthetic, some tiles feature outdoor finishes for greater slip resistance.

This board shows the trademark colors for the Biophilia trend, from left to right:

  • Bark – Like the protective coating on a tree, this deep brown has green undertones. It can be used as the foundation of a room or can be the small detail on a neutral palette. 
  • Silk – In this fast-paced world there are days we wish we could just disappear in a cocoon. Silk is calming and warm and creates a space to escape.
  • Hunter Green is one of the colors of nature where we find peace and calm to relieve stress. Studies have shown it improves your reading ability.
  • Shine – Evoking the feeling of warm sun shining on your face, this saturated yellow will bring positivity, clarity and energy to any space. 
  • Discovery – Whether it’s deep in the ocean or out in space, we are intrigued with what we might discover. This energetic blue brings optimism and promotes further exploration to any space.
  • Lava – After its molten heat, Lava cools to a deep strong gray that grounds other colors of
  • Natural – Colored Wood in flooring and decor are trending. They are organic and fit right into Biophilia Design.
Museo™ by Daltile

Museo™ by Daltile

Museo by Daltile is a perfect fit to the Biophilia trend with calm, neutral-color palette. It’s a true masterpiece fit for sophistication and grandeur. This artistic collection features a natural concrete with terrazzo subtly mixed into each piece. In addition, it offers a decorative accent that combines concrete with a simple elegant oak wood. Available in large-format sizes with multiple mosaic details, Museo is meant to be showcased on a grand scale. 

What’s trending in natural stone design?

Note: an earlier version of this article originally appeared on www.usenaturalstone.org.

Whether you’re planning a complete remodel or a minor refresh, small details can go a long way in kitchen and bath projects. The varied options within natural stone can elevate any room.

The intense movement of more highly-veined materials are trending in natural stone today.

One way homeowners can add warmth and a sense of calm in their rooms is by bringing in organic materials such as natural stone. While natural stone has been used throughout the home for centuries, experts agree that homeowners today are mindful of how they use the materials and are showing off its true beauty. 

Natural stone’s millennia-long popularity has not flagged one bit, and Nancy Epstein, founder and CEO of Artistic Tile, is seeing movement towards more highly veined materials and colorful natural stone. That’s not to say it’s all about color all the time. “White and grey will likely remain popular for several more years, but more adventurous designers and homeowners are beginning to embrace striking natural stones whose intense movement and dramatic colors make a statement out of a surface,” she said. 

Kitchen trends

Ornate and colorful backsplashes, are making bold statements including backsplashes going up the entire wall behind stoves and above countertops. Photo courtesy of Artistic Tile.

Incorporating natural stone as a backsplash is one easy way to update and create a bold look in a kitchen. “The spaces that resonate with us and have impact are most often created from natural stone,” said Epstein. “Manufactured products…don’t offer the intrinsic warmth or authority of natural products.” 

When it comes to kitchen trends, Suzanne Shumaker, principal of Shumaker Design + Build Associates, LLC, points out the mixing of materials, including natural stones: two types of stone for countertops, or a kitchen island that is different from the perimeter countertops. 

Where kitchens have been dominated by white over the past several years, Epstein is delighted to see color finally making a comeback. “We’re seeing more ornate and colorful backsplashes, and in a continuing trend, those backsplashes are now going up the entire wall behind stoves and above countertops,” she said. “Where designers once created smaller decorative panels, now they’re using more decorative elements on the entire backsplash, and turning backsplashes into feature walls that envelop hoods, surround cabinets, and reach up to the ceiling.”

Less-polished stone finishes such as dark granites with leathered finishes are embraced in kitchens and disguise fingerprints and watermarks, said Suzanne Shumaker, principal of Shumaker Design + Build Associates. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Shumaker for Shumaker Design + Build Associates.

Epstein notes the use of waterfall slabs for countertops and islands, and a move toward the modern minimal look of slabs flowing from countertops up onto backsplashes, waterfalled at the countertop edge so they run from ceiling to floor, with vein-matching or book-matching across each component.

