Total Solutions Plus Virtual Conference starts week long run on a device near you!

(October 26, 2020) — The first day of the virtual Total Solutions Plus (TSP) 2020 Conference kicked off today with rousing keynote presentation by Jessica Rector, “Blaze Your Brain: Transform Negative Thoughts into Positive Results.” In the hour talk, Rector took the virtual audience through a process that explored mistakes people make with burnout  and stress, strategies, exercises and suggestions to combat that familiar sense of overwhelm; consequences of not dealing with it, and strategies for moving forward in a more relaxed, supported and empowered way.

After the keynote, attendees had the opportunity to visit exhibitor virtual booths in a 75-minute Exhibit Hour. Exhibitors had a range of ways to interact and impart information, including starting a discussion or participating in a chat, watching videos, or experience a live visit with the company staff on hand.

Tomorrow’s program starts off with a presentation by Turkishceramics at 8 a.m. CDT, followed at 9 a.m. CDT by a 60 Minute Intro to Mindfulness by Gianna Vallefuoco on how to reduce stress in the tile industry.  At 10 a.m., select a business presentation on Be Your Best Everyday: 5 Principles to Consistent Sales Success, or a technical panel discussion entitled Trends in Jobsite Installation Failures and Best Practices in Quality Control/ Prevention. At 11 a.m. – noon, choose from three hour-long collaborative discussions: Getting Back to In-Person Events (Tradeshows, Conventions, Workshops, Trainings and Certifications); Growing the Market for Tile though Why Tile and the Porcelain Tile Marketing Campaign; and How Contractors are Operating in the COVID World.

After a lunch break, come back for a LATICRETE product demonstration, from 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. CDT

CTDA, NTCA, TCAA and TCNA are Partners in Progress for this joint VIRTUAL Conference in 2020. Total Solutions Plus provides educational sessions, networking opportunities and an Virtual Exhibit Hall! The Virtual Conference takes place Monday, October 26th through October 30th. Want to attend? Visit to sign up and join these stellar educational opportunities!

Bostik Introduces Panel Tack™, the ultimate chemical method cladding system to North America during TSP pre-conference session

Wauwatosa, October 22, 2020 – Bostik, Inc., a world leader in specialty adhesives and installation systems for building construction, has introduced its state-of-the-art ventilated façade cladding system, Panel Tack™, to North America. Successfully used for nearly 30 years throughout Europe –and also for a decade in Latin America — its “chemical method” installation system offers top architects and contractors myriad reasons why it should be specified over traditional and outdated “mechanical” processes.

product grouping
The Bostik Panel Tack Family

During a Total Solutions Plus pre-conference session this morning, Daniel Sanchez, Bostik’s National Sales Manager for Latin American, explained that, “Whether it’s for new building or retrofit projects, Panel Tack offers an amazingly clean, modern look with a blind attachment method. Post-installation, one does not see any of the attachment pieces such as unsightly screws and support clips, which can lead to dirty stripes and streaks appearing on the façade. Additionally, with this system, no electrical plug-in source is required on the jobsite. Translated, this results in no harmful silica dust, and no harsh noise caused by drilling and screwing. Importantly, there is no weakening of the panel. For example, thinner wall panels, such as large format gauged porcelain tiles, can easily be used in conjunction with Panel Tack.”

Sanchez went on to state that Panel Tack’s chemical method is more resistant to vibrations and tremors than any mechanical method; that there are no cold bridges and more favorable stress distribution with this system. “It’s easy and fast to install, clean, silent and lightweight.,” Sanchez continued. “Panel Tack improves both acoustic and thermal efficiency of the building, while increasing its lifespan. People inside experience noise reduction, stable temperature change, cost reductions on HVAC, and more.”
Panel Tack™ has been already specified for some major hospitality projects in the United States, which include nearly 200 La Quinta Inns and other name brand hotel chains throughout the country. “This is just the beginning,” confidently stated Sanchez. 

Adam Abell, Bostik’s Market Manager for Tile, Stone, summed up this new introduction by stating, “The Panel Tack system is roughly 30% faster to install than any mechanical system offered on today’s market. With today’s ‘need for speed’ being a top priority within the national construction sector, imagine all the benefits that offers!”

slide from presentation showing installation using new Panel Tack system
The quick, easy installation process involves applying a primer, double-sided adhesive tape and a strip of adhesive from a caulking gun with a specialized tip. The panel is then pressed into the adhesive and the tape for a secure bond.

The installation system consists of a primer or cleaner for the aluminum substructure and panel back, double-sided adhesive tape and an adhesive applied in a strip with a special caulking gun equipped with a triangular-shaped tip that creates a bead that it higher than the tape. After cleaning and priming substructure and panel, and applying tape and adhesive, the panel is simply pushed into the tape and adhesive to bond. The adhesive creates allows some fine tuning time for positioning; the tape creates an immediate bond that holds the panel as the adhesive bead cures. Abell noted that the Panel Tack installation system is four times faster than mechanical systems and can also be used to adhere panels offsite as well.

For more information, visit Bostik or email [email protected] or [email protected]

Championing women

“To love what you do and feel like it matters, how could anything be more fun?” – Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, first American female Fortune 500 CEO

Ten years ago, in 2010, we at TileLetter made the decision to shine a light on the role, leadership and influence of women in what is traditionally thought of as the male-dominated industry of tile installation and contracting. Thus the “Women in Tile” feature was born.

In our 10th anniversary year, we continue this tradition, profiling three prominent women, including NTCA’s own illustrious Art Director Michelle Chapman – who in addition to wearing a slew of hats over the years – is celebrating her very own 20th anniversary with NTCA.

