TEC products spell success for gauged porcelain panel installation at Kent State University

Tips for a stellar GPTP installation

Gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) continue to grow in popularity. They provide a sleek, modern look that appeals to designers, architects and owners. For tile contractors, these projects can be a great way to grow business. However, experienced GPTP installers have learned to carefully consider all aspects of the installation to complete the project successfully. 

Panel handling

Special rail and suction cup system for safe GPTP handling.

Panels qualify as GPTP if they are 3.5 – 6.5 mm thick (1/8”-1/4”), with tile sizes reaching up to 1.5M x 3M (5’ x 10’). Because of their size, contractors usually add manpower to the job. A minimum of two people are required for handling the panels – with many contractors scheduling three people – an important consideration for accurate bids. 

Additionally, panel delivery and movement must be carefully planned out. Consider the exact route the panels will travel to get to the installation site and plan for any challenges such as unloading, building entry, tight hallways, stairwells or elevators. If panels are not immediately being installed, secure an on-site storage area large enough to accommodate the panels safely. 

Recently, Ryan Carpet of Austintown, Ohio, faced the challenge of managing 1M x 3M (3.3’ x 9.8’) Laminam® panels for the remodel of the women’s, men’s and universal restrooms in the Kent Student Center at Kent State University. The beautiful blue gauged porcelain panel tiles had to be transported carefully through the Student Center to the three restroom areas. With a tight summer timetable, multiple trades working in tandem and a relatively small project space, Carpet made sure to do the additional planning needed for the movement and cutting of the GPTP. Frames with suction cups designed for these types of panels made it easier to handle them safely. Carpet had sufficient manpower at the site, so that at least two team members were available for lifting and supporting the panels. 

Proper transport of GPTP requires at least two people.

Proper transport of GPTP requires at least two people.

Use the right tools

Special trowel designed for GPTP.

Special trowel designed for GPTP.

GPTP projects cannot be done without a number of special tools. In addition to the frames/suction cups mentioned earlier, forks and extended forks are needed. GPTP come in oversized crates, so extended forks that are a minimum of 84” are required for proper unloading. Additionally, a large heavy-duty table is critical to support the entire panel for application of the mortar. Special trowels are designed for use with GPTPs that encourage mortar ridge collapse without shifting the tile back and forth to collapse the ridges. A square notch trowel would require the panel to be shifted back and forth, which is almost impossible with tile this large. 

Surface prep and substrate needs 

For any GPTP project, contractors must review the strict requirements for wall, ceiling and floor substrates set by the IRC (residential) and IBC (commercial). Ansi.org offers complete information, but here are some tips for a successful installation: 

  1. GPTP can never be bonded to a wood-frame surface. Wood-based panels expand and contract with changes in moisture content, which causes an unstable environment for the panels. 
  2. Substrates must be clean, dry, flat bondable surfaces and conform with IRC/IBC standards, or local building codes. They must also be free of all contaminants such as sealers, cleaning or curing compounds, coatings, oil and loose surface material. Extremely flat substrate surfaces are a necessity due to the large size and thinness of the panels. To avoid failures, see manufacturer instructions for exact requirements and prepare the substrate accordingly.
  3. GPTPs can be direct bonded to the following wall and ceiling backing board and panel types: cementitious backer unit, fiber-cement backer board, glass mat water-resistant gypsum backer board, fiber-reinforced gypsum panel and gypsum board/drywall (dry areas only). 
  4. GPTPs for floors can be direct bonded to clean, sound, dimensionally stable concrete or cured bonded and unbonded mortar beds.*
Troweling from center of GPTP parallel to short side

Troweling from center of GPTP parallel to short side.

Installation products and techniques 

GPTP in Kent State University men’s restroom.

The popularity of these panels has brought about next-generation mortars. These mortars combine great handling properties with better slip and slump capabilities, along with long open time, long bucket life, and faster set times. Both thixotropic and pseudoplastic mortars work for GPTP depending on the project needs. Not all A118.15 mortars are designed for large-format tile like GPTP, and installers should ensure the suitability of the mortar for the application. TEC® Ultimate 6 Plus Mortar is ideal for GPTP installations because it significantly increases the coverage achieved and has exceptional non-sag/non-slump characteristics for wall and floor applications. It has an extended open time and pot life, and superior transfer capabilities.

GPTP entrance to remodeled Kent State University men’s restroom.