Shumaker is noticing homeowners choosing different kinds of textures to add interest in their kitchens. She observes that clients are choosing less high-polished materials in favor of leathered and suede finishes, which she calls casual and sophisticated, noting that these finishes also disguise fingerprints and watermarks. She’s seeing natural stone being used in unique ways that take advantage of its durability as a material. Her clients love quartzites with elegant veining, as well as dark granites in a leathered finish. 

Quartzites with elegant veining are contemporary favorites in natural stone. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Shumaker for Shumaker Design + Build Associates.

Natural stone is a great way to create a statement piece. “Choose a colorful slab as the centerpiece and decorate around it,” recommended Epstein. “Go for monotone or high-contrast themes. Other options include adding light under your cabinets to highlight your backsplash, and book-match or vein-match whenever you can.”

A kitchen needs a design element that creates a focal point, according to Shumaker. She and her team then carefully pair that focal point with other materials that won’t compete with the core piece. Neutralizing some elements – so there are layers of interest – is key.

“Updating your backsplash or countertop will make a huge difference in your kitchen’s aesthetic,” said Epstein, who updates her own backsplash once every 15-20 years. “If you choose timeless materials, you shouldn’t need to update it any more frequently than that. If you need a complete overhaul, dig in, and do it!”

Bathroom Trends

Choose a colorful slab and decorate around it, advised Artistic Tile’s Nancy Epstein. Photo courtesy of Artistic Tile.

Shumaker is noticing her clients are focusing on one special material in the space and pairing it with materials that complement its unique character. For a recent project, she and her client chose a unique marble that they cut in large pieces and installed in a herringbone pattern. It’s a classic design, but blown up in scale. 

Today’s homeowners are making a greater commitment to bold bathrooms that are making a statement and leaving behind the sparse and monolithic look of recent years. Whether it’s full-height wall tile installations, patterns on floors or walls, or selecting warmer and richer natural materials in general, bathrooms are not as cold as they’ve been in the past. The variety of natural stone options and applications are helping to shape this trend. 

Learn more about using natural stone in kitchen and bath design at www.usenaturalstone.org. 

Bargain Mansions host Tamara Day breathes new life into Kansas City-area mansions

Tamara Day, host of Bargain Mansions on DIY Network

Tamara Day, host of Bargain Mansions on DIY Network

Returning neglected estates to their former glory is not for the faint of heart. Protecting the charm of the old home, while adding modern conveniences expected by today’s homeowner, is a daunting task on its own. Add pressing timelines and the hectic production schedules of a hit DIY Network show, and you have a glimpse into the daily challenges facing Tamara Day, host of Bargain Mansions.

Growing up in the construction trade, Day first became involved in restoration work by helping her father, Ward Schrader, maintain and repair her family’s Kansas farm building structures. Now, as an experienced design and construction expert, Day travels around the Kansas City area dramatically revamping historic homes with the latest modern amenities, while preserving character and authentic features such as exposed brick walls and original staircases. Just like old times, Day’s father can be seen by her side, but this time as her mentor. 

Bathroom of the “Farm House.”In one of the first episodes of the show’s second season, Day enlisted the help of contractor Centric Homes to overhaul the laundry room, kitchen, master bathroom, basement and bunkhouse of the “Farm House.” The new designs feature various Daltile product offerings like mosaic tile and are installed using LATICRETE® materials. 

Bathroom of the “Farm House.”“After speaking with LATICRETE, it was a no-brainer to incorporate their products throughout the entire home. They have installation materials for just about every kind of installation, allowing me the freedom to focus on creating fabulous designs for each space and not worry about how I was going to execute them,” said Day.

The Challenges 

Production deadlines: When working on a production timeline, the importance of hitting deadlines is elevated, especially when following trades need installations to be completed before they can begin their portion of the restoration. It was important that the LATICRETE products chosen be able to be installed with ease in a timely fashion.