We continue championing women in this issue with our cover story, in which LATICRETE visits with Angie Halford Ré, who was originally included in TileLetter’s WIT feature in 2017. Bart Bettiga talks with Heidi Martin of United Tile, learning about her perspective on a range of topics that the Pacific Northwest distributor must face, from strategic decisions or changes that needed to be made due to COVID-19, to the importance of involvement in industry affiliations and associations. 

And our Member Spotlight focuses on Linette Brown of Able Tile in Knoxville, Tenn., exploring how a family-owned business has redefined its niche in the market over the years. 

The Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year Awards have been announced – and you can read more about the Commercial Winner, Ferid Hasic of Grazzini Brothers & Company in Eagan, Minn., and the Residential Winner, Leonardo Reynaga, of Visalia Ceramic Tile in Visalia, Calif. 

Joseph Mattice of On The Level in Greenville, S.C., reprises his take on technical issues in the industry by exploring the difference between solely installing tile and building a tile assembly designed to perform and last for the long haul. 

Finally, Dean R. Adams, Associate/Project Manager, CCSMTT, CTLGroup, a consulting engineering and materials science firm that provides engineering, testing and scientific services in a range of markets, pens an article on the importance of accurate record keeping. 

Next year (oh, and we all ARE longing for next year, aren’t we?), look for our Women in Tile feature in the March issue. We’re relocating this story to coincide with Women in Construction Week, which takes place March 7 – 13, 2021, by the National Association of Women in Construction. 

Until then, let’s appreciate the value every member of the industry brings to it, and support each other to elevate the trade and its excellence and artistry. And since this year is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment that opened the door for women to have the vote – and we are coming up on the election next month – let me take this opportunity to urge women and men alike to exercise your rights to VOTE in November!

God bless,
[email protected]

Gender has nothing on the curation of powerful and unique mosaic designs

Back in 2017, TileLetter profiled Angie Halford Ré as part of that year’s Women in Tile feature. Three years later, we take a more in-depth look at her work, her artistry and her love for tile.  – Editor

Angie Halford Ré

Angie Halford Ré is the founder and owner of award-winning Unique Mosaics, LLC, a global and nationally-recognized custom mosaic tile artwork studio located in South Salt Lake, Utah. Her 22 years of experience in tile and design make her an industry leader and top consultant in the U.S. among other designers, tile contractors, builders, and architects. As one of the few women currently dominating the tile industry, her custom mosaic designs and installations are heavily regarded as some of the most demanding, intricate projects across the country.

Angie fell in love with tile and mosaics when she lived in North Carolina as a single parent of five children while freelancing in her spare time from her kitchen table. In 2017, once Angie’s small business started growing, she moved to Utah, turning her basement into a working studio. She has since moved her business to a commercial studio

“I love to start an idea with a blank slate and watch it become something incredible,” said Angie. “I love to create functional art using tile as a medium. It’s in my blood. I absolutely cherish every minute of each project I do.”

It takes a village 

“Bringing more than two decades of experience, I’ve realized how important it is to take every opportunity to learn and reach higher to accomplish what you set out to do,” she explained. “Although women in tile are in the minority, I don’t focus on that; it doesn’t have to be an issue. Respect others and respect yourself. Read, take courses when they are offered, go to conventions, join social media groups in the field and learn from others who you admire.” 

Throughout her tile and stone career, Angie has learned how vital it is to lean in on the community of other industry professionals around her. Angie’s creations are unprecedented due to her creative process and how she works directly with architects, contractors, designers and home or business owners one-on-one. She prefabricates her mosaics to be pre-mounted and grouted. She works with installers, who then only need to install either one piece or several sections for larger installations. Working to her clients’ specifications, Angie will often mount mosaics on mesh, mosaic tape or foam board, depending on what the situation calls for. Possessing installer experience herself, she understands what types of tile and setting materials to use and only uses high-quality materials to ensure that her work will stand the test of time. 

LATICRETE Fountain project with (l. to r.) Angie Halford Ré, Mark Christiansen of Tarkus Tile, Rod Katwyk of Rodkat Products, Luke and Amy Denny of Alpen Tile. 

“My projects are personal, which is why I need consistent, outperforming products and a team of industry professionals who will help me bring my vision to life,” said Angie. “LATICRETE has products for any situation and I trust them. Not only do I trust the products, but the people at LATICRETE have become my friends and support system over the years. I can go to many people at LATICRETE and get a quick and trusted response when I have a question or need recommendations.” 

 “SPECTRALOCK® 1 works especially well for my smaller projects because, as a pre-mix, I am able to close the lid back up tight and use it again later on a different project,” Angie said. “I am impressed with how well it spreads and once cured, it keeps the tiniest of tesserae locked in!”

Coincidentally, Angie has been recently working on a project for LATICRETE itself. Rod Katwyk of RodKat Products in Salt Lake City, Utah, commissioned Angie to create a LATICRETE logo mosaic for the company fountain. Designed to be the focal point behind a flow of water, she created the design using tiles of matching brand colors to imitate the LATICRETE logo. For grout, she used SPECTRALOCK® 1 in midnight black and installed 254 Platinum as her adhesive because of its excellent reputation for exterior and underwater applications. It also provides superior bond to concrete, which is ideal since parts of the tile and fountain will be in a wet environment.

Unique projects call for quality products

“The vertically displayed American flag was made from tile and installed in Cicone’s entryway using LATICRETE® 254 Platinum to install the pre-mounted sections,” Angie said. “The team also utilized PERMACOLOR® Select AnyColor™, which allows designers to color-match almost any color they can imagine, and added in a midnight black epoxy grout with silver SPECTRALOCK® DAZZLE™ to give it extra sparkle.”

“I use a great deal of LATICRETE® products in my work,” said Angie. “Most often, I use HYDRO BAN® Board, HYDRO BAN Cementitious Water-proofing Membrane, various LATICRETE thinsets such as 254 Platinum, 1500 Sanded Grout, SPECTRALOCK 1, as well as SPECTRALOCK DAZZLE™ when I want to give that extra ‘bling’ to one of my mosaics.” 

