Hot weather installation and tricks

This month’s Hot Topics article gets literal – how do tile installation professionals deal with the challenges of managing hot, oppressive weather, both for the success of the project, and staying hydrated and healthy while doing it? 

Much of the solution to this age-old problem has to do with creating an atmosphere on the jobsite where keeping as cool as possible is the top priority, while seeking ways for allowing productivity to flourish under strenuous conditions.

Anthony Jung, Jung Tile Services

“Living in South Texas all of my life and having been in the tile industry since I was 18 years old, I never really thought about the issues we have in a hotter climate because it was something you just dealt with,“ said Anthony Jung, founder and president, Jung Tile Services, Victoria, Texas. 

The most paramount issue, he noted – and a common theme among all the professionals interviewed for this article – was employee safety. “Staying hydrated and taking breaks often is critical.” 

James Woelfel
James Woelfel, Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile Co.

Like Jung, James Woelfel, president, Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile Co., Mesa, Ariz., believes the most important issue is keeping hydrated and making sure his people are not showing signs of heat stroke. “This is a real problem in Phoenix,” Woelfel said. “The human aspect is far more important than the tile installation aspect. We know that 118 degree weather is hot – and even though I’ve been told a million times it is a dry heat – so is an oven.” 

There is no doubt these are harsh conditions, Woelfel stated. “We start earlier and use tents,” he said. “We finished an exterior water feature in September of last year. We would start work at 3:00 a.m. and finish at 11:30 a.m., two to three hours before the [highest] heat of the day. We would keep our dry-set mortar and grout in the shade before mixing it for use, and made sure if large areas of grout, mortar or waterproofing/crack isolation were going to be needed, that work was done as early in the morning as possible. We made sure we had time for our people to hydrate.”

Artcraft started work at 3 a.m. and finished at 11:30 a.m. last fall on an exterior water feature near Phoenix in order to keep materials, substrate and workers as cool as possible. 

Working in hot weather is commonplace, and the use of tents is the best weapon, Woelfel noted. “As I mentioned earlier, trying to ice jobsite water is impossible and there is not enough cooling to make much of a difference. The most important potential issue to look out for is the over-mixing of water into the dry-goods products. This will create a weaker and faster-setting issue with these products. We dampen the surfaces that receive these products to slow the curing process just a little, and we remember to just dampen the surface, not saturate it.”

Ben Lowery, Cornerstone Commercial Flooring

Ben Lowery, vice president, operations, Cornerstone Commercial Flooring, Baton Rouge, La., also has experience in hot and humid conditions, when applying grout can become problematic. “We live and work in the Deep South; heat and humidity go together like cornbread and turnip greens down here,” he said. “These conditions create multiple challenges when it comes to setting ceramic tile and stone. This is especially true when it comes to grouting.

 “Both ambient and surface temperatures play a role in the success of a grout installation,” Lowery said. “When the air is hot and/or the substrate is hot, all grouts will perform differently than in normal temperatures. Your plan for grouting must start early in the life of the project and take the working conditions into account.”

A Cornerstone worker sets quarry tile in hot conditions. 

Referencing MAPEI’s technical bulletin 010404-TB, Lowery noted steps that can be taken to protect industry professionals from the heat in order to get through the job successfully. When using grouts that must be mixed in full such as epoxy, he noted, “you should reduce the size of the containers purchased (when available). Hot weather causes grout to have less open time, which leads to waste in the mixing bucket.” He also recommended cleaning smaller areas of grouted tile, thus removing excess grout before it dries and hardens due to heat.

Lowery said workers should research the technical data of the grout they use for acceptable installation conditions. “Most grouts have a substrate temperature range requirement,” he explained. “Use an infrared thermometer to ensure substrate temperature is within the limits.” Another tip is to store grout in a cool area. “Store bags in an area that is 70 to 80 degrees, 24 hours prior to installation. Also, grout during cooler times, such as the mornings or evenings.”

Shawn Stonecipher, principal, Creation In Tile & Stone, Boerne, Texas, also recognizes that hydration is critically important when on a hot jobsite. “My greatest hot weather problem is not with tile products but with my body,” he said. “I eat bananas and pickles and drink lots of pickle juice [to stave off] potential cramps. Staying hydrated is a challenge and I bring a case of water a day for my guys. I’d say the greatest challenge is to make sure everyone knows the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It’s important for us to be careful and listen to our bodies.”