Products for multiple applications: Not only does renovating an old home take a team of installers, but it also takes a team of products that are up to the task. From installing large-format tiles in showers around the home to leveling the concrete substrate in the basement for a flat floor, LATICRETE had a product for every design application.

Design flexibility: The Kansas City area is no stranger to the cold. When planning the “Farm House” improvements, Day mapped out two key areas where heat was a must – the large basement and master bathroom. It was vital the LATICRETE electric radiant floor heating system offer design flexibility to accommodate the unique floor plans of each space.


In recent years, interior designers have increasingly incorporated large-and-heavy tiles into their projects, which has not only presented new design possibilities but has also created new requirements and challenges. To install Daltile tiles that were 12”x24” (50.8mmx609.6mm) and larger in areas like the master bathroom shower, 257 TITANIUM™, a lightweight thin-set mortar was selected. This product features an easy-to-spread, creamy consistency for ease of use and exceeds ANSI A118.15, the industry’s highest performance standard for a cementitious- based adhesive mortar, for a long-lasting worry-free installation. 

STRATA_HEAT™ electric radiant floor heating system“The large-format tiles, installed with 257 TITANIUM, trick your eye into thinking the bathrooms are actually much roomier than they actually are,” added Day. “The tile’s large size allows for far fewer grout lines, creating an easy-to-clean, uninterrupted finish.” 

Grout colors featured in areas like the shower walls in the master bathroom and basement and the walls behind the mirror in the bunkhouse bathroom include Light Pewter, Sterling Silver, Marble Beige, Bright White and Twilight Blue. PERMACOLOR® Select Grout – the industry’s first dispersible dry pigment grout solution – was used to achieve these looks. With PERMACOLOR Select, contractors gain increased productivity and time savings on the
jobsite, with a faster time-to-grout, and foot traffic permitted in as little as three hours. 

Radiant floor heating is a high-end design feature that is growing in popularity in both new homes and renovations that focus on clean, comfortable living. To prepare the basement floors for the installation of STRATA_HEAT™ electric radiant floor heating system and the following floor covering, NXT® Level, a cement-based underlayment for use in leveling interior substrates was chosen. Centric Homes used this product to produce a flat, smooth and hard surface. Once cured, NXT Level is durable, fire- and heat-resistant, non-combustible, non-sensitive to moisture and maintenance-free. 

Unlike most other systems, the STRATA_HEAT Wire used to heat the floors in the basement and master bathroom does not have a minimum on straight-run lengths and will not interfere with other electronics in the vicinity. For added design flexibility, this product is highly customizable with multiple spacing options for variability in heat output, making it easy to work in the uniquely shaped rooms. 

As the world becomes more focused on smart home technology, the tile and flooring industry has been tasked to develop products like the STRATA_HEAT electric radiant floor heating system that keeps up with and adapts to a new way of living. To control the system, the homeowners will use the STRATA_HEAT Wi-Fi Thermostat, a smart-focused thermostat that is compatible with home automation devices and can learn homeowner routines to reduce heat usage by up to 25%. 


“The pictures speak for themselves. The Farm House went from unruly to an absolute knockout! Thanks to the wide array of LATICRETE products, we were able to make the vision for this home possible,” said Day. “Being able to bring a home back to life is why I love what I do, and working with companies like LATICRETE makes it easy.” 

Full episodes of the dramatic Bargain Mansions makeovers can be seen on DIY Network. The show can also be streamed via the network app, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU and Google Play.

LATICRETE products will be featured throughout the entire second season. 

What’s selling around the country

Sales trends for 2019

As wood looks and large-format tiles continue to dominate in the industry’s “what’s trending” news, other fashion-forward items are beginning to make a place for themselves, too. The following takes a peek at what’s heating up the spring from several major players throughout the nation, according to the sales personnel in the field. Contributors Marazzi/American Olean, The Tile Shop, D&B Tile and Westside Tile give their take and share their insight on what the current hot sellers are, as well as how things are shaping up in the different regions of the country.