Using LATICRETE products for the vast majority of her jobs, Angie has successfully crafted masterful projects for an assortment of commercial and residential clients. One of the most important things for her is seeing her client excited about the end result, and that the installation went smoothly, which is why quality products are essential for her business. 

For example, Angie recently worked on a custom glass tile mural that would be installed in Sarasota, Fla. Joe Sprinkle of Sprinkle Tile & Stone LLC installed this mural after Angie built the mosaic to size and separated it into sections for easy shipping and installation. Knowing the installer needed setting products that would work well with 1/8” (3 mm) thick stained glass with tight joints throughout the wall mural, Angie specified that Sprinkle use LATICRETE Glass Tile Adhesive in combination with PERMACOLOR® Select NS Ground Base. As an ultra premium, polymer-fortified unsanded portland cement grout, it is designed specifically for highly-delicate surfaces, such as high-polish marble and soft glass. 

“After the installation, my team and Sprinkle Tile & Stone LLC were very impressed with both the ease of installation and the outcome of the overall design,” said Angie. 

One of Angie’s favorite projects to date was being able to create an American flag tile mural for Nick Cicone, a U.S. military veteran and avid patriot in Cleveland, Ohio. The Unique Mosaic team partnered with contractor Jimmy Gladney of Tile by Design to create and install a vertically-displayed American Flag, which would be installed in Cicone’s entryway. What made this project special to Angie was the fact that Cicone wanted the end product to be a surprise. Of course, Angie and her team didn’t disappoint. The U.S. military veteran was awestruck of his new American flag tile artwork and often calls the installer to let him know he’s “staring at it again.”

“For me, it’s not about gender, it’s about the finished product,” Angie said. “My clientele trusts me with their custom orders to ensure a long-lasting, productive relationship with every installation, paired with the highest quality mosaic products.”

The sky’s the limit 

“Life is too short to not love what you do for work,” Ré said. “Make your career in tile what you want it to be.”

Angie’s dedication to her career and company make her the go-to professional nationwide for historical restoration projects and renovations in many of the country’s historical districts and stringent architectural review committees. Her continuous ability to procure, design, create, and build custom mosaic tile artwork makes her an authority in the mosaic tile trade. Her quality and attention to detail remain unmatched and her experience rivals the largest manufacturers, giving her a competitive advantage in the tile installer community.

“Once women in tile start learning the basic skills,” she added, “they should continue to challenge themselves. By practicing and continually challenging yourself, you will be surprised by all you can accomplish with a little determination, courage, and a dash of creativity. The tile industry can be a very rewarding and stable career. Personally, I love my job and fought my way to have it full-time. Life is too short to not love what you do for work. Make your career in tile what you want it to be.”

Women in Tile 2020

Embracing challenge, creativity, and change while wielding empathy and experience – women’s recipe for success

In our world, there is always the opportunity to embrace diversity. One of the ways to do that is to recognize the strong contributions women make within our very own tile industry. 

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on women in the workforce, referenced on the National Association of Women in Construction site , in 2018, approximately 1,106,919 women were employed in various occupation sectors of the construction industry and comprise 9.9% of the construction industry in the
United States. 

Women’s contributions encompass a range of roles, from marketing to design, to installation to management, to showroom staff, and much more. And the good news for women in construction is that while women in the U.S. generally earn 81.1% of what men earn, in construction occupations, women earn 99.1% of what men make. Only .9% to go to close the gender pay gap entirely!

As Katie Michael-Battaglia, Design Director for Nemo Tile+ Stone said in her profile below, “Any career that a woman can do is a great career for a woman to do.” In this, the 10th anniversary of the Women in Tile feature in TileLetter, we meet three women from various walks of our industry, and hone our appreciation of what women bring to the tile industry. This year’s lineup includes Katie Michael-Battaglia, Dawn Marie Suiter, co-owner of Strong Work Renovations, LLC, and NTCA’s own Michelle Chapman, who is celebrating her 20th year with NTCA in 2020. 

Dawn Marie Suiter
Strong Work Renovations, LLC

Lex (right) started helping on the job as a toddler; now she and her mom Dawn Suiter form the backbone of Strong Work Renovations, LLC.

The resulting remodeling boom after the 1994 Northridge earthquake set a series of events in motion for Dawn Marie Suiter to embark on a new career. Her path began with woodworking and finish carpentry and brought her to her current position as a remodeler who focuses on tilework, in business with her daughter.

Suiter fell in love with the physical and mental challenge of remodeling, the creativity it demanded and the freedom for her to be her own boss. Her daughter Lexington (Lex) was a toddler and practically cut her teeth on this work, and grew in skill level as she got older. When Suiter and Lex moved to a new Smoky Mountain fixer-upper, Lex continued to learn, and helped to build a tiny backyard farm.

Dawn and Lex Suiter finished the CTI test, but scores weren’t quite high enough to pass. They will try again after learning for another couple of years, since their “goal is to get better.”

“I taught her like my dad did, one project at a time, how to use all the tools,” Suiter said. “Some people would be horrified to have their 9-year old using a chop saw to cut board lengths for our new chicken coop, from measurements shouted across the yard, but it was just natural working alongside each other.”

Then, in Boulder, Colo., Suiter was doing tile work for a shoddy local remodeling contractor. She researched each job, read bags of mortar and grout, watched Sal DiBlasi videos, and learned that her boss was doing it wrong, every time. 

“One day he asked me to be his business manager, and instead, I quit working for him and formed Strong Work Renovations, LLC with Lex and Jake, my significant other,” Suiter said. “We got our contracting license and continued doing bathrooms using large-format tile, but this time with the right products,” and the rewards were instant.