Several years ago, Jung recalled, his company had a large project, installing tile on the exterior of a federal building in Laredo, Texas, a much drier location than Victoria, the firm’s home base near the Gulf of Mexico. “It was summer and we would start work at sun up and install tile on the west side of the building until noon. After lunch, we would then move to the east side of the building just so our substrate would not be burning up from the heat of the sun. Shade is key if you have any when working on an exterior environment during the hottest time of the year.

“Always remember to stop and drink water whether you feel thirsty or not,” Jung concluded. “If you wait until you’re thirsty, you will never catch up. So if you have to work in the heat, take breaks and stay hydrated.”

Keeping his crew hydrated during hot weather projects is the biggest problem for Creation In Tile & Stone’s Stonecipher. 

Stellar projects celebrate National Tile Day

For the last three years, February 23rd has marked the day we celebrate tile. National Tile Day is the day we revere the timeless role tile has played in architecture and design.

In celebration of the industry holiday, we’ve dedicated the next few pages to showcase some of the beautiful tile projects tile installers have shared with us.

If you are looking for ways to celebrate National Tile Day, Coverings has a downloadable tool kit at Happy National Tile Day, and feel free to share your outstanding projects with us anytime at [email protected]

This Acuity Insurance Corporate Headquarters Expansion and Parking Structures project was a personal favorite for Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year Nominee Curt Lenzner. Lenzner is a senior commercial installer at H.J. Martin and Son in Green Bay, Wis. This massive project involved the installation of a variety of products including stone, porcelain tile and glass.
Custom waterfall in Medi-Spa reception room transitions to adjacent walls in waiting room. Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc., custom designed, templated, fabricated and installed this beauty, using glass tile from Oceanside Glass & Tile. Lee Callewaert, co-owner and senior craftsman of Dragonfly Tile, was named NTCA’s 2019 Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year.
Grazzini Brothers & Company installed the Milwaukee Bucks New Arena, Fiserv Forum, and won the NTCA Five-Star Project of the Year People’s Choice Award for it. Over 150,000 square feet of floor and wall tile was installed in all six levels of the arena. The areas include: kitchens, 18 men’s restrooms, 22 women’s restrooms, 14 gender-neutral restrooms, showers, locker rooms, 34 suites, clubs, bars, corridors, and concessions.
The San Pedro Creek Culture Park project, installed by J&R Tile, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas, was submitted for an NTCA Five-Star Project of the Year award. The amazing Bexar County installation used custom tile from Redondo Tile and Tile Artisans.

Stunning projects by skillful female tile setters

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.

Chanel Carrizosa

Chanel Carrizosa,
Icon Tile & Design, LLC
Kirkland, Wash.

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

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

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.”

Occupational hazards: dealing with back issues

At the end of December, tile setter Dan Chamberlain of Kelowna, B.C., a member of the Facebook social media group Tile Geeks, posed this question: 

“GETTING FRUSTRATED!!!! How many of you guys are working with a bulged disk in your back? What are you finding helps?? I’ve been using two 18” needle nose pliers to put on socks and underwear since August.”

This grabbed my attention immediately, since I’ve had a personal encounter with “severely narrowed” L5 and L6 vertebrae immediately after Coverings 2018. Six weeks of physical therapy that evolved into a daily yoga practice and dropping over 20 lbs. have worked to keep my back mostly pain free (and kept me out of the surgeon’s office). So I was interested in the flurry of over 60 responses that ensued to Dan’s question.

Clearly, back problems are something many tile setters deal with on a frequent basis, and there is a wide range of various responses and remedies from surgery to prayer – that tile setters are employing – some resulting in great improvement and some that don’t make much difference.

Note of caution: this article is not meant to prescribe medical treatment, only to provide some ideas and insights to follow up with your doctor or healthcare professional.  

Back surgery

Some tile setters, like John Graichen, Nicholasville, Ky., and Brock Cooper, of Tulsa, Okla., have had back surgery to “shave down” or fuse vertebrae, which resulted in a lot of relief. Cooper had surgery in his 20s, which lasted well for 25 years and had to repeat it in 2015. “Find a physical therapist and look up on YouTube ways to correct a bulging disc,” he said. “Surgery is the last resort; you will hurt if you don’t find other means after.”

Jack Hamilton, who now works sales for ARDEX Americas in Arizona, responded that “My surgeon told me if a bulging disc doesn’t heal on its own within two weeks it’s not going to. I fought a bulging and crushed disc for 10 months. Feel your pain bro. Get an MRI and see if you can get it fixed.”