According to Eric Foley, General Sales Manager for American Olean and Marazzi, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions, this year has definitely seen an industry-wide trend emerging when it comes to tile formats. Specifically, large-format, gauged porcelain tile panels, subway tile, and wood-look planks are big are expected to increase in sales moving forward.

Modern Formation by Marazzi

Modern Formation by Marazzi

Foley noted, too, that Dal-Tile’s StepWise™ technology increases slip-resistance by 50%, allowing products to offer high dynamic coefficient of friction, without a rough texture that may interfere with maintenance. StepWise products also feature SimpliClean™ that makes cleaning easy and ClimatePro™ for surfaces that are used outdoors. 

There is a huge push for 24″x48″ rectified formats and large traditional square sizes in traditional grid sets (24″x24″ and larger). Larger-format marble mosaic patterns are very desirable visuals as well – especially waterjet cut designs featuring unique patterns inlaid with coordinating porcelain or metal accents.

American Olean’s Historic Bridge

American Olean’s Historic Bridge

Wood-look planks continue to be very popular in sizes such as 6″x36″, 9″x36″, 8″x40″ and 8″x48″, both in pressed and rectified formats.

Another sales trend among customers is the installation of the same tile both inside and outside the home. Especially in transition areas, homeowners are using the same tile for both interior spaces and outside under covered patios and on pool decking.

Regarding wallcoverings, multiple wall formats in pressed (4″x12″,  6″x18″, 8″x24″) and larger rectified formats (16″x48″ and larger) continue to gain in popularity.

When it comes to subway tile, traditional subway tile in 3″x6″ is still overwhelmingly popular and a top choice in all markets.

Union by American Olean

Union by American Olean

Tile that emulates wood, concrete, encaustic, glossy, hand-made surfaces, satin finishes, textiles, limestone and marble continues to dominate the market. Dal-Tile Colorbody porcelains – across brands – that offer multiple textures in the same design scheme and color palette (light polished, unpolished and textured) are also a favorite choice.

Wood visuals are overwhelmingly popular since they provide a cleaner finish, less rustic graining and softer texture.

Encaustic has recently grown in popularity among designers, especially with coordinating solids and decorative patterns.

Hawthorne by Marazzi

Hawthorne by Marazzi

When it comes to small-format, high-gloss wall tiles in monochromatic color palettes are selling very well (wavy hand-made, or irregular look) and raised patterns with monolithic appearance. Popular small-format tile sizes include 3″x12″, 4″x4″ and 6″x 6″.

In terms of color for this region, lighter cooler tones still reign supreme (light white/grays through charcoal grays), while beige is on a comeback, and is best if blended with cooler tones (greige).

Porcelain is still the buzz, and Colorbody is the preferred choice for commercial environments. Ceramic is more important in new construction environments and less appealing in the residential remodel category. Metal is more popular when used as an inlaid accent.

Method from American Olean.

Method from American Olean.

As far as pairings go, wood together with glass, concrete and metal continue to maintain popularity, while wood plank floor is very commonly used with more contemporary, or traditional stone visuals on walls. Concrete visuals can stand alone with industrial worn visuals (repurposed stained concrete floors with mix of previous floor covering still visible).

Popular layout/installation patterns in this neck of the woods center around clean, traditional tile set in rectangular sizes. Tile in 12″x24″ format is seen as the favored choice on floors and walls. Also, wood-look planks in herringbone patterns are still popular in 6″x 24″, 4″x28″ and 6″x36″ sizes).

Nu_Tempo by Marazzi

Nu_Tempo by Marazzi

Foley said Dal-Tile is a vigorous sponsor of education in the industry, reaching out to dealers, tile contractors, builders, vendors and the A&D community with information about qualified labor, and the benefits of premium installation materials to support high-performance installations. This is of primary importance when using popular large panels and large-format heavy tile. 