Today, Strong Work Renovations specializes in large-format tile work and continues to grow, seeking out educational opportunities through NTCA, Schluter and other events. The company’s goal is “to keep getting better,” she said. 

Getting better, indeed – instead of cutting back business during COVID, Suiter decided to expand the business, preparing to build her first spec house on the way to becoming builders. “This adjustment to the flow of daily life has allowed us the time and space needed to make that happen,” she said.

Katie Michael-Battaglia
Nemo Tile + Stone

Katie Michael-Battaglia – Design Director for Nemo Tile + Stone. She is a Certified Interior Designer, NCIDQ Certificate holder, LEED AP, and IIDA Professional Member. Her work has been recognized by Solutia Ultron DOC, New York Council SARA Design Awards, and Interior Design Magazine. She has served as the IIDA NY’s Chapter President, as well as Vice President of Membership. She continues her affiliation as a member of the Leaders Breakfast Committee, Quilt Auction and Color Invasion. 

Katie Michael-Battaglia, Design Director for Nemo Tile + Stone, credits her success with the East Coast distributor to her solid background of 27 years as an interior designer. “As a professional interior designer, I have been specifying tile and stone for many years,” she said. 

Michael-Battaglia’s association with Nemo Tile + Stone began in New York City in 2002 when she worked on projects for Equinox Fitness, interacting with the Karlin family, specifically, Matt Karlin, A&D rep for Nemo Tile + Stone at the time. While designing commercial interiors for leading design firms, she helped design showrooms and products for Nemo Tile + Stone on her own time. In 2015, she became full time Design Director for the distributor. 

“I have always had an appreciation for tile and would design tile into many projects, so this was a natural and exciting transition for my career,” she said. Her design background allows her to “see how a product will be used, and have the vision to see it fully designed. This gives me the insight to know if a product of ours will be successful.” 

In addition to her design background, empathy and good listening skills empower her – and other women – with “a better sense of what customers are looking for,” she said. “She offers a “sense of empathy, as well as a greater degree of openness and intuition.”

She’s used this chaotic COVID time to change marketing strategies and get product in front of customers in a new way. “I stepped in and thought about what I would want to see as a designer,” she said, developing product and informative videos that allow “the user/designer to actually see what the product would look like with scale and texture. This is our way of bringing the product to the buyer without physically being there. This is exactly where my female empathetic nature comes in. I put myself in somebody else’s shoes and thought about what would make my life easier as a designer, without having access to a materials library or getting to a showroom.” 

Michelle Chapman 
National Tile Contractors Association

Michelle Chapman has worn many hats within the association, including membership recruitment and working the booth at the Coverings tradeshow.

If you’ve seen ANYTHING NTCA has produced, most likely Michelle Chapman has had a hand in it. She is the longest-employed member of the NTCA staff still actively on the payroll, and has a unique and comprehensive overview of how the association has grown in her 20 years at NTCA – which she celebrates on November 7th of this year!

While working at an insurance company, Chapman honed her skills when the company sought to produce its own marketing materials in house, and she learned Quark Xpress, a graphic design program. In 1995, a typesetter position opened up at Hederman Brothers Printing – Mississippi’s largest commercial printer – for someone with graphic design knowledge. Chapman clinched the job, continuing to add to her knowledge. NTCA – and its TileLetter magazine – became one of her projects, starting in 1996. 

NTCA staff from 2008 – top row (l. to r.) Gerald Sloan, Workshop Director, Bart Bettiga, Executive Director; Bob Brown, Membership Director; Joe Tarver, Executive Director Emeritus; Gigi Wall, Accounting; Michelle Chapman, Art Director; and Lesley Goddin, Editor. 

In February 2000, then-NTCA Executive Director Joe Tarver asked Chapman to freelance several issues of TileLetter due to ongoing health challenges of editor Myra Cardwell. In September of that year, Tarver asked Chapman to join NTCA full time as Production Manager/Assistant Editor and designer of TileLetter. “It was the best career decision I ever made,” she said. Chapman wore many hats – producing the magazine and collateral material, handling membership billing, as well as advertising sales and billing.

Eighteen months after Chapman joined NTCA, Bart Bettiga (r.) was hired. Staff has since grown from four to 16 employees.

Eighteen months after Chapman joined NTCA, Bart Bettiga was hired to take over for Joe Tarver. Since then, she’s watched the staff grow from four people to 16, and the magazine grow from 68 pages to over 100 plus pages, including special issues – at one point, publishing 17 issues a year.

When the workshop program got a revamp, there was a need for more direct mail pieces, and a new trailer design that sported sponsor logos. NTCA’s presence at trade shows and conventions blossomed – requiring a new booth design – and the NTCA Reference Manual morphed from a black and white publication in a three-ring binder to a 300+ page bound book full of color photos. All of this – and more – has fallen into Chapman’s purview. “Creatively, I’ve been a part of every single piece of all of this, and that’s pretty overwhelming to think about now.”

In 2013, Chapman redesigned the NTCA Reference Manual from a black and white publication in a three-ring binder to the 300+ page bound book it is today.
Working the Coverings booth in Orlando, Fla., (l. to r.) Mary Shaw-Olson, Advertising Sales; Michelle Chapman, Art Director; and Lesley Goddin, Editor.

In addition to her curiosity, work ethic, eye for design and quick-study skills, Chapman said, “I believe women, in general, bring value to any workplace because of their natural ability to value relationships. We create an atmosphere of teamwork and that contributes to cranking out a lot of work and getting the job done, no matter what that job is. I’m persuasive in sales but I’m also an empathetic and encouraging listener to my advertisers and colleagues. And I’ve created true, lifelong friendships with some of the most amazing people of this industry. When I was hired, Myra said to me, ‘The people of this industry are the best of the best and you’ll never meet more genuine and down-to-earth people than people in the tile business.’ How right she was.”