But surgery isn’t the end-all and be-all solution for some. David Swim of Swim Bros. Building and Remodeling in Ashland, Ky., has three bulging discs, plus the aftermath of a two disc-bone fusion in his neck from ’08. “The surgery helped for a couple years but things started going bad again,” he said. Swim toughs it out to avoid pain meds. “If it gets terrible, I use ice and heat in the evenings on and off and a brace during the days,” he explained. 

Though Michael Coombs of Kennmarr Enterprises Ltd., Thornnill, Ontario and Nothing But Bathrooms in Newmarket, Ontario, has intermittent pain from one herniated and one bulging disc, he uses stretching and medication to control it. “My doctor is recommending the surgery,” he said. “But I’ve heard horror stories of guys doing much worse a year or two after the surgery. So, trying to avoid it at all costs.” 

Massage and chiropractic

Many setters swear by massage and chiropractic for relief. “Massage works wonders for me,” said Matt Byars, Tiling Solutions, LLC of Gaffney, S.C., “The best thing I’ve done is learn that when it flares up, to take it easy for a couple of days.”

Craig Griffin, of Griffin Tile & Stone, Griffin Const. Group and an independent Florida tile setter, started as a tile helper in 1980, and has had “way too many years of body abuse.” He sees a chiropractor twice a week. Another tile setter steps up his chiropractic visits in the acute phase until healing starts to happen, even going for daily visits for several months.

Oliver Ledbetter of Little Tile Guy, LLC in Hickory, N.C., plans on “chiro” every Friday afternoon, then a hot shower and ice before bed. “I don’t have a bulging disc but am in recovery from a slipping one,” he explained. 

One tile setter advised, “Look into medical massage. If you have an X-ray to guide from, it would be helpful. Medical massage will break your muscle memory and help you re align yourself.”

Michael Denis, owner/installer at Denis Tiling Co., in Warwick, R.I., advised, “You should be seeing a physical therapist or chiropractor. Until then stay hydrated and see if someone can pull on your legs while laying on your back for 15-30 seconds at a time. It won’t provide a killer stretch, but may provide some relief.”

Supplements, hydration and anti-inflammatory foods

Paul Joseph of Precision Plus Home Remodelers, Inc., in Port Washington, N.Y., is the not-so-proud owner of six herniated discs, but he credits a combination of supplements with keeping him pain free for 10 years. His potion? Twice a day doses of magnesium 64 mg, 720 mg turmeric, and four Wobenzym N® pills daily. He also uses a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine to help alleviate spasms. 

In addition to supplements, Pablo Marticorena, of Pablo Tile Installer in Chippewa Falls, Wis., advises drinking water – and lots of it – to help with back issues. There’s a strong case for staying hydrated. My own physical therapist explained that layers of muscle and fascia slide over each other when you move. Keeping your body hydrated allows them to glide easily, but if you’re dehydrated, they “stick” and can cause pain. 

Justin Howell of Fantasy Tile in Glen Burnie, Md., got his back issues under control by sleeping with a pillow under his legs and sleeping on his back. “I stretched about 10 times a day,” he said. “Once I finally figured out where the pain was coming from, I got the MRI and did a chiropractic treatment. I have realized hydration and a gluten-free diet helps with doing a foam roller at home three times a day. Inflammatory foods are brutal.”

From MW Rouzer LLC in Sussex, N.J., Stephanie Rouzer’s tile setter husband had success with a chiropractor and anti-inflammatory eating. “It’s kept him off drugs and out of surgery,” she added.  

Inversion table, decompression

Hanging upside – and other forms of decompression and traction – offers relief for many. Michael Edward Baczynski of Deluxe Improvements in Avilla, Ind., and Jack Stallings of Imperial Tile and Marble, Inc., in Phoenix, Ariz., find inversion tables helpful for taking the pressure off the vertebrae. 

Keith Heniss of Total Design Tile & Flooring, Inc., in Olathe, Kan., admitted he’s dealt with two bulging disks for almost 15 years. “The best thing I can do is stretch in morning – real stretching – and then an inversion table right before bed.”

Lena Anderson of Pine Bluff, Ark., said, “I got one a couple years ago. Old tired and worn out: five minutes on it and I feel like a new person!”

Dave Collins, owner of Collins Remodeling in Butler, Pa., said, “My chiropractor just told me my back is 10 to 15 years older than I am: arthritis and degenerative disks. I have found if I use my inversion table regularly it helps.”

TENS machine

Like Paul Joseph, Brad Bressler, Bressler Tile and Stone, Austin, Tex., relies on the TENS machine to alleviate pain. Anderson said, “It will be the best $30 you ever spend. I have crawled out of my van some days and then put thing on and the pain just goes away.”