Marazzi’s Castellina

Marazzi’s Castellina

One such product is large-and-heavy tile mortar (LHT) that supports the weight of large-format tile and assures that there’s enough coverage, based on industry standards and recommended spread rates by the manufacturer. In product knowledge presentations, the company recommends back-buttering tiles before depressing in mortar bed, to assure recommended coverage on the tile during installation. To ensure a lippage-free installation, leveling spacers are recommended for the corners of each tile during installation. This prevents high or low corners that are easily detected in environments with natural sunlight and wall-wash lighting, and are the lead complaint by consumers in the marketplace.


Aqua Blu from The Tile Shop.

Aqua Blu from The Tile Shop.

When it comes to the top sales directions in tiles, Minnesota-based The Tile Shop sees trends going in both directions as far as large-format and subway tile. Large format is definitely taking off thanks to fewer grout lines and a cleaner, more modern look. The company also sees the opposite trend, as people clamor for handcrafted looks, keeping subway tile a top category. 

Wood-look planks continue to dominate, presenting natural wood aesthetics without the maintenance. 

The Tile Shop’s Mos Metalica.

The Tile Shop’s Mos Metalica.

Another popular format for the company is the hexagon, connecting with clients’ love for the old-world/handcrafted feel. Rectified tile is also sought after for its clean, sleek and contemporary feel. It allows for smaller grout joints, which play into the large-format tile trend.

When it comes to the look and design of a tile, technology has definitely played its part recently. As printing and glazing techniques advance, natural stone looks have improved immensely, producing authentic white marble looks that are in demand. And natural stone is on the rise, as well.

Kingswood from The Tile Shop

Kingswood from The Tile Shop

Modern farmhouse design continues to be popular and includes encaustic-look and subway tile. And textiles are making a statement in tile. The Tile Shop is seeing more and more wallpaper-effect tile with subtle nuances of texture and a 3-D quality. Designers love the ability to use these tiles to tie the overall look of the room together. 

Firenze natural marble from The Tile Shop.

Firenze natural marble from The Tile Shop.

White and gray continue to be dominant in the Midwest/Northeast, paired with pops of color to make a statement. Two-tone or three-tone patterned tiles (such as encaustic-look) continue to be popular.

People are looking for something to personalize their space and make it different. Each category of material – whether it be porcelain, ceramic, glass, metal or wood – takes off due to its design quality rather than what it is made out of. The only material that The Tile Shop noted people specifically request is porcelain, due to its durability, but the design aspect takes precedence in most cases, with two-tone or three-tone designs, and mixed-material waterjet mosaics that offer elevated design capabilities. People are using these designs in new and innovative ways to add subtle pattern or a make a bolder impact in their spaces. Mixing natural stone with man-made products is always on-trend because it allows high-level design and affordability. 

The Tile Shop’s Star line.

The Tile Shop’s Star line.

Paris from The Tile Shop

Paris from The Tile Shop

The Tile Shop noted that installation patterns are dependent on the type of material used. Subway tile still tends to be laid in the most traditional way as a half-offset or brick pattern. It also observed a strong rise in the patchwork look, where multiple patterned tiles are mixed together on a single surface.

The company is educating its clients through events such as NTCA educational workshops and wedi certification events. Its Pro Network market managers also work closely with its pros, making sure they are choosing the best installation products to get the job done right.


Wood Impressions from Crossville

Wood Impressions from Crossville

At D&B Tile Distributors, with a multitude of locations in Florida, the top tile sales trends include porcelain wood planks at 48″, edging up to 60″ lengths. Tiles 36″ and under are commodities in the company’s territory.

Large-format porcelain, polished and matte, in 30″x30″, 30″x 60″, 24″x 48″ are popular, as are subway tile and mosaics. Popular colors include gray, silver, greige, white, and white with gray as in Calacatta looks.

Photography by G. Richard Booth.

Photography by G. Richard Booth.

Porcelain is the primary material for walls and floors, with a small percentage of decorative ceramic tiles such as wave looks, since the ceramic tile body allows depth to be created in manufacturing.

