President’s Letter – May 2017

It was great to see so many old friends and meet new ones at Coverings in Orlando. I was fortunate to have several opportunities to work in one of the two NTCA booths during the show. This afforded me the chance to meet and talk with many contractors from all over the country working in several different segments of the industry.

I know that we are all challenged to find enough time each day to run a business, finish an estimate, meet with a client, get our crews working in the right direction, meet the payroll and oh yes, everybody’s favorite task, collecting the money we’re owed!!!! Yet that is what we signed up for when we decided to scratch that entrepreneurial itch and start our companies.

So, back to what I learned from these conversations at Coverings: some of our members — and those who haven’t joined NTCA yet — don’t really understand all that we offer to the industry. Early on, I had several encounters where a contractor would say, “I’ve got two minutes before my next meeting, so tell me everything I get if I join NTCA”, while their sales resistance slammed closed like a bank vault.

I changed my strategy to answering their question with a question, “What is your biggest need that will make you more successful and profitable?” This seemed to open a dialog on a different level, and I could explain the education and training available to them through the association. Some chose to sign up and some said they’d think about it. Either way, I hope that I communicated that the NTCA is here to be a resource and advocate for tile contractors. But that’s not all we do.

The staff of NTCA works extremely hard to put together a framework of industry involvement that will represent the tile contractor’s interest. From membership on the TCNA Handbook Committee to the ANSI Committee, to all the groups working with the NTCA Board of Directors on numerous committees, these individuals are tile contractors who donate their time and expenses to participate for the good of the tile industry and specifically for the advancement and protection of the tile contractor — regardless if they are a member of NTCA or not.

Maybe this will help explain a little better. Here is a list of the number of tile contractors working on each of these committees on your behalf.

7 – Tile Council of North America Handbook Committee

6 + 6 Alternates – ANSI A108 Committee

7 – NTCA Executive Board

19 – NTCA Board of Directors

60 + State Ambassadors

27 – NTCA Training and Education Committee

22 – NTCA Membership Committee

11 – NTCA Standards and Methods Committee

19 – NTCA Technical Committee

3 – NTCA Convention Planning Committee

These contractor businesses range in size from two-employee companies to hundreds-of-employee companies, and they cover the residential and commercial markets. Each of them has chosen to give of their time and resources to make this industry better. Your voice is needed and welcome so let us know what’s on your mind and how we might be able to help you. Consider getting involved if you are member and consider joining if you aren’t a member.

Underlying all of this is our strategic objective, which is to see every member of NTCA be a Best in Class Tile Contractor –dedicated to continuing education, training, craftsmanship, integrity and customer service. We all have the choice to purse excellence or accept mediocrity. The NTCA stands for Excellence.

And for those contractors interested in what they get for being a NTCA member, check out the list of member benefits here: http://www.tile-assn.com/?page=Membership.

Keep on Tiling!

 

Martin Howard

President NTCA

Committee member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

 

 

President’s Letter – April 2017

It’s April and Spring is upon us. With Spring comes the Easter celebration and all of nature reminding us that there are opportunities for new beginnings, personally and professionally. Regardless where you have been or how you have been running your life or business, today can be a new beginning.

The ideas of professionalism, craftsmanship, integrity, and customer service are values that we esteem and hold in high regard. Yet they don’t just happen — we must choose to invest our time, energy and resources to develop these values and see them integrated into the fiber of how we are personally and professionally.

Once a month our company gathers during the lunch hour to discuss and learn from each other. We call these gatherings “Forums” and they have been a transformational event in the success of our team. We spent all of 2016 discussing  the aforementioned ideas as the core values of our company.

Professionalism – This means being knowledgeable, informed and competent, and well trained to complete one’s job or trade. There are some who say it takes 5,000 hours of practice to be considered a professional. That’s about 2.5 years of full time work required at a specific task to master it. How are we pursuing the knowledge and training to be professional in our jobs? Did you learn your job from a mentor or were you hired and “thrown into the deep end of the pool” and forced to learn it on your own? Regardless how you started out, you have the opportunity to gain the knowledge needed to be a professional tile setter, finisher or business owner —  and you owe it to your customers.

Craftsmanship – While the traditional meaning is directed towards the product of skilled hands, we took a broader view of the term to include the skilled performance of any task by any of our team members — whether the skilled estimator, warehouse delivery person, accounts receivable or payable person, admin assistant, project manager or superintendent. Ultimately though, the skilled craftspeople installing tile and stone on projects are what keeps the rest of us employed. Therefore, we must make training and education of our craftspeople a very high priority. If we don’t, we won’t be in business very much longer.

