Homing in on Coverings 2020

In this March issue, we start homing in on Coverings. What a dynamic event this is going to be! Back in New Orleans for the first time in nearly 20 years, Coverings promises to bring all its standard business-boosting features, set among outstanding food, culture, and music in a city that continues to rebuild itself after the major destruction of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. A testament to the city’s ebullient spirit, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival begins April 23 – just as Coverings is coming to a close – so plan to stay for the weekend to enjoy what the city has to offer. For a preview of what Coverings has on tap, read the story in this issue – some favorite features will return with some new events, activities and elements planned. 

Seafood gumbo by Carol Bracey

You read in our February issue about how the NTCA/CTEF partnership is kicking certification into high gear. This month in our Training & Education section, hear from some Industry Evaluators who have gone through the Boot Camp training about their commitment and their outlook for this industry program.

In this month’s One-to-One, Bart Bettiga speaks with two stellar artisans of our industry – Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works and Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile. Gain some insight into their particular approaches to craftsmanship, artistry and the tile industry. 

In our Tile & Stone section, we talk with Becky Serbin about an essential new workshop that NTCA is offering in 2020: The Ins and Outs of Layout. This workshop evolved from observations during the Certified Tile Installer tests – that not all contractors had a working knowledge of accurate layout principles, which created time management issues during the exam. Clearly, this situation would ALSO slow down a day-to-day job, so NTCA decided to address it with the new workshop focus on layout.

Floor warming systems have come a long way since hydronic heating was the only option for creating a cozy floor. And fortunately ceramic and porcelain tiles are excellent finishing materials to use in conjunction with these systems. In our Technical section, read what floor warming manufacturers say contribute to successful electric floor warming system installation. 

Enjoy this issue, the coming of spring – officially arriving on March 19 – and your plans to attend the pre-eminent tile and stone event in North America, complete with Cajun and Creole flair in The Big Easy.

God bless, 

Lesley 
[email protected]

People who work together, win together

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”  
– Vince Lombardi 

It is December 5, and I am sitting at my desk in New Mexico finalizing the content for our February issue.

I don’t generally discuss the inner workings of TileLetter, but I thought it might be useful for readers to know a little about how we get things done around here. 

Currently, we are working a couple of months ahead, to make sure we can get TileLetter to you in a timely fashion. That’s especially tricky around now, since we have two extra issues – TRENDS and COVERINGS – thrown into the mix in the late winter/early spring; and to get those completed on time we need to be early (not to mention some major holidays!). Rest assured that staff writers and industry contributors are working to provide relevant content to illuminate, educate and inspire you. Our ad reps are also busy getting commitments from advertisers to fund our issue and provide you with information about goods and services provided by industry members.

One of the reasons I wanted to share that information with you is because some of you have been contacting me about contributing stories – and we are always very happy when you are! We love sharing voices from the industry and from the field. So, I wanted to give you an idea of how far ahead we work. For instance, by February 12, all the content for our Coverings issue will be delivered to Michelle Chapman for the magazine design, and then we proof it several times to hopefully eliminate any errors in content, spelling, punctuation and the like. If you have a hankering to submit a story for TileLetter, feel free to email me at [email protected] to run your idea by me and give me an idea of when I can expect it so I can fit it into our schedule. 

Since I mentioned our staff, I want to take a quick minute to thank all of them for their support recently. This is the first editor letter I’ve written since I’ve gotten back into the swing of things after 3.5 months in New Jersey, taking care of clearing and selling my mother’s home (she recently entered an assisted living community where she is extremely happy and thriving). Since I don’t have siblings, it was pretty much up to me to get this task completed. I combined  a month and a half of working full time, sorting through papers and belongings at night, with some paid time off and then had to shift to unpaid time off to complete the job and drive cross country back to Albuquerque (which is why I missed seeing you all at TSP in Nashville last October). It was a monumental task, but it would have been an IMPOSSIBLE task without the understanding of Bart Bettiga, and the support and help of the Marketing and Communications Team and then some. Avia Haynes, Michelle Chapman, contributing editor Lou Iannoco and other contributors jumped in and kept everything percolating and running on time to seamlessly get TileLetter into your hands. 

