Editor for TileLetter, TileLetter Coverings, TREND and TECH publications.
Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11, and drawing and sketching since she could hold a pencil. Her penchant for observation led to her becoming a paid professional as a trade journalist, publicist and is editor for TileLetter. She has also written for Guideposts, Walls, Windows and Floors, Floor Covering Weekly, and Low Carb Energy.
Crossville, Tennessee – Crossville, Inc. has launched the Cursive porcelain wall tile collection. This unique product line is notable for its range of eclectic shapes and vibrant color offerings.
already excited to see what designers will create with this really
inventive wall tile collection,” explains Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville VP
of marketing.”We filled this line with so many exciting, customizable
options that will empower designers to create spaces as unique as their
personal handwriting.” The
selection of shapes and sizes makes Cursive a stand-out collection.
Tiles are available in 3”x6” and 3”x12” rectangles, 6” squares, 6”
triangles, as well as 4” circles and 2” demilunes. Coordinating corner
options are available to frame the circles and demilunes. Additionally, a
1½” x 6” trim piece with finished edges on short and long sides
completes the bold offering. Cursive’s
nine color options are also adventurous: Iris, Goldenrod, Rose Gold,
Ghost, Smoke, Charcoal, Soft Teal, Old Denim, and Oxblood. Each hue is
interpreted with a handmade appearance and watercolor effect around the
edges, achieving nuanced effects across the range of trending light and
dark colors. “Today,
designers and property owners are looking for extreme personalization
in interior design. Cursive certainly answers this trend with its nearly
endless options for customization. It’s fun to imagine designers
creating walls so unique there may be no look-alike,” Waldrep
summarizes. Crossville’s Cursive wall tile collection is suited for interior walls in commercial and residential settings. For more information on this collection, visit crossvilleinc.com.
“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” – Vince Lombardi
It is December 5, and I am sitting at my desk in New Mexico finalizing the content for our February issue.
I don’t generally discuss the inner workings of TileLetter, but I thought it might be useful for readers to know a little about how we get things done around here.
Currently, we are working a couple of months ahead, to make sure we can get TileLetter to you in a timely fashion. That’s especially tricky around now, since we have two extra issues – TRENDS and COVERINGS – thrown into the mix in the late winter/early spring; and to get those completed on time we need to be early (not to mention some major holidays!). Rest assured that staff writers and industry contributors are working to provide relevant content to illuminate, educate and inspire you. Our ad reps are also busy getting commitments from advertisers to fund our issue and provide you with information about goods and services provided by industry members.
One of the reasons I wanted to share that information with you is because some of you have been contacting me about contributing stories – and we are always very happy when you are! We love sharing voices from the industry and from the field. So, I wanted to give you an idea of how far ahead we work. For instance, by February 12, all the content for our Coverings issue will be delivered to Michelle Chapman for the magazine design, and then we proof it several times to hopefully eliminate any errors in content, spelling, punctuation and the like. If you have a hankering to submit a story for TileLetter, feel free to email me at [email protected] to run your idea by me and give me an idea of when I can expect it so I can fit it into our schedule.
Since I mentioned our staff, I want to take a quick minute to thank all of them for their support recently. This is the first editor letter I’ve written since I’ve gotten back into the swing of things after 3.5 months in New Jersey, taking care of clearing and selling my mother’s home (she recently entered an assisted living community where she is extremely happy and thriving). Since I don’t have siblings, it was pretty much up to me to get this task completed. I combined a month and a half of working full time, sorting through papers and belongings at night, with some paid time off and then had to shift to unpaid time off to complete the job and drive cross country back to Albuquerque (which is why I missed seeing you all at TSP in Nashville last October). It was a monumental task, but it would have been an IMPOSSIBLE task without the understanding of Bart Bettiga, and the support and help of the Marketing and Communications Team and then some. Avia Haynes, Michelle Chapman, contributing editor Lou Iannoco and other contributors jumped in and kept everything percolating and running on time to seamlessly get TileLetter into your hands.
We talk a lot about work-life balance in business circles, but sometimes when the chips are down and the work-life ratio is ANYTHING but balanced, it is priceless to have a work family that has your back. Words are inadequate to express the gratitude I feel towards the entire crew. I share this with you to thank them all, and to let you know – if you don’t realize it already – what fine caliber people you have working for you and with you in the association. Truly, it’s a blessing.
Enjoy this issue, and the stories we’ve assembled for you, including some stunning projects that celebrate National Tile Day on February 23. Are you planning to commemorate the day with a promotion or a special event? Drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know!
“I have a theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover thingsfor themselves.” – Seymour Hersh
Welcome to 2020. If you’re like me, that number is something that was only in the realm of science fiction and futurists when I was growing up (uh oh, now you all have an idea of how old I am!). Yet, here we are, poised on the precipice of 365 new days filled with possibility and challenge, blank slates upon which we can write our dreams, and wrangle with the unexpected, testing our mettle in all of it.