Drew Finch of A&D Tile in Columbiana, Ohio also used a TENS machine in conjunction with three weeks of physical therapy and massage to heal from a back issue. 

Stretching, exercise

In addition to chiropractic, Chris Wittenbrink of Keystone Kitchens, Inc., in Woodinville, Wash., practices specialized exercises and sometimes takes time off work. Ric Satterlee of Dynamic Interiors, LLC in Anchorage, Alaska, recommended strengthening core muscles and taking vitamins for joints. “A lot of back pain can be caused from weak core muscles and over time do damage,” he said. “When my back hurts I wear a brace until pain is completely gone.”

Neal Holden of Riverside Construction, LLC in Yakima, Wash., has issues with his L3 and L4 vertebrae, but fights it with water for hydration, going to the gym three times a week with a focus on the core muscles, and chiropractor visits until they dwindle to only a weekly tune up. 

Kenny David Gonzalez of Phoenix International Consulting, INC, Long Beach, Calif., recommends buying the book, The Gift of Injury. “It shows you good exercises to help dramatically,” he said.

A back brace helps Elizabeth Yaldua of Elite Flooring and More in Bentonville, Ark., deal with bulging discs at L3, L4 and L5. She advises keeping shoulders in line with one’s hips, sleeping on a pallet on the floor, and “when you’re not hurting, do squats.”


Steroid/epidural injections seem to work wonders for some sufferers. Brad Bressler said, “I got a steroid injection a couple of years ago that was a lifesaver. I also visit a chiropractor every four weeks for a ride on the decompression table and a tune up. I don’t see myself doing tile much longer if I want to avoid surgery.”

Prednisone worked for Gordon Webber of Webber Masonry and Tile in Antrim, N.H., and John Page V, owner of Timeless Tile & Surface Restoration, Newland, N.C., said he gets steroid shots every other year to address sciatic pain. Al DeNorcia of Holmdel, N.J., has three herniated discs and gets epidural injections every two years. “It’s been working for years now, and in my opinion, it’s safer than back surgery.”

Some setters use Percocet for severe pain, and have had some success with medical marijuana or CBD oil, sometimes in combination with yoga and stretching. 


Daniel J. Picard of Picard and Sons Tile in West Warwick, R.I., and his uncle Gary Picard of Picard Tile in Fairhaven, Mass., both advocate prayer. Daniel said, “Prayer brother. I’m 35 and had both my hips replaced and I’m in pain every day. So I live on prayer and ibuprofen.”

As a final word, Nick Aldama of Veneziano Tile & Stone in Santa Rosa, Calif., advises some preventative medicine: invest in good helpers. “I have two bulged discs pinching two nerves that run from my back to my toes. It shoots into my knees, as well as early onset degenerative disc disease from L5 to S1. I’m only 34.” Aldama also suffered from a collapsed lung twice last July and a 10mm kidney stone. “I wake up in pain every day and push through,” he said. “They tried to give me pain meds but I can’t work on them. My dad taught me tile at a young age, but I had to give it a break for a while.”

And Jon Donmoyer, owner of JD Tile in Annville, Pa., who’s dealing with knee issues and scoping surgery to remedy it, is taking the long view. “Get help – you have to think of the rest of your life. When your body is talking – listen. Your health should come first.”

Dan Chamberlain was wowed by all the responses to his query. “I didn’t think that there would be so many going through the same issues,” he said. “I have already been doing the massage therapy, chiropractor and a little acupuncture.” He admitted he already drinks a lot of water, and will look into the supplements mentioned.

Product and installation standards: carrot or stick?

On August 22 on the NTCA Members Only Facebook page, NTCA Member Steve Rausch posted a question about the use and perspective on product and installation standards. A lively conversation among installers, manufacturers and consultants ensued. Here’s a summary of these comments. What’s YOUR opinion? Send it to [email protected], and we can continue the discussion. 

Steve Rausch, Professional Business and Technical Consultant for the Ceramic Tile and Flooring Industry, Atlanta, Ga Product and Installation standards of ANSI, ASTM, & ISO – are they “carrots” to encourage improvement or, “sticks” to beat you with about failures? Are they too difficult to understand? Are they too “open” to various interpretations? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Jake Swoboda, Swoboda Construction LLC, Lincoln, Neb. – I like to view them as carrots, as something to work towards, to hopefully achieve installations that can last forever. I can totally see them being used as sticks though if I ever have a failure. I think some of the standards could be a little more specific.

Ron Nash, LATICRETE Intl. – They are simply efforts to clarify complex product categories.