The future is bright for women in tile

Suiter said that tile is a good career choice for those graduating high school or even as a mid-life career choice. “Creativity, multi-tasking, organizational skills – all while managing stress – have become the toolkit many modern American women rely on to get through a day,” she said. “Tile work specifically is a great career because of the time flexibility – you can have a family, or explore other interests while keeping a flexible daily or monthly schedule. The money is good, the risks are not major ones and you’ll definitely stay in shape physically and mentally.”

“Any career that a woman can do is a great career for a woman to do,” Michael-Battaglia added. “All I demand is that I am treated with the same respect as everyone else… there are powerful women in the industry, and I think that more women can be a part of it in terms of leadership and technical roles.” 

“If you possess a good mix of creative, artistic and technical skills, then the tile industry is definitely an option,” Chapman said. “NTCA provides close to 100 courses that you can use to understand all the products, methods and standards that can be used in a successful tile installation and they can be accessed online 24/7. The tile industry can provide a good living for anyone, but as a woman pursuing a career in this industry, it also clears the path for other young girls and women to break from the traditional and show them they can truly be and do whatever fuels their passion.” 

Knoxville-area contractor taps CTIs for reliability and excellence in installation

Able Tile credits Battles and Battles legacy of NTCA membership, education and certification

Linette Brown (left) is partner of Able Tile and Specialty Flooring in Kodak, Tenn., near Knoxville. She’s shown here vacationing with her family at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. 

Family-run Able Tile and Specialty Flooring is a professional tile, flooring, kitchen remodeling and bathroom renovation contractor in the Knoxville area. The company is a specialist in curbless shower design, kitchen tile and bathroom tile floor installation.

Partner Linette Brown has been in the tile business since 2011. She got her start working in tile sales with Battles and Battles Tile, another NTCA member in Knoxville, that closed up shop in 2018 after 25 years in business. 

The company is a specialist in curbless shower design, kitchen tile and bathroom tile floor installation.

Able Tile focuses on high-end custom bathroom projects, with custom cabinetry and custom tile showers. But the company also tackles small commercial jobs like restaurant floor repairs and commercial bathrooms for smaller restaurants. 

Able Tile installed this wood plank tile and used HVAC vents custom made with tile – cut to fit – so there are no unsightly floor grills in the way. Able Tile installed uncoupling membrane throughout. Plank tile is consistent all through the first floor with soft joints added as needed for expansion. 

“My favorite project is a custom-designed curbless shower and bath that will serve the customers for a lifetime,” Brown said. “We do some new homes, but most of our work is upgrading an existing bath or turning current bathtub spaces into a big shower.”

Brown gets a lot of value out of her NTCA membership. “I have personally been an NTCA member for two years but [Battles and Battles] had been a NTCA member forever,” she said. “I joined the NTCA to keep in touch with like-minded people and to stay informed of new or other products and techniques in the trade.

“The greatest value of membership is using the resources offered for improvement of my company and to have people to go to who can help me resolve issues or answer questions,” she added. “The biggest asset to being a member is to have a pool of experience that I can reach out to. I try to continue my education in the tile business because I want to be able to offer the best application to my customers.”

Legacy of CTIs

Able Tile does not have installers on staff, but turns to NTCA and Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) as much as possible. She got into the habit of doing this, following in Battles and Battles’ footsteps of advocating for training and education and being CTIs themselves. 

“Using Certified Tile Installers makes my job much easier because they think through the job and are sure I have not overlooked anything,” she said. “They understand the importance of using the right materials, and how waterproofing systems work. I work with a local glass company who installs all the shower doors and glass in rooms that we have installed. They always comment about how there are never any problems when my guys have done the work. 

“I can leave the job and know that everything will still be done properly, with minimum supervision,” she added. “This is important to me, because I am basically a one-person operation currently. [CTIs] also realize that their name on a project is as important as having my name on a project – actually more important.

“I would like to give Battles and Battles the credit for insisting that all jobs were done to the highest of standards and with that bar so high, I have carried those expectations into my own company,” she said. She carries the tradition forward with a goal of educating “the general public about how important proper tiling methods are, and that the proper systems are in place so that everyone gets not only a beautiful bath or kitchen but a long-lasting one also.”

This shower features a 10’ tall water-jet accent wall that was almost 10 feet wide. Able Tile used two curbless pans and drains and hid them in the border on the floor. The company substituted a small accent shelf instead of a niche, and installed six other curbless bathrooms in this home plus 3,200 sq. ft. of floor tile. Able Tile made sure to meet the customer mandate of no transitions whatsoever. Large-format floor tile was used in the main bathroom areas and carried into shower floors. Mosaics were only used as wall accents. The porcelain shower and kitchen/family room projects in this story were part of the same home.

Priority one: customer satisfaction

Brown makes customer satisfaction her goal. “I strive to never leave an unhappy customer for any reason,” she explained. She reviews every single job with her customers, and has them select and approve all tile and sizes. Then she is meticulous about punctuality, and jobsite care. 

“We come on time and work every day till the job is complete,” she said, aiming for an “extra clean job site and work area.” The company never leaves “a mess in their yard or house and protects all of the areas that we work in. I also respect their pocketbook and try not to have much leftover material. 

I work by word of mouth and have been comfortably busy.”

This bathroom in an existing home had a built-in tub where the freestanding tub is now. This is partially on a wood floor and partially on concrete, so the concrete had to be leveled and screeded before any tile installation could take place. The door jambs all had to be cut because the doors were set too low to accommodate the tile floor. Able Tile installed all natural travertine stone with hand-polished edges to eliminate the need for bullnose. The curbless shower uses 2”x2 “mosaics to create enough slope to guide all the shower water to the drain. Niches have the same shelf as the top of the bench seat, which is all one piece and hand-shaped to fit. The border mixes natural marble and travertine, creating a shower accent that is trimmed with travertine pencil liner, and also embellishing the platform for the tub. The transition from tile to hardwood is thanks to an uncoupling membrane that added the correct height to the tile before installation.