For installing GPTP, the recommended method is to trowel parallel to the shortest tile edge, on the substrate. Remember to keep the lines on the substrate as straight as possible. On the GPTP, mortar must be troweled on the back of the tile. Mortar ridges should be parallel to the shortest edge. Trowel from the middle of the shortest edge outward and repeat on the other side. This should form a straight line dam down the middle of the tile where the trowel ridges from each side meet.

For floor applications the tile must then be lifted using a rack and installed over the troweled substrate. Then, to embed the tile in the mortar, installers should walk down the center of the longest edge before returning to the center of the tile and shuffling towards the shortest edge, being sure to take small steps to squeeze out air. Repeat this shuffle from middle to edge until the entire tile is embedded. For more detail, see ANSI A108.19.

For the Kent Student Center restroom remodel, Ryan Carpet chose TEC Ultimate 6 Plus Mortar because of its ease-of-use and performance. Steve Eickelman, Sales Manager, commented, “My team really likes how creamy Ultimate 6 Plus is for troweling, and yet holds its shape just right for setting gauged panels. They really appreciate having enough time to get full coverage and make adjustments. And, being able to grout just six hours after installation saves us time.” 

Newly remodeled Kent State University women’s restroom with GPTP.

Newly remodeled Kent State University women’s restroom with GPTP.

Eickelman went on to explain that Carpet starts every tile project at Kent State University with TEC HydraFlex™ Waterproofing and Crack Isolation Membrane to protect the installations. Since the restrooms had not been updated in many years, the substrates were in poor condition and nearly all had to be replaced. Carpet made sure all of the older walls were smooth and flat. The surfaces were then ready for the Laminam installation. The team built their own large table to make it easier to apply the mortar to the nearly 10’ panels. 

The job was finished with TEC Power Grout® for its stain proof,** strong, color consistent joints – a smart choice for the high traffic restrooms.

GPTP installations require extra attention to process and detail but are worth the effort for the business building opportunities they can bring. Tile contractors can enjoy the benefits of this tile trend by staying on top of the latest installation tips and techniques through reading industry communications and attending trainings. 

*Mortar bed must conform to mortar bed requirements in ANSI A108.1B. Under normal job conditions, a minimum of 20 hours cure at 70°F (21°C) is adequate, but longer mortar bed cures up to 10 days are desirable

**Power Grout® is stain proof to most common water-based stains when cleaned immediately. The prolonged exposure of any stain will increase the likelihood of permanent staining or discoloration of grout surface.

A call to arms: tile industry needs to join forces to protect and grow our market

I have been in this industry now for 35 years. I have been blessed to be part of a trade that has experienced significant growth and I’ve been honored to serve in a leadership role as the Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association for the past 18 years. 

When I first started in this industry, I worked for a tile retailer in Minneapolis, Minn. I remember talking with consumers about the benefits of ceramic tile and trying to convince them to consider our products in kitchens and dining rooms. They really were only used to seeing tile in bathrooms at the time. We have come a long way since then. Today, ceramic tile and natural stone tile comprise about 20% of all flooring sales, and despite the many challenges we continue to face from competitive products, our industry has continued to thrive. Technology has played a significant role in this growth. So has the simple fact that when installed correctly, our products are healthy for the environment and are proven to last and outperform their competitors over time. 

Despite these advantages, many industry leaders are highly concerned over recent trends by consumers to select alternative products, often in areas where ceramic tile has traditionally dominated. The rapid growth of plastic-based materials (PBM), including rigid core materials such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT), has many manufacturers, distributors and contractors worried. The tile industry is not alone in this concern, as the hardwood flooring and carpet industries are also losing sales to this category. The laminate industry has now ramped up efforts to improve its manufacturing processes, so you can expect to see a strong push from these manufacturers to grow their market at our expense. It is a competitive world and the flooring industry is not immune to this. So let’s take our gloves off and start fighting from a position of strength!

Through 2018, our industry was continuing to gain market share in flooring sales, but recent reports of tile consumption reported a 5 % decrease in the first quarter of 2019 as compared to 2018. There can be many factors contributing to this decrease, but there is no denying the fact that PBM products are growing in popularity, and that they have targeted our industry as being vulnerable for a variety of reasons. 