Are they perfect? No. Are they better than nothing? Heck yes.

We make products for industries with little/no standards. Believe me there are some snake oil salesmen in the world. Standards are good.

Dave Gobis, Independent Tile Consultant, Racine, Wis. – To me, they serve as an expectation of performance. If the end user is not offered an expectation, then your project becomes a roll of the dice. Thus far, in every legal instance I have participated in, they have prevailed. Have had a few court cases where they used a local customs and practices; haven’t seen a win using that defense so far. Only speaking of my own experiences. Have a case going right now that will be another test of the “that’s just the way we do it, sorry it didn’t work out” versus standards.

Ashley Andrews, Andrews Quality Construction, Macon, Ga. – Coming from an installer’s standpoint I see these standards as methods that are proven to perform to an expectation that I can guarantee nationwide. If I follow all guidelines and instructions then I am assured that my project will succeed for the long term anywhere in North America. This assurance gives me confidence that I can then pass on to the customer.

With all that being said, I recently installed some subway tile manufactured in America with the “meets ANSI standards” mark and it was some of the worst tile I’ve worked with in a long while so I guess these standards are not foolproof or perfect. Still much better than nothing.

Dave Gobis That is a good example of how you could have put them to work. You have recourse if they say it meets a standard and it doesn’t. Going to look at one of those Friday.

Tim Christopher, Tiles and Tiling Association of Australia; Modern Aspect Tiling and Stone – The U.S. appears to have some of the best standards in the world and is a level to aspire to for other countries. Here in Australia, our standards are very outdated. This makes things difficult as there are little or no guidelines on some products and situations. Having no overriding guidelines doesn’t serve the installer or the consumer.

Craig Harimon, Craig Harimon Tilesetters, Omaha, Neb. – The fact that we have a set of industry-wide recognized standards is one of the necessary elements to our future growth as a “professional” trade.

Like the standards, the above sentence says exactly what I wanted it to exactly the way I wanted it said.

They are written in a specialized format that pose a barrier to many trying to understand.

It has just occurred to me that a truly beneficial course that the NTCA could add to its NTCA University would be one that covers, “history and intent,” “submitting and approval processes” and finally, “how to read and understand a TCNA subsection.” Use B 415 as the class example. A second course on covering the same topics on ANSI (I would pick A118.1) would be equally beneficial. As an added bonus people would learn about traditional shower assemblies and dryset cement mortar.

Dave Gobis I have never thought or considered it a specialized format. I used to do in-depth explanations at CTEF and was constantly requested to lighten it up. For it to make the greatest amount of sense requires a history lesson along with the explanation. There is a reason for all of it.

Dan Marvin, MAPEI – When we write standards, we shoot for clarity but often end up with “Standards Speak” because they are a group effort. If you’ve ever tried to write a book by sitting down to write it while 75 people stand over your shoulder and loudly criticize every word, you have a feel for what standards development is like. With that said, the tile industry has an awesome leg up on other industries because of the dedication of people like Dave Gobis and Steve Rausch over the years who have taken standards development to heart and put together some great resources. Whenever MAPEI does a training, we start with “What does ANSI say?” or “What does the Handbook say?” and work from there.

Dave Gobis To that I add that ANSI has specific language that has to be used from both a format and legal perspective. I remember years ago spending hours on discussion of using the word should or shall. The document is always going to sound stiff.

Christopher Walker, David Allen Company, Northeast Region, Bristow, Va. We are starting down the path to update the language in ANSI. I think both Dave G & Dan M would agree, even with all the experience and well-intended input, sometimes the most well-meaning and thoroughly-vetted changes have widespread unintended consequences. Usually not for the better. “Standards Speak” kicks in when you are attempting to be specific, while not handing a noose to the next lawyer with marginal case, or language/requirements that no installation can meet in practical application. Not just in the lab. That is a tough road to navigate.

Dan Marvin For those of you not familiar with Chris Walker, you all owe him a debt of gratitude. As the head of ANSI A108, he’s a tireless advocate of writing clear standards that work for the industry and not against it. It’s been my privilege to work alongside him for many years now. His point is a good one, standards aren’t just a written set of instructions, they are also a legal document. When things go wrong, every word is hotly debated and can have very real consequences.

Steve Rausch I posted this EXACT post on multiple social media sites, the diversity of comments are amazing. The folks who have been trained and educated about our industry most all made positive comments about standards and their need in our DAILY business. The comments from folks who aren’t formally trained are overwhelmingly negative about the only purpose of standards are to “beat down” workers. This has been a very interesting experience and experiment to convince me we still need a HUGE OUTREACH in our industry to train more folks. I’m planning to pose the question soon, on these same outlets, as to what will incentivize folks to become better trained.