NTCA names residential and commercial Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year

NTCA has selected the Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year in both residential and commercial categories, lauding tile setter craftpeople who reflect the best training and resulting skill, and qualities of leadership, positivity and continued striving for excellence.

The commercial winner is Ferid Hasic of Grazzini Brothers & Company, Eagan, Minn., nominated by Greg Grazzini, CEO and President. Leonardo “Leo” Reynaga of Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc., nominated by Teresa Inglehart, Residential Operations Assistant, walks away with the residential honors. Both winners hailed from NTCA Five-Star contractor member companies. 

Rod Owen, C.C. Owen Co., Mike Micalizzi of Custom Building Products, and James Woelfel, consultant, scored the commercial entries. Jan Hohn of Hohn & Hohn, Inc., William White, ARDEX, and consultant Nyle Wadford judged the residential entries. 

Those submitting a nominee for consideration were required to supply a letter of nomination stating why they were nomimated, a resume that specified noteworthy achievements, examples of leadership and efforts to stay educated on products and methods important to the trade. In addition, each application had to include three to five projects, complete with photos and description of the candidate’s role in the projects. 

Judging criteria included the following factors: 

  • 15 years or more setting tile, and continuing to set tile as part of job today (Yes/No)
  • Technical correctness of tile installations – 25%
  • Craftsmanship/Artistry – 30%
  • Ability to resolve tile installation problems – 20%
  • Self-improvement/continuing education – 15%
  • Mentoring/leading others – 10%

The winners receive round-trip airfare for two to Coverings 2021, hotel accommodations for a three-night stay and will be recognized during NTCA Awards Night during the show. 

Nyle Wadford, a residential category judge, noted, “I am honored to be chosen to judge these entries. Viewing their work and their dedication to their craft was an uplifting experience. When this fast-paced world in which we live demands that it be done more rapidly with ‘get by’ quality, these entrants eschew that notion and proved their dedication to quality on each of the installations reviewed. It is both pleasing and humbling to know that there are still tile installers today that adhere to these practices. Congratulations to all the entrants. They’re all winners in my book!”

Let’s meet our winners!

Ferid Hasic, Grazzini Brothers & Company

Hasic grew up in Bosnia and learned the tile trade from a third generation tile setter in Germany. He and his family moved to the U.S. in January, 1998 and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. His excellent training in Germany allowed him to skip additional training with the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local Union 1 Minnesota, demonstrate his skill and obtain his Tile Setter Journeyman card with the local. He also holds a Stone Mason Journeyman card. 

With levels of increasing responsibility from tile setter to foreman with Grazzini Brothers, he supervises up to 45 workers, while mentoring crew and overseeing projects. He makes it a point to set tile every day, becoming a role model for crew members. 

“If I show the people by my working hard, they will work hard,” Hasic said. “I take pride in my work and want to set a good example. I strive for no punch list on every job. It is important for the people to see that I put myself in their shoes – both my crew and the company. I want to do a good job, so the company gets more jobs. If the company prospers, I will prosper.” 

He keeps up with products and installation methods by using the NTCA University website, the TCNA Handbook and obtaining Union upgrades when offered. In his 21 years with Grazzini Brothers & Company, he has installed over 300 projects. 

“For the past 21 years, Ferid has worked for Grazzini Brothers & Company,” wrote Greg Grazzini in his nomination letter. “I have always been impressed by the exceptional quality of craftsmanship and service he provides to every job and to every client. Ferid displays the ability to adapt fast and efficiently to changing circumstances. He handles manpower with firmness, fairness, sets a good example and has a quiet demeanor that is respected by all his co-workers. His exceptional craftsmanship is continually requested by past clients.”

Hasic isn’t new to awards and accolades – Grazzini Brothers awarded him its own Tile Setter of the Year award in 2000, Foreman of the Year in 2007 and again in 2013. 

“Ferid is one of those people whose skill and dedication motivate those around him,” Grazzini added. “We are proud to have him as part of the Grazzini team and very proud to recognize his contribution to the tile industry with his nomination for the 2020 NTCA Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year Award.” 

Hasic said, “I have worked my whole life in this industry, and I feel it has paid off by winning this award.”

Leo Reynaga, Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc.

As a young father who started working before even finishing high school, Reynaga came to Visalia Ceramic Tile with no experience, and learned his craft through training with owner Robert Martinho, discovering quickly that this career could provide a good living for his growing family. Inglehart said his go-getter attitude propelled him to success.

“Today, with over 24 years in the trade, Leo has become a top setter for commercial and residential applications,” Inglehart said, in her nomination letter. “It is rare to have one guy the best at projects requiring vast differences from small to large areas, simple to custom details – and he’s got it.” His positive attitude, product knowledge, continuing quest for education and experience and willingness to motivate and encourage others have distinguished him as a leader. Inglehart said he’s brought family members and friends into the trade, trained them and pushed them to excel – not only in installation skills but with chops to plan, set goals and develop a true love for the craft. He continues his own education and holds certifications that include safety citations, Certified Tile Installer and has attended classes and workshops by National Tile Contractors Association, Custom Building Products, and Crossville.

“Leo’s knowledge and application have been an immeasurable asset and he continues to be at top of his trade at every project regardless of residential, commercial or complexity,” Inglehart said. “He is a problem solver, a mentor, and a role model for the entire company.”

Reynaga said that receiving this award demonstrates that “no matter what age or time in your career you could always achieve. This award shows my family and coworkers that if you have dedication, hard work, and love for your craft you will succeed.”