Stark discrepancies between product claims and reality

Many glowing performance-related claims being made by the manufacturers of these PBM products differ from what is actually covered by manufacturer warranties. At Coverings 2019, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) revealed important information related to research they have conducted on the accuracy of such claims. (Go to https://bit.ly/32c52Og for results of this research). When you actually read the information included in product and manufacturer warranties, you will find stark discrepancies between what the marketing literature posits, myths people believe about these products, and what a company will actually stand behind with money. This is very important information to have in order to sell our products. 

I want to stress the word “sell” here. In my opinion, in order for our industry to sustain growth and to thrive in this competitive landscape, we must become much better at marketing, selling and installing our products than we have ever been in the past. 

Our industry needs to work together to accomplish this. Sales professionals in distribution and manufacturing have to be better trained on industry standards and must understand the unique differences that exist between the skills required to install ceramic tile compared to its competition. Without possessing this knowledge, salespeople can’t possibly help consumers to make good decisions when it comes to choosing ceramic tile as compared to other products. In my experience when untrained people sell our products to designers, architects, project owners and consumers, without a full understanding of our product or installation standards, it results in dissatisfaction and in many instances, job failures.

Job failures are not always solely the fault of the installation contractor. In fact, there are usually many factors that contribute to this dilemma, and we need to collectively work together to minimize this trend from continuing. Failures can result because of workmanship and lack of proper training by the installer – that is for sure. Failures can also occur because the proper materials and products were not selected in the first place, which can result in the customer’s expectations not being met. 

How product and installation standards benefit the consumer

Our industry has worked hard to develop product and installation standards. Many of our competitors haven’t done this, and it leaves them vulnerable if we take advantage of this opportunity. I can assure you that manufacturers in other industries view our work in standards development as a strength and are working to try to quickly follow suit. It is so important that we use this information to realistically set expectations, and to ensure that qualified and trained installers are selected to perform the installation. The biggest problem our industry faces is not the cost of a ceramic tile installation the first time. It is the cost of the replacement of a tile installation failure when it occurs. 

The tile industry must work harder than ever to instill consumer confidence in our products and in our ability to install them properly the first time. We have developed programs that can help us to achieve this. One of the most important initiatives we currently are promoting is industry certification. I am convinced we must certify and train more people than ever before, and a lot faster than we have done for the past decade. This is why the NTCA is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new training vehicles, in hiring additional trainers, and in supporting the efforts of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). Many manufacturers and distributors have recognized this need as well and have made commitments to host training and certification programs, and provide support in the field with training and technical expertise. They have also made significant financial contributions that are necessary for us to expand our efforts to meet this glaring need. 

I am calling on everyone in the tile industry to commit to making this happen. To this end, I am chairing a panel discussion at Qualicer in Spain next year that will address these issues. We have witnessed firsthand how much of an impact we can make to this trade when manufacturers, distributors and installers work together in a collective effort. If each and every one of us that has a passion for our industry is willing to commit to this effort, we can not only survive in a competitive landscape, we will thrive in it. 

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.”

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. 

Tile trends for 2019

Here we are, about to embark on another Coverings, the only United States trade show exclusive to ceramic tile and the showcase for the trends in our industry. We are all looking for the next new trend that will carry our industry into the future and continue to see ceramic gain share over other floor and wall coverings. We see other categories attempting to steal our thunder with terms like “waterproof” and “scratchproof,” where we want to say, “Hey – that’s not new! These have been characteristics of ceramic tile since its creation.” So, let’s talk about the tile trends for 2019 as we all converge on Orlando, Fla. to show who truly is the king of floor and wall coverings.

When looking at the industry, we immediately focus on the appearance of the product to announce what’s new, but in my quest to identify the next trend, I found we must look at a couple of key elements. Raj Shah, President of MSI Surfaces, commented, “We have to ask what it is the consumer wants from a performance standpoint. If you look at why other ‘trends’ have been created, it’s not always the decorative aspect. For instance, observe the transition from marble to quartz or laminate to luxury vinyl tile. These trends were driven by easy care and maintenance, or ease of installation.” 

We all are seeking the answer to an easy installation, so it makes you wonder who will be the first to bring “click ceramic tile” that solves our installation costs compared to other floor coverings. Then again, tile is a different animal than carpet or plastic floors – less forgiving and with a much longer life. Though speed is often a factor in our modern world, retaining craftsmanship and performance that result from installation by qualified installers is also a key consideration. Keep this in mind as you’re searching vendor booths at the show to ensure you are addressing your customers’ true requirements.

With the performance trend addressed, let’s turn our attention to the visual aspect, which ceramic tile leads the floor and wall coverings category hands down. 