Contractors get creative with green solutions

Recycling options can benefit homeowners, contractors, and community members as well as the earth

With this issue addressing issues of sustainability, environmental friendliness and recycling, we turn to a couple of contractors to see what might be percolating in the green arena for them. 

Nadine Edelstein, owner of NTCA member Tile Design by Edelstein located in Vashon, Wash., addresses the recycling issue with a program she’s dubbed, “No Tile Left Behind.” Edelstein said, “It’s enabled me to pull a LOT of material out of the waste stream, and then I am able to make creative spaces for clients with it. I don’t charge them for the material, but they pay me to design with it.”

Edelstein’s original hex concept made from her No Tile Left Behind program.

Edelstein was asked to create a feature wall for a new local salon and used No Tile Left Behind material to create it.

“I was thrilled when I found out that the branding was around the concept of the hive,” she said. “Several years earlier I had created a concept wall for a local group tile show. I cut kite shaped tiles from tile and stone (from No Tile Left Behind) and arranged them into a dimensional wall of hexagons for the show’s entry. Of course I saved all the tiles and hoped I would find an imaginative client. 

“Then along came The Hive! I had to tweak the color palette and add some more pieces but I was finally able to give the piece a place in the real world,” she said.

The wall Edelstein created for The Hive salon, using “waste” material.

Another recent No Tile Left Behind project was a shower for a previous client of Edelstein. “I was able to utilize glass, ceramic, and porcelain in a blue/green color palette to create a large scale mosaic for their master bathroom remodel,” she said.

“Fortunately, I have a large studio,” she said. “So I am able to store the rescued tile and stone until I can find them a new home.”

Another “Green” perspective

Another “green” perspective on recycling comes from appropriately named NTCA member Phil Green, owner of PGC Construction, Remodeling and Design in Gilberts, Ill. He’s also the creative genius behind the “Back Butter Buddy” tool, a tile-centric Lazy Susan that sits atop a bucket and allows large tiles to be turned more ergonomically. He’s putting his innovative mind to work on the recycling issue and he’s outspoken about the need for novel solutions. 

Glass, ceramic and porcelain from Edelstein’s No Tile Left Behind tiles created this stunning shower.

“We in the tile/remodeling industry generate a fair amount of waste materials during the course of our projects. Even the cartons and bags from our tile and thinset become something that we need to deal with,” he said.

“As the planet gets more and more cluttered with debris from a ‘disposable-minded’ society we NEED, MUST, ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO do our personal fair share to chip in and become part of the solution. Many programs already exist, and new ones are on the horizon that look for alternatives to bagging and shipping everything to the dump.”

Green detailed  a few things that his company has chosen to do to help: “When we demo a kitchen or bath we do it in such a way as to not damage the reusable products from the project,” he said. “Sure, sledge hammers work, but they are just to add drama on the DIY/HGTV shows. We take cabinets, countertops, faucets, light fixtures, doors, and even old paint to our local Habitat for Humanity Restore. For any valuable products, I fill out a donation sheet and give it to my homeowners as a tax write off. They appreciate it and it means less in the landfill. Win, win!”

Cuts and broken tiles are the perfect materials for mosaic projects.

Cuts and broken tiles make excellent materials for mosaic projects, Green has discovered. “I love the look of mosaic designs, and once again the tile gets a new life and is not buried in some hill,” he said.

“I would suspect most towns have a recycling program along with their normal garbage pick-up,” he added “I try to bring cardboard and plastic home to be disposed of in my personal container. I am also lucky enough that I can have an open burn pit at my home. I take paper and wood products home and burn them there. If I get any metal from my jobsite – other than copper and aluminum – I bring that home too, separate it from my normal waste and set it aside. I know that the ‘scrapper’ will drive along on garbage pick-up day, and if I can help him make a couple of extra pennies, I do. 

“Every town also has a recycling drop-off center for scrap materials such as copper and aluminum,” he said. “I accumulate these metals and make the trip, even if just for gas money, but I know these products too will be melted down and be reborn.”

Green knows this isn’t an exhaustive list of solutions, but it’s a start for contractors who want to be earth-conscious. “That is my GREEN perspective,” he said. “I guess I’ve always been Green without realizing it.”

Teaching your kids the tile trade: yes or no?