As you plan your year, take a look at our Industry Calendar. On this calendar are lots of opportunities to learn, to attend training sessions and to educate yourself on what is happening in our industry: use it to chart out how and where you want to learn and grow. Remember to also visit the NTCA website at www.tile-assn.com, and click on the Education & Certification tab. This is a schedule of upcoming NTCA Workshops and Regional Training Programs that may be coming to a location near you. Don’t pass these up. There are fantastic learning and networking opportunities to be had at these events. Also under this tab is a listing of upcoming webinars, hosted by NTCA and featuring industry experts. You can glean wisdom from these free offerings from the comfort of your home or office, or in fact anywhere you can carry your device. And if you haven’t gotten certified yet, learn more about the Certified Tile Installer and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers exams at this link, as well as classes from NTCA University and what the NTCA Apprenticeship Program is all about. Get informed, and start the year strong.
This issue is designed to support you as you go forward into the year with explorations of anti-slip treatments and products to commemorate Bath Safety Month and help you craft safer installations. Working with tile patterns can hold some challenges – we investigate tips on making the most of tile design and creating a stunning wall or floor project. And we also study how the synergy of different trades working together can make the project run smoother and be better performing for everyone involved.
2020 is tabula rasa right now – a blank slate, upon which you can write and discover your future. Equip yourself to make it a satisfying, prosperous and enjoyable year, so when you look back in January 2021, you can congratulate yourself about jobs well done!
“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” – Hal Borland
As another year draws to a close (and a new one is just about to begin), take a moment to review your 2019. What were the high spots? What can you learn from the lows? What was the one new thing that you learned or implemented this year that made a difference in your execution or operations? Did you attend a training seminar or a workshop or perhaps a trade show or conference for the first time? How did that benefit your business?
In our busy world, it’s tempting to race from one thing to the next without taking time to breathe and reflect. And yet, if we don’t review or assess our day, week, month or year, how do we learn? How do we know where we need to improve or <gasp> congratulate ourselves and our colleagues on the victory of jobs well done – and repeat those steps that led to success?
Don’t give in to temptation. Take the natural lull that comes at this time of year to consider what’s come before and ponder how that can be a springboard for the year to come. That’s what we do in our NTCA Review – looking back gives our road map for 2020 a solid foundation. Check out this story and see where the association is headed next year.
We announced our first ever NTCA Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year back in September, but this month, read a little bit more about Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile and what it means to him to win this honor, which was awarded at the end of October at Total Solutions Plus.
Did you get to travel to Italy this fall to see all the hot new products at Cersaie? If not, don’t worry – we recap some of those new introductions in our product section in this issue.
Do you know what a flow-down clause is? You may know it as a “pass-through” or “conduit clause.” Do you know that it binds subcontractors to the same duties and obligations as the general contractor has to the owner? Is this a good thing or not? Read our Business Tip section by Daniel Dorfman, Chair Construction Law Group, Fox Swibel Levin & Carroll LLP, and find out.
Whatever you do, DO take time to kick back and relax with those you hold dear. In the inimitable words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life but what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Thank you. Yes, thank you, readers, industry, and colleagues for everything you do to make this a fantastic industry, and for helping to give contractors and installers a voice in how they do what they do, and the products they do it with. This is the month for thanks after all, and whatever your role in the industry, you deserve to be thanked for your part of keeping it all percolating.
The lineup of stories in this month’s TileLetter is also a reflection of what is percolating, from the cover story about the stone installation at the Westfield Valley Fair in Silicon Valley, to new contributor Paul Makovski’s examination of achieving proper grout joints widths, to FILA’s Jeff Moen’s tips on sealing and protecting stone.
Remember when we reported on the start up of the Oregon-Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust last year? In this issue, we check in with the co-op to see how the first year has gone, and explore the challenges and victories of the program. We also get an inside look at Malcolm Campbell, and Midwest Mosaic and how that company has grown to where it is today.
Wally Adamchik, Founder of Firestarter Speaking and Consulting, recently conducted a People in Construction survey. In the Business Tip section of this issue, he gives us a synopsis of his findings and how they may impact your business.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving and affirming that the slide into the holiday season will bring with it a healthy balance of prosperous work opportunities, and downtime to celebrate and appreciate friends and family that bring joy to your lives.
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).”
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.”
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.”
Every fall, as the leaves start to change and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING starts to appear in all the stores, it’s also time for the TECH issue of TileLetter. It’s hard to believe we are in the fifth year for this annual issue, bringing you news of technological trends in setting materials, tools, accessories and related products.
The backbone of this issue is our product sections that explore emerging trends in technology from industry experts and present products that meet the demands of today’s tiles, and the contractors that install them. Interspersed in these sections are perspectives from contractors who work in the trenches with these products every day – Ashley Andrews, Pavlo Starkov and Tom Cravillion.
In addition, we offer several stories for your consideration. NTCA Technical Director Stephanie Samulski gives you a guided tour through what’s involved in developing a product or installation standard. Do you ever wonder how a standard gets proposed, debated, and adopted? Samulski gives you the lowdown on this process and suggests ways you can get involved to have your voice heard and influence the outcome. Then NTCA President Chris Walker adds his perspective on the rise of technology, as well as the standards process, in his President’s Letter.
NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga issues a “Call to Arms” concerning the growth of plastic-based materials (PBM) such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT) in the hard surface market. He posits the fact that customers are often choosing these products due to misperceptions about performance and longevity they believe these products offer, but which manufacturers don’t stand behind. Take a look at this story and arm yourself with knowledge as this battle heats up in the marketplace.
Yours truly offers an article about the effect tariffs – mostly against China – are having on our industry from the perspective of some of our top distributors. With tile from China comprising increasing amounts of imports in recent years, how are distributors dealing with the monthly increase in tariffs and what is their strategy going into 2020? Read and find out!
Once again, a big shout out to Contributing Editor Lou Iannoco, who gathered much of the trend and product information in the materials categories. It’s a monumental job to compile all this data into a coherent, cohesive format for your reading pleasure and edification, and we would be hard-pressed to do it without him.
So, pull up a comfy chair, grab a pumpkin spice latte, curl up with this issue of TECH, and arm yourself with knowledge for the year ahead.
In this issue of TileLetter dedicated to celebrating and recognizing women in our industry doing amazing things, we chose to present a gallery of projects by several female tile setters, who also happen to be NTCA members. Enjoy the artistry, craftswomanship and installation excellence in these projects.
You can read more about Carrizosa and her experience taking the Certified Tile Installer exam in this issue’s Training and Education feature.
Her amazing work spans a variety of projects, but this commercial project by Icon Tile & Design was for the Associated General Contractors (AGC)’s lobby. “We had to wrap three elevators with 5’ x 10’ 6mm gauged porcelain panels, and install 6” x 47” planks on the floor,” Carrizosa said.Of course, no project is without challenges, and this was no exception. For the AGC lobby, the slabs were too big to fit in the elevators so Icon had to cut them in half. “We did not have book-matched panels, but I took the time to try and connect all the veins like a puzzle,” she said.
In addition, the subfloor conditions were significantly out of tolerance, and the elevator thresholds made it even more difficult to get them to a manageable level.
But Carrizosa said, “We were able to solve the issues with some help from our friends Mick Volponi – who has a wealth of information on gauged porcelain panels – and ARDEX rep Shaughn Lee Capua, who knows commercial projects very well.”
The result is a stunning and beautiful installation.
Rachel Cahalan Tile by Rachel, LLC Springfield, Va.
Tile by Rachel tackled this gorgeous herringbone backsplash, a project with a very tight deadline to set Catania Blue 6” x 12” ceramic tile from The Tile Shop.
“The biggest challenge for the project was time,” Cahalan said. “The tile was delayed and I had a limited number of days, so I brought in a rapid-setting mortar. Rapid-setting mortar is fantastic, until you have a chipped tile that has already been set. I now have absolute confidence in the superior bonding strength of MAPEI Rapid Setting Tile Mortar. I love the colors this client selected, the clean, pronounced grout joints, and always, working with a fun pattern,” she explained.
Jaime Martin Meadowlark Tile, LLC Dickinson, N.D.
Sometimes it’s hard to decide between two favorite projects. So Jaime Martin of Meadowlark Tile sent two of her favorites.
The first project is a pebble scribe over curb and under tub. “This was a challenging project because it was my first time scribing tile with a grinder,” Martin said. “I loved that I got to have free rein with creativity.”
Her second project incorporated LED lighting from Backlit Tile Co.,in a shower installation. “This was a real challenge installing lights that wrapped around all four walls and through two niches.”
Welcome to the October issue of TileLetter! This is the month we celebrate women in tile.
Why do we do this, you ask? Well, it’s often said that construction is a man’s world and in fact, women comprise only 9.9% of the 8.3 million people in construction (but that’s still that’s 821,700 women!).
Yet, according to an article in Big Rentz (www.bigrentz.com/blog/women-construction), there’s been 94% growth in female owners from 2007 to 2018, and 9% of female-owned firms achieved revenues of more than $500,000 in 2018. What’s more, 4% of new construction firms were launched by women last year, and 44% of the top 100 contracting companies have women in executive roles.
So women form an important part of the construction industries. We see women’s role in our industry as well. And growing efforts are being made to recruit more women into our industry as the NTCA University Update story about a new NTCA recruitment video illustrates. Already we are in prominent positions, as is evidenced in the Women in Tile story that explores the careers of Schluter Systems’ Shannon Huffstickler, CTEF’s Heidi Cronin and Stuart Tile Company’s Janet Kozey. Women’s work is stellar, as you can see in the project gallery in our Hot Topics section, with installs by Chanel Carrizosa, Rachel Cahalan and Jaime Martin. Women are intent on credentialing skills, as you’ll read in our Training and Education story about Carrizosa’s CTI exam in 2017. And we also profile a woman-owned company in our Member Spotlight – Fischer Tile & Marble in Sacramento run by Taryn Fischer.
Exploring these stories also is a testament to the tremendous support offered by those in this industry – both women AND men. While it’s true that some women have had to deal with gender-related hurdles, we’ve also had support from many industry sectors and won the respect of colleagues and customers.
So enjoy this issue, and if you happen to know a woman who’s doing amazing work or making inroads in our industry, email me with her information. It’s never too early to start working on the 2020 Women in Tile issue of Tileletter.