He is proud of how far he has come in the industry. “Working for Visalia Ceramic Tile has taught me the key principles of having a hard working ethic and taking pride in what you do, which is something that I have passed down onto my coworkers and kids as well,” he said. 

Challenges from the work – or working with the homeowner – energize Reynaga. “I like the challenge of finding a solution that I can bring to the table that will benefit the outcome and finished product,” he said.

NTCA Five-Star Contractor Project of the Year winners announced

The National Tile Contractors Association recently announced its 2020 NTCA Five-Star Contractor Project of the Year winners. Seven winners were named – Grand Prize, and Achievement of Excellence in Residential, Commercial and Commercial Elite (projects over $1 million) categories, and one People’s Choice winner selected by popular vote.

Judges included Consultant Dave Gobis;  Richard Goldberg, Professional Consultants International; and Kent Klaser, Tile & Stone Consultants. The criteria included scope, complexity, technical soundness, online voting (People’s Choice award), and presentation.

Winners will receive a trophy or a plaque to honor their achievement plus celebration of their accomplishment in social media, as well as with expanded coverage on NTCA’s print and digital platforms.

Pool grotto with colorful mosaics

Residential Grand Prize: Heritage Marble & Tile, Mill Valley, Calif. — The Ultimate Grotto, Corte Madera, Calif.  

This project also won the 2020 Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Award for Residential Tile Installation. Heritage Marble and Tile installed intricate custom glass mosaic tile by Sicis, and handmade ceramic Pratt and Larson stars onto a Moroccan style gunite grotto shell after floating the walls with mud to meet the tolerances that would accept glass mosaic. When it turned out that the shell did not follow landscape architect’s calculations for the precise placement of the mosaic, the contractor made adjustments on site, hand setting the pattern to avoid re-ordering Sicis mosaic from Italy and delaying the project.

Residential exterior

Residential Achievement of Excellence: Boatman and Magnani, Inc. — French Travertine Villa, Bethesda, Md.

Boatman and Magnani, Inc., installed tile and stone in the interior and on the exterior of this private residence.  1 cm travertine in a French Pattern graced the basement and first floor levels over a radiant floor heating system. The project included eight uniquely-designed and detailed bathrooms plus a stunning Master Bath featuring vein-matched Magnum Gold Marble slabs.  The contractor fabricated and installed the natural stone and quartz elements for the kitchen perimeter tops and islands, as well as other select areas in the home. Random-sized split-faced Texas Cream Limestone wall veneer graced the exterior, as well as many other custom elements.

Tribal gathering space and community center

Commercial Grand Prize: Grazzini Brothers & Company, Eagan, Minn. — Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) Cultural Center, Shakopee, Minn.

The 92,500 sq.ft. uniquely-constructed multipurpose facility ,community gathering space and historical exhibit featured over 28,000 sq. ft. of ceramic and stone mosaic floor, wall tile, ceramic tile base and glass wall tile installed in the River Gallery, in the lobby, men’s and women’s locker rooms, showers, restrooms, grand staircase, and atrium entrances. The circular-shaped building required ongoing adjustments to fit patterns to the built space and tie in with the lobby layout pattern. Actual river rocks were sliced in half and meshed together so that flat rock faces formed the finished floor in the pebble mosaic, requiring numerous radius cuts, a tile leveling system, and a thicker setting bed to accommodate the uneven rounded stone halves. 

Arial view of four story building with garden and fountain

Commercial Achievement of Excellence: Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Company , Mesa, Ariz.Mission Improbable: Elevate 24, Phoenix, Ariz.

This massive business complex required exterior installation of 52,000 sq.ft. of 12” x 24” porcelain floor tile with nine different percentages within three uninterrupted 6’ X 8’ patterns specific  to atriums, walking paths, common areas. It flowed though all levels of one building, through walkways and through the four levels of another building. Artcraft used a surveyor’s transit and lasers to find square lines and gridded the entire installation. The contractor had to meet the challenges of 20,000 sq. ft. of loose, unbonded tile and mud bed, devising a tile-over-tile installation, and working through wet soggy, winter weather.

hotel lobby with medallion and grand staircase

Commercial Elite Grand Prize: David Allen Company, Raleigh, N.C. — Hotel Bennett, Charleston, S.C.

This complex project, rife with different patterns, required advance strategic planning. Field measurements were double checked, and dry layouts were done to ensure pleasing pattern placements. The porcelain tile and stone border in the grand lobby were hand-cut in the field to be flush with the radial corners that wrap the room. Cut-to-size stone treads and risers were fabricated for both monumental staircases and mirror each other. Exterior challenges involved keeping crew and materials cool during installation of the roof deck in the heat of summer, and installing 8,000 sq. ft of adjoining balconies and decks with porcelain tile, while keeping proper slope to drains without out-of-tolerance lippage.

hotel lobby with impressive slab front desk treatment

Commercial Elite Achievement of Excellence: DeAnza Tile, Fremont, Calif.Oakland T-12 City Center, Oakland, Calif.

The main level public areas of the 23-floor structure feature Ariostea 24”x48”x3/4” and 24”x24”x3/4”  porcelain pavers for  interior and exterior, with interior elevator lobby and main corridor walls of the LEED Gold building adorned with Granitifiandre Maximum 9’x5’x6mm porcelain panels.  The contractor employed both a pedestal installation system and the TCNA F-121-19 installation method to create seamless alignment of porcelain paver grout joints from interior lobby to exterior and onto the concrete sidewalk. Scissor lifts and rolling scaffolds allowed the contractor to align marble veining on the porcelain wall panels through four different panel varieties.  The illusion of continuous veining was aided by perfectly mitered tile corners, all fabricated onsite.

Iconic Academy Museum of Motion Pictures golden facade

People’s Choice: Premier Tile & Marble, Gardena, Calif. — Academy Museum of Motion Pictures – The Saban Building, Los Angeles, Calif.