Integrity – This is the quality of being honest and fair. To quote the proverb, “Keep your word and do what is right, even when it hurts.” We found through our discussions that this carries over to what we think and believe of ourselves and others, which determines how we treat them. If we don’t respect others, we will not treat them with integrity. If we want to be professional and successful, we must treat our customers, vendors, suppliers and team members with integrity.

Customer Service is meeting the customer’s expectations. We are only able to do this when we are properly educated, trained, skilled and treat others with integrity. Here’s what I mean: when you possess these qualities, you will help your customer set the appropriate expectations for the service you are contracted to perform. Without these qualities, you will leave your customer to create their own expectations and you may never be able to meet them.

I encourage us all to take the reminder of Spring, that each day is a new beginning. Let’s focus our energy on growing and improving personally, professionally and as an industry. If we do, the future will be bright and full of opportunity.

Thank you to all the DAC team for helping me learn and see these values more clearly. Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA President

Committee member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

President’s Letter – TRENDS 2017

Keeping up with standards

We are fortunate to be part of a dynamic and innovative industry, where change is normal with new products, methods and trends in design and installation. Here at David Allen Company, we have just completed several projects with 40 to 60 different tile types and numerous different color combinations. I don’t know of another finish trade that is so diverse and complex: gauged porcelain tile/panels in sizes up to 5’ x 10’ have been around long enough that most of us have some experience working with them. There has been a resurgence of handmade and extruded tiles with concave, convex and three-dimensional faces, just to name a few.

If you were at TISE West in January, you had the opportunity to see many new tile designs. While these tiles create beautiful projects and sometimes works of art when they are complete, they demand the highest levels of installation skills and management ability. Continuous training to keep crews updated on the specific installation requirements of 60 different products on a single project is challenging. It’s times like this that a good working knowledge of industry standards and recommendations is essential. On more than one occasion recently after installing handmade tiles, the project architect rejected portions of our installation quoting the TCNA Handbook tolerances. Knowing that the TCNA Handbook standards only apply to tiles manufactured and tested to comply with ANSI A137.1 was the key to helping educate the architect that not all tiles can be judged by the same standard and installation tolerances. Following are excerpts from the TCNA Handbook that specify where standards can be applied.

Ceramic Tile Types

“Ceramic tile suitable for TCNA Handbook installation methods are those that meet the specifications outlined in ANSI A137.1 American National Standard Specifications for Ceramic Tile. ANSI A137.1 contains performance and aesthetic criteria for the five major types of ceramic tiles: porcelain, pressed floor, mosaic, quarry and glazed wall tiles.” – 2016 TCNA Handbook, pg.2

Specialty Tile

“Specialty tiles are designed to meet special physical requirements or to have special appearances characteristics. They are not required to meet all requirements of ANSI A137.1. Consult the manufacturer’s specifications. They are sometimes manufactured to create an architectural effect toward the casual [sic].These tiles vary in size, one tile from the other. Variations in plane may be expected. Larger tiles will usually require greater variation in joint width. For each specialty tile being chosen, review installation guidelines supplied by manufacturer/distributor of specialty tiles and/or adhesive manufacturer. Specialty tiles include, but are not limited to, tiles made from nonceramic materials.” – 2016 TCNA Handbook, pg.5

Keeping up with industry standards can keep you from replacing acceptable workmanship unnecessarily. If you are unsure if the tile you have been contracted to install meets ANSI A137.1 contact the manufacturer and request a Master Grade Certificate. If they can’t provide one or state that their product is not manufactured to meet this standard, you have the answer needed. This will allow you to educate your client and establish reasonable expectations for the installation.

Education is key to working more professionally and profitably. Keep on tiling!

––––––––––

Martin Howard, President NTCA
Committee Member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

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
480-829-9197
www.artcraftgmt.com

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.

Respectfully,
James Woelfel, President NTCA
480.829.9197
tile@artcraftgmt.com

President’s Letter – TECH 2015

JWoelfel_headshotKnowledge + experience forms the wisdom at the heart of the NTCA Reference Manual

By James Woelfel, NTCA president and Technical Committee chairperson

NTCA members are receiving this TECH issue of TileLetter packaged with the new 2015-2016 Reference Manual, a critical industry publication that supports the TCNA Handbook of Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation and ANSI standards with real-world experience to help muscle through or prevent problems encountered on the job. 