While we have seen other categories strive to mimic ceramic tile to gain share, we continue to develop new technologies to enhance the visual appeal, and also widen the application scope of ceramic tile. Ink jet continues to evolve to allow manufacturers to create visuals that are more realistic than ever. We have truly started to understand the opportunities that gauged porcelain tiles, panels and slabs offer for increased applications on counter tops, walls, showers and other installations with this new technology. In addition, we will see additional 2cm pavers targeted at exterior applications, which will continue to grow with a new focus on exteriors from tile distributors.

The visuals 

It is critical that we continue to showcase the most desired visuals for our markets while ensuring we keep our clients engaged with what is new and trending.


Wood is obviously here to stay and is estimated to be about 30% of our industry’s sales; manufacturers continue to replicate new wood looks whether they be a new species or a weathered look from antiquated buildings. 

Gauged porcelain tiles, panels and slabs 

This has been a game changer in our industry and will continue to grow with the beautiful replications of various stones. They also offer marble looks with the ease of maintenance consumers, designers and architects strive for. Daltile’s Panoramic Porcelain collection is an example that offers stunning visuals and seamless design with no boundaries.

Daltile’s Panoramic Porcelain

Marble looks

With the continued evolution of ink jet, we continue to see marble looks as one of the most sought-after visuals with ceramic tile. As stated earlier, the ease of maintaining a beautiful marble is now achievable and will only continue to evolve.

Encaustic looks

While this has been viewed as a niche product, you will see a wide range of variations at Coverings, like Daltile’s Quartetto (pictured), which features a handmade-look encaustic tile in an 8” x 8” porcelain. It offers eight selections of decorative patterns in both warm and cool palettes, giving you a wide range of design freedom.

Daltile’s Quartetto

Fabric looks

Fabrics are continuing to come into the mix as manufacturers find the balance of what both the residential and commercial client is looking for.

Cement looks

Cement looks – also known as the industrial look – are still a large part of our industry’s sales, and manufacturers will showcase the next generation of these. While a large portion of the sales has been commercial, we see consumers seeking the more modern or contemporary look that the cement look caters to. Furthermore, ceramic tile’s performance and maintenance is far superior to stained concrete.

Metallic looks

The new iteration of metallics features a more muted appearance that lends itself to a wider range of applications. MSI’s Oxide (pictured) is a good example that offers three colors each with a unique distressed metallic-look finish for lasting visual impact. This appeals to both the edgy industrial look and one that’s more conventional.

MSI’s Oxide

Wall tiles

While floor tiles are increasingly used on walls, many distributors have increased their selection of wall tile beyond the traditional subway tile into larger rectangular sizes and even 12”x24”. Traditionally we have seen the neutral colors dominate this category; however, as more manufacturers enter this arena, we will see more design aspects like MSI’s Urbano collection (pictured) that features a contemporary detail in six colors as well as 3D patterns to allow a more chic look. Daltile’s Color Wheel wall program is a stunning collection of colors and formats in a program that is straightforward, easy to understand and easy to work with. This is key as we continue to increase our share of wall applications.

Also, Daltile’s Geometric Fusion (pictured) offers nine patterns designed to be installed randomly, which creates an intentional deconstructed geometric aesthetic. Each tile features a decorative blend of metallic, matte and glossy finishes enhanced by EverLux™ Sync technology, which utilizes dry glazes with digital synchronization and creates a high-definition realism that is new to the tile industry.

Daltile’s Geometric Fusion


While some markets in the US have moved beyond rustic stone looks, we still have many users that seek this style without the maintenance of natural stone. Manufacturers will display new generations of these designs to enhance the installation. 

Colors: what will we see?

Pantone announced the 2019 color of the year as Living CoralThe traditional colors will continue to dominate our market since we are a “neutral” category; however, as users get “braver” we see more colors being used in tile installations. While Pantone announced the 2019 color of the year as Living Coral, we will not see this impact our core colors, but it’s important to offer more color in our offerings. 


Keep in mind these checklist items as you walk the show:

What are my customers’ true desires from a performance standpoint?

Do I have the core looks addressed at various price points?

a. Wood

b. Gauged porcelain tile, slabs/

c. Marble

d. Encaustic 

e. Fabric

f. Cement

g. Metallic

h. Wall tiles, with an emphasis on the contemporary design

i. Rustic/stone

j. Colors – be sure to infuse this into your offering

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