We talk a lot about work-life balance in business circles, but sometimes when the chips are down and the work-life ratio is ANYTHING but balanced, it is priceless to have a work family that has your back. Words are inadequate to express the gratitude I feel towards the entire crew. I share this with you to thank them all, and to let you know – if you don’t realize it already – what fine caliber people you have working for you and with you in the association. Truly, it’s a blessing. 

Enjoy this issue, and the stories we’ve assembled for you, including some stunning projects that celebrate National Tile Day on February 23. Are you planning to commemorate the day with a promotion or a special event? Drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know!

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

Welcome to 2020!

“I have a theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover things for themselves.” – Seymour Hersh 


Welcome to 2020. If you’re like me, that number is something that was only in the realm of science fiction and futurists when I was growing up (uh oh, now you all have an idea of how old I am!). Yet, here we are, poised on the precipice of 365 new days filled with possibility and challenge, blank slates upon which we can write our dreams, and wrangle with the unexpected, testing our mettle in all of it. 

As you plan your year, take a look at our Industry Calendar. On this calendar are lots of opportunities to learn, to attend training sessions and to educate yourself on what is happening in our industry: use it to chart out how and where you want to learn and grow. Remember to also visit the NTCA website at www.tile-assn.com, and click on the Education & Certification tab. This is a schedule of upcoming NTCA Workshops and Regional Training Programs that may be coming to a location near you. Don’t pass these up. There are fantastic learning and networking opportunities to be had at these events. Also under this tab is a listing of upcoming webinars, hosted by NTCA and featuring industry experts. You can glean wisdom from these free offerings from the comfort of your home or office, or in fact anywhere you can carry your device. And if you haven’t gotten certified yet, learn more about the Certified Tile Installer and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers exams at this link, as well as classes from NTCA University and what the NTCA Apprenticeship Program is all about. Get informed, and start the year strong. 

This issue is designed to support you as you go forward into the year with explorations of anti-slip treatments and products to commemorate Bath Safety Month and help you craft safer installations. Working with tile patterns can hold some challenges – we investigate tips on making the most of tile design and creating a stunning wall or floor project. And we also study how the synergy of different trades working together can make the project run smoother and be better performing for everyone involved. 

2020 is tabula rasa right now – a blank slate, upon which you can write and discover your future. Equip yourself to make it a satisfying, prosperous and enjoyable year, so when you look back in January 2021, you can congratulate yourself about jobs well done!

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
– Hal Borland


As another year draws to a close (and a new one is just about to begin), take a moment to review your 2019. What were the high spots? What can you learn from the lows? What was the one new thing that you learned or implemented this year that made a difference in your execution or operations? Did you attend a training seminar or a workshop or perhaps a trade show or conference for the first time? How did that benefit your business?

In our busy world, it’s tempting to race from one thing to the next without taking time to breathe and reflect. And yet, if we don’t review or assess our day, week, month or year, how do we learn? How do we know where we need to improve or <gasp> congratulate ourselves and our colleagues on the victory of jobs well done – and repeat those steps that led to success? 

Don’t give in to temptation. Take the natural lull that comes at this time of year to consider what’s come before and ponder how that can be a springboard for the year to come. That’s what we do in our NTCA Review – looking back gives our road map for 2020 a solid foundation. Check out this story and see where the association is headed next year. 

We announced our first ever NTCA Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year back in September, but this month, read a little bit more about Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile and what it means to him to win this honor, which was awarded at the end of October at Total Solutions Plus. 

Did you get to travel to Italy this fall to see all the hot new products at Cersaie? If not, don’t worry – we recap some of those new introductions in our product section in this issue. 

Do you know what a flow-down clause is? You may know it as a “pass-through” or “conduit clause.” Do you know that it binds subcontractors to the same duties and obligations as the general contractor has to the owner? Is this a good thing or not? Read our Business Tip section by Daniel Dorfman, Chair Construction Law Group, Fox Swibel Levin & Carroll LLP, and find out.