The restoration of this iconic 1939 Streamline Moderne Building involved the preservation, rehabilitation and six-story replacement of 350,000 of its 500,000, 24 Karat gold 1”x”1 tile. Working hand in hand with preservationists and conservators, each of the 500,000 tiles were inspected, graded, marked and accepted or deemed unfit for rehabilitation, using technology employed by NASA on the Rover. Crews gave meticulous attention to removing damaged mosaics with small one-inch rotary power tools and low impact pneumatic chisels, and fitting new mosaics flush and aligned with preserved existing tiles, one piece at a time.

Nemo Tile + Stone Launches E-Commerce Business; Unveils Revamped Website

New Interface and Refreshed Site are Designed to Make Shopping for Tile Easier Than Ever

New York, New York — Last month, Nemo Tile + Stone, a New York City-based provider of top-performing surface materials, was excited to unveil its new e-commerce store and revamped website, Advanced in capability and contemporary in aesthetic, Nemo Tile + Stone’s new online presence and interface provides consumers and the interior design and architecture community with a new way to shop for and specify products from the brand’s extensive library of tile and stone offerings. Providing an additional avenue to Nemo Tile + Stone’s five showrooms located throughout the Northeast, customers can now explore the latest styles in surfacing online for residential, commercial, and hospitality projects. 

website screen shot of Nemo Tile
Nemo Tile + Stone launched a new e-commerce site and website last month.

The launch of the e-commerce platform emerged in tandem with the arrival of an entirely refreshed website for the family-owned, 99-year-old brand. In addition to the new online capabilities for buyers, the reimagined website is equipped with improved navigation, imagery, and visualization tools aimed at enhancing the overall user experience. The updated website boasts a plethora of user-centric features highlighted through interactive development tools now available at the click of a mouse. Amongst the new features, users will find personalized search tools that refine a search by size, shape, color, and material. This personalized approach is then expanded upon once a product page is selected. Each individual product page holds numerous images in silhouette and lifestyle frames to allow the user to easily visualize the potential of the product in the space they are designing. 

screen shot of Nemo Tile + Stone Visualizer
Nemo Tile + Stone’s Visualizer allows users to select a tile and instantly see it rendered in up to sixteen different residential and commercial spaces.

Nemo Tile + Stone’s commitment to the user’s experience is at the heart of another new feature, the Visualizer, which allows users to select a tile and instantly see it rendered in up to sixteen different spaces, inclusive of both residential and commercial options that range from kitchens, bathrooms, and foyers to retail and restaurant settings. Users are also able to upload an image of their very own space and render design possibilities in a truly bespoke fashion. Overall, the 3D visualization tool provides a virtual view of a product’s design potential and offers a digestible way for users to see the variety of applications possible with each product. 

“The idea behind the new interface and the launch of e-commerce for Nemo, was and is to provide our customers a premier experience beyond the walls of our showrooms,” said Matthew Coburger, Director of Product Merchandising, Nemo Tile + Stone. “Each new feature offered on the website is designed to provide users with a way to thoughtfully and productively specify the products they’re interested in for any number of project types.” 

The new platform is designed to evolve with Nemo Tile + Stone’s ever-growing product offerings and allow users to easily connect with the brand’s rich product portfolio, including new additions such as the Dash collection, a series of modern porcelain floor and wall tiles rooted in muted earth tones and pastels. Sleek, contemporary style and uniformity were also given immense attention in the refresh of the website and its dedicated design inspiration pages. Equipped with an active blog featuring Nemo Tile + Stone installations and set alongside a section designed to showcase the brand’s Instagram page, @nemotile, users will be able to further understand the vast array of design possibilities afforded by Nemo Tile + Stone’s product offerings and company know-how.  

To see the website first hand, please visit

Where there’s tile, there’s beauty

Life can be beautiful. Maybe you’re not feeling that so much this year, but it’s my observation that where there’s tile, there’s beauty!

This month’s issue focuses on artisan tile installations and decorative tile – breathtaking installations that bring form and color and poetry to settings, sometimes literally. For instance, you’ll find a story in this issue about the ALMA (Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts) Summer Institute, that employs youth aged 16-25 each summer to conceptualize, design, create and glaze mosaic tiles, then install them in public sites around Albuquerque and other cities in New Mexico. 

Another stunning project detailed in this issue is the Corte Madera Pool Grotto, a spectacular example of tile setting by Heritage Marble & Tile, Inc., from Mill Valley, Calif., which won the Coverings Installation & Design Award for Residential Tile Installation. In addition to the level of precision required in this design, challenges along the way required complex on-site adjustments to complete the job within the desired time frame. 

Any trade needs new blood to keep things fresh, and the tile trade is no exception. In our Business section, tile artisans Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile & StoneWorks and Joshua Nordstrom from Tierra Tile talk about how to attract young people to the tile trade, and why it is a great option for those seeking a career that allows them to exercise their creativity. 

Our Member Spotlight, Shawn King of Shawn King, Inc., exemplifies this principle. A true artist, he chose the world of tile setting to practice his art in a new way, executing kitchen and bathroom remodels from his New Port Richie, Fla., location. 

Bart Bettiga wraps up his One-to-One interview with legendary industry expert Dave Gobis in this issue. And if you are feeling a hankering for all that great education and training that NTCA is known for, fear not – our Training and Education feature details fabulous online opportunities for you to learn from NTCA Workshops and take part in NTCA Roundtables Live. Plus, learn about a new NTCA VIP Text Messaging Program that alerts you to educational opportunities in your area, virtually and – God willing – when our trainers get back on the road. Just text NTCA to 31996 from your mobile phone to get connected!

Hope you find some content in this issue to inspire you, lift your spirits, and remind you that you are part of a timeline of stunning workmanship and craftsmanship, with a rich history and a bright future.

God bless,
[email protected]

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