In this letter, NTCA president James Woelfel explains a bit about how the NTCA Reference Manual topics are developed and researched, resulting in a publication that benefits the entire industry.

Not yet a member and would like to benefit from using the NTCA Reference Manual? Visit the NTCA Store at www.tile-assn.com and purchase one there. Or, join NTCA and receive this publication – and many other benefits – with your membership. 

– Lesley Goddin

When you look through your NTCA Reference Manual, what is the first thing that goes through your mind? Standards? Knowledge? Wow, really?

To me, the first word I think of is wisdom. Wisdom? Where do I get that idea? Simple: wisdom is knowledge combined with experience. This wisdom comes from tile contractors. The NTCA Reference Manual is edited by the NTCA Technical Committee, a committee whose majority members are tile contractors. The contractors’ experience (which I would say is over a thousand years of combined experience in the history of this committee) is the basis for the creation of this manual and also provides ideas for new documents and perfecting the documents that are already in the manual.

Let me share a couple of examples of how this works. About seven to eight years ago a tile contractor brought to the Technical Committee’s attention a problem of how epoxy grout on a couple of his kitchen jobs was getting “eaten away” out of the grout joints. He thought it was because of the “no rinse” cleaners that had been introduced to clean the kitchen floor. What in fact was happening was these cleaners were combining with the residual oils used for cooking and creating a substance that had the capabilities of breaking down epoxy grout. Over the next couple of meetings the Technical Committee developed a letter that is on page 42 of the 2014-15 NTCA Reference Manual. This letter explains that the cleaners being used to clean the floor tile and the grout must be compatible with both, with the intention of circumventing this problem in future installations.

Let’s fast forward to today. A subcommittee is hard at work right now developing a checklist of what to be aware of when installing stone tiles with various backings like resin and fiberglass. These stones have exploded in today’s marketplace, but there have been failures with the adhesion to the backing materials of some of these stone tiles. NTCA vice-president Martin Howard and Josh Levinson of Artistic Tile(a distributor of stone tile) are spearheading this extremely important endeavor.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize the hard work of the various manufacturers and suppliers on the committee, whose knowledge we depend on to help bring these issues to light. Without these members, our job in developing the NTCA Reference Manual would be infinitely more difficult.

So when you crack open your NTCA Reference Manual the next time, hopefully the first thing that comes to mind is the word wisdom.

– James Woelfel, NTCA president

 

President’s Letter – TRENDS 2015

JWoelfel_headshot

Tile is the most exciting design element from my perspective, for there is nothing else that has such a powerful impact in transforming a space.

The first issue of TileLetter TRENDS as part of the TileLetter family of publications supports my belief. This year there’s just about everything designers and architects could hope for in the tile marketplace. What I’ve seen is big emphasis on geometrics like the hexagon; size and scale like thin porcelain tile; texture and pattern like we see in three-dimensional, uniquely-shaped and wood-look tile; and bling and shimmer like we find in the new metallic and glass products.

As a professional tile contractor, my job is to make sure the vision of the designer and architect come to life through a beautiful and technically-sound installation. When a client invests in a designer and/or architect they place a lot of trust in that individual’s team. Having qualified installers on the team means a designer or architect is placing their reputation in the hands of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. Hoping to cut job costs by choosing non-certified installers indicates “quality-cutting” is acceptable, but such a decision often results in problem installations.

1-presQualified installers are CTEF- and ACT-certified. That means they are experienced. They stay on top of industry standards and methods. They know setting technology is an ever-changing part of their profession. They understand the nuances of working with contemporary tile products that have new handling and setting requirements because products are manufactured differently than they were in the past. Attitude is critical, too, because it means a professional contractor is committed to customer service and getting a job done right.

A highly qualified installer is a knowledgeable resource to designers and architects because he/she can, among other things: answer questions about where specific materials can and can’t be installed; explain why certain products shouldn’t be used in a wet area or high traffic area; and present what grouting options are available such as a simple sanded grout to a single-component grout with sparkles.

2-presSo it could be said that while designers and architects predominantly focus on the trends that deal with form, qualified installers focus on staying on the trends in function. It is through mutual respect and teamwork that the trends from each area meld to bring creative design concepts to life and transform spaces with installations that stay beautiful for many years to come.

Respectfully,

James
[email protected]

Learn more about highly qualified tile installers at: www.tile-assn.com.

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