When it comes to pairings in the Southeast, wood and concrete work well together; so do glass and stone mosaics, porcelain, glass and metal mosaics, and combinations of various materials and shapes in mosaics.

Popular layout/installation patterns include rectangular tile set in 1/3 offset or straight. If square, then it’s traditional square installation, moving away from tile set at a 45 degree angle.

Crossville Laminam Statuario.

Crossville Laminam Statuario. Photography by G. Richard Booth.

The company educates its internal clients every day so that they provide proper consultation to external clients. Contractors are educated with product knowledge at the company’s branch locations and at industry educational events, such as NTCA/CTEF workshops, and LATICRETE/Crossville thin-gauged large porcelain presentations. 

In another effort to promote qualified labor, D&B lists the best licensed local contractors/customers on its website in a separate “find a contractor” page. Certified Tile Installers are sorted at the top, which gives D&B’s customer the best, most qualified options first.

Cement tiles like these from Bati Orient

Cement tiles like these from Bati Orient

West Coast

Woodtalk, in the Ergon line by Emilceramica, illustrates the trend to more authentic , realistic wood tiles.

At Westside Tile and Stone, as the Los Angeles housing market continues to boom and construction is seen in every neighborhood, the tile industry continues to evolve to accommodate everyone’s taste. Many homeowners are spending more time in their homes and want to create an oasis in their bathroom and a kitchen that will be the envy of the neighborhood. 

With the increasingly abundant tile options available in the marketplace, sustainable goods are becoming more sought out along with unique materials that will differentiate one installation from the next. While most trends are revolving around the wood-look tiles, the company is seeing Carrara marble or Carrara-like porcelain tile in bold colors and patterns starting to pop up.

This sintered tile from Neolith illustrates the gorgeous Carrara looks available today.

Wood-look tiles are increasingly being used in new construction as well as remodeled homes with authentic features like knots, textures, and grain in abundant variation. The variety of colors and sizes in these tiles allows them to be used not only for flooring but also in shower wall applications, where they provide natural looks while being impervious to moisture and easy to maintain. Since these tiles are being used in both traditional and contemporary installations, they are installed in unique patterns such as chevron, herringbone, or staggered brick.

Carrara marble is a fashionable finishing option on the West Coast. Its unique blend of colors and tones creates a timeless look. Since it comes in a variety of sizes, finishes and mosaics, it can be used in all sorts of residential applications and allows kitchens and bathrooms to take on both cool and warm tones that blend a variety of styles together. 

Cement tiles in encaustic patterns turn floors into statements.

The rise in use of Carrara marble has spurred an abundance of porcelain tiles meant to resemble it. Digital-print technology refinements have allowed porcelain tiles to look exponentially better than before, with an ever-growing amount of variation found as in real marble. Porcelain Carrara tiles offer the look of natural stone without staining or discoloration. 

Cement tile is moving into bolder patterns and colorways than before. These patterned tiles are being used in bathroom floors as statements, and allow for simpler wall tiles to be used. Encaustic patterns have brought back the ability for floors to be the center of attention in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and even kitchens. 

Chinese tariffs

Cement tiles offer a range of looks to match the design theme of the room.

Tariffs the current administration has imposed on tiles from China have gotten some attention, but what is the impact on the industry?

Most of our contributors say the tariffs have little effect on pricing. Eric Foley, of Marazzi and American Olean said, the Dal-Tile Corporation is largely immune because most of its series are produced in North America or able to be sourced from elsewhere around the globe, including its own production in Europe. It has, however, seen a spike in opportunities based on inquiries from customers that are dependent on Chinese material, particularly from the builder channel. 

D&B Tile Distributors got a jump on the situation as it started moving away from Chinese tile in 2017, so tile products aren’t feeling a pinch. However, tools and sundries the distributor imports from China are experiencing price increases, but currently D&B is confident that it won’t affect sales. 

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