One recent Tuesday, Dave Clark, owner of Clark Flooring LLC in Jackson, Miss., posed a question on the Facebook group, Global Tile Posse, about working with young family members – who’s done it and how is it working out?

“Working my son this summer, he’s 12 and never really done anything like work. Mainly just want to spend time with him and teach him a trade and the value of a hard-earned dollar. Any of you guys or gals ever work your youngsters? What would you pay them? Would you let them run a saw?”

This is an interesting question, since one of the main challenges in our industry is the dearth of tile setters and interest in the trade in the next generation. But after reading these responses, there is hope!

Sean Burkhart, Burkhart Construction Management, Richfield, Wis.: My son helps me every now and then. He is 9. I taught him how to run a tile breaker when he was 4. I don’t even have to explain it to him now. Just hand him a cut with a mark and he breaks it then stones the edge! Great help!

Brad Tremain, Tremain’s Top Tile, Winona, Minn.: Run a saw and wipe grout. Simple cuts. I’ve let my 8-year old run straight cuts.

Charles Nolen, Prestige Custom Tile, Logansport, Ind.: I get the awesome privilege of having my son install right along with me every day and I can say it’s truly the best ever watching your kid turn into a mini you. It’s pretty damn rewarding, not to mention the whole being proud thing, so here’s to you, Caleb Nolen. Let them do whatever they feel comfortable with. One of many good things about a wet saw is it’s hard to cut fingers off with it.

Kevin Green, Artistic Marble & Tile, Columbus, Ohio: $10 an hour. I tell him he has to save half of it, and yes I show him how to use the tools.

Cody Laws, Cody Laws Contractors, Wadmalaw Is., S.C.: I started when I was about 6. I got a dollar a day to pick up carpet scraps and blades. I had my own pair of pliers to pick them up with and put in a can.

Clayton Knutson, Final Touch Contracting, Dallas, Texas: I started real work and paying taxes/social security at 8 in a shipyard. My son is 4; works harder than most men.

Joseph Maiuri, Shores Tile Co., Roseville, Mich.: Yes sir. 12. First job I had was removing the paper between the quarry tile base and cutting the cardboard off the top: “Police the area.” I also cleaned my brother’s truck. I think I got $10/hr back then. That’s awesome – teach them young!

Matthew Allcott’s 11-year-old son grouting a floor…

Matthew Allcott, MGA Tiling, Frome, Somerset UK : I’ve let my boy have a go on the dry cuts (subway tile) and grout a small floor; he’s 11. He got 15 pounds for the day.

Dave Morgan, CA Flooring, LLC, Clinton, Miss.: My son helps my brother some throughout the summers. He’s 14 now and has been helping for the past few years.

Nathan N Michelle Mikoski of Batharium, Kannapolis, N.C.: Depends on the kid. My oldest started when he was 9, and around 13 things clicked for him. By 14 he was straight up setting small jobs and tub surrounds on his own. He’s started back today for the summer and will be 16 in a few weeks. He’s paid for his first car (a 1970 Beetle) and his own monster gaming rig. His younger

…and doing dry cuts on subway tile.

brother is 11 and still isn’t ready to handle a power tool, but he has other skills neither I nor his older brother have

Greg Dawson, Greg’s Flooring, Quesnel, B.C.: Pay $15/hr. Make him work, but try to have fun. Every dollar you pay him now is money that you won’t give him later to go out and do stuff. And he will feel like he earned it. It’s coming out of your pocket either way; just let them work for it.

Dennis Pacetti, Pacetti Tile & Remodeling, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.: Pay him what you’d pay an actual helper, and work him like an actual helper.

George Adams, ST Tile, Wellington, Ohio: My son has been on jobs since about 4. I was self-employed for 15 years and a single father, so my son came to work with me as often as possible. When he was 16, he started working for the same company I do. This is his second year here and he earned himself a $3 dollar/hour raise.

Tom Welch, Welch Bros, LLC, Woodland, Wash.: I don’t have a son but I do have two nephews that spent summers working on my tile jobs that are now both licensed full-service tile contractors. They were 14 or 15 when they first started and are now in their mid thirties. They started by just doing housekeeping and cleaning tools and buckets, buffing grout jobs, and just getting acquainted with construction in general by working around other tradesmen. I always made sure they got paid so they understood the value of working. I couldn’t be more proud of both of them and their accomplishments.

Matthew Felton’s stepdaughter Natalie helping on a waterjet mosaic, grinding off knobs where the mosaic broke off from the original stone tile. (In all other work she wore eye protection, Felton said).

Matthew Felton,, Milwaukee, Wis.: My dentist was kind enough to give my stepdaughter free braces. She was 10. So when his bathroom project came up in the summer, you should have seen the look on his face when he came home to see her outside in his driveway by herself making cuts for me.

I obviously didn’t just throw her out there. She learned everything – especially safety wise – that she needed to know and was more capable than most hired help I hired after the same amount of training. Pay for your son? As much as you would pay for what you would get out of any other trainee with whatever skill level he performs at. But agree there should be a lesson in saving as well.

Shaun Skeen, Home & Business Renovation Solutions, Okeechobee, Fla.: This is awesome seeing the next generation. I will start my son next year when he turns 4. We all better watch out for DCF showing up at our doors for child labor laws, LOL. Seriously though, let him enjoy just being with his dad then slowly start working him. Trash clean up, getting buckets filled, pulling spacers, cleaning thinset out of joints etc.

Dave Clark, Clark Flooring, LLC, Jackson, Miss.: All great responses. Thanks GTP! My kid makes great grades, just finished 6th grade with one B and the rest As. He likes to brag on being one of the smart kids and his achievements. I really just wanna spend time with him and teach him something that we know can be valuable. Kid saves all his money. I give him cash usually twice a year and he puts it wherever he puts it. He’s probably got more stashed away than I do. Lolz. Happy Tuesday, y’all!

From the Field – September 2013

NTCA continues efforts to promote membership in strategic planning

By Bart Bettiga

The NTCA prides itself on being the “Voice of the Tile Contractor” in our industry. Recently, our executive officers met at the home of current president Dan Welch in Grand Rapids, Mich. As the association continues to grow, with almost 850 members as of August 1, the Executive Committee spent several days reviewing the goals and objectives established by the Board of Directors and developing new initiatives moving into 2014 and beyond.

Saving NTCA members money, and finding them work

One of the most important objectives of the association will be branded in a stronger marketing effort moving forward. Simply stated, the NTCA continues to develop programs that will “Save Our Members Money and Find Them Work.” If we can show our members tangible results in this effort, there will be every reason for them to continue as members of NTCA.

Examples of programs that fit into this objective include the NTCA Partnering For Success Program, where associate members offer FREE product vouchers for products to offset the investment a contractor makes in membership in NTCA. This program has been one of the most successful efforts in the history of the NTCA, and now offers three times the cost of NTCA membership in FREE products for contractors to use on their projects. In fact, as of June 30th, the NTCA had issued over $570,000 in vouchers back to our members! This goes right to your bottom line! More importantly, many of our members have thanked us for this program because it has helped them to source new and innovative products that they continue to purchase for their company. This is truly a win-win program.

NTCA promotes qualified labor

Another key strategic effort our association continues to work on is to promote “qualified labor” to project owners, architects, builders, designers, etc. By working closely with manufacturers, distributors and other labor associations in our trade, we have made giant strides in this effort. Language promoting hiring qualified tile installers has been inserted into tile industry standards, specification programs, and manufacturers’ product recommendations. We continue to develop certification through the CTI (Certified Tile Installer) program offered by the CTEF and the ACT Program (Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers) jointly promoted by the leading tile associations in the industry. The NTCA Five Star Contractor effort is a comprehensive company recognition program that is also part of this effort.

There are many other discounted programs and services the NTCA offers to its members. If you are interested in learning more information about this, you can go to the NTCA website at or contact assistant executive director Jim Olson at [email protected]

Standards development

Perhaps the most important role we play on behalf of labor is in the development of industry standards. The NTCA Technical and Methods and Standards Committees develop the NTCA Reference Manual, which is being printed this year and for the first time ever being offered to the entire industry. In addition, these dedicated individuals develop proposed changes and new methods to the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation and ANSI A108 Committees; selected individuals participate in these committees on behalf of the NTCA and labor as well. I can attest to the fact that your “voice” is represented on these national committees thanks to the voluntary efforts of many NTCA contractor members.

I am amazed at the volume of work the NTCA staff does to fulfill our goal as the Voice of the Tile Contractor. Even more amazing are the volunteer efforts taking place all around the country by NTCA Members, State Directors, Regional Directors, and Executive Officers. Not only are we growing in membership at the NTCA, we are growing in the number of “active members” who regularly contact our office for business and technical support, attend our local educational and training programs like the NTCA Workshops, and come to national tradeshows we sponsor and support like Coverings and Total Solutions Plus.

The NTCA is committed to letting you know that one of our strategic missions is to “Save our Members Money and Find Them Work.” Join our growing association now and let us prove it to you.