Whatever you do, DO take time to kick back and relax with those you hold dear. In the inimitable words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

God bless, and happy holidays,

Lesley
[email protected]

Thank you, readers, industry, and colleagues for everything you do to make this a fantastic industry

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life but what we give.” – Winston Churchill


Thank you. Yes, thank you, readers, industry, and colleagues for everything you do to make this a fantastic industry, and for helping to give contractors and installers a voice in how they do what they do, and the products they do it with. This is the month for thanks after all, and whatever your role in the industry, you deserve to be thanked for your part of keeping it all percolating.

The lineup of stories in this month’s TileLetter is also a reflection of what is percolating, from the cover story about the stone installation at the Westfield Valley Fair in Silicon Valley, to new contributor Paul Makovski’s examination of achieving proper grout joints widths, to FILA’s Jeff Moen’s tips on sealing and protecting stone. 

Remember when we reported on the start up of the Oregon-Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust last year? In this issue, we check in with the co-op to see how the first year has gone, and explore the challenges and victories of the program. We also get an inside look at Malcolm Campbell, and Midwest Mosaic and how that company has grown to where it is today.

Wally Adamchik, Founder of Firestarter Speaking and Consulting, recently conducted a People in Construction survey. In the Business Tip section of this issue, he gives us a synopsis of his findings and how they may impact your business. 

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving and affirming that the slide into the holiday season will bring with it a healthy balance of prosperous work opportunities, and downtime to celebrate and appreciate friends and family that bring joy to your lives. 

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

TileLetter celebrates women with exclusive issue

Welcome to the October issue of TileLetter! This is the month we celebrate women in tile. 

Why do we do this, you ask? Well, it’s often said that construction is a man’s world and in fact, women comprise only 9.9% of the 8.3 million people in construction (but that’s still that’s 821,700 women!). 

Yet, according to an article in Big Rentz (www.bigrentz.com/blog/women-construction), there’s been 94% growth in female owners from 2007 to 2018, and 9% of female-owned firms achieved revenues of more than $500,000 in 2018. What’s more, 4% of new construction firms were launched by women last year, and 44% of the top 100 contracting companies have women in executive roles. 

So women form an important part of the construction industries. We see women’s role in our industry as well. And growing efforts are being made to recruit more women into our industry as the NTCA University Update story about a new NTCA recruitment video illustrates. Already we are in prominent positions, as is evidenced in the Women in Tile story that explores the careers of Schluter Systems’ Shannon Huffstickler, CTEF’s Heidi Cronin and Stuart Tile Company’s Janet Kozey. Women’s work is stellar, as you can see in the project gallery in our Hot Topics section, with installs by Chanel Carrizosa, Rachel Cahalan and Jaime Martin. Women are intent on credentialing skills, as you’ll read in our Training and Education story about Carrizosa’s CTI exam in 2017. And we also profile a woman-owned company in our Member Spotlight – Fischer Tile & Marble in Sacramento run by Taryn Fischer. 

Exploring these stories also is a testament to the tremendous support offered by those in this industry – both women AND men. While it’s true that some women have had to deal with gender-related hurdles, we’ve also had support from many industry sectors and won the respect of colleagues and customers. 

So enjoy this issue, and if you happen to know a woman who’s doing amazing work or making inroads in our industry, email me with her information. It’s never too early to start working on the 2020 Women in Tile issue of Tileletter.

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

Tile offers many benefits and enduring beauty

Tile offers so many benefits – durability, low-maintenance, sustainability – and enduring beauty. I am excited in this issue to bring you several stories that present this unique artistry that tile offers. 

First up is our Decorative Tile feature that explores two 2019 Coverings Installation Design Awards winners – Andru Eron and NY Tilemakers, along with Trish Metzner from Made in Mosaics. Both artists were recognized for their stunning work on two very different murals that convey the complexity, precision and beauty involved in tile mural work.

Next is our Tech Talk story, which looks at the practice of scribing. Scribing in river rock pebbles to a field tile or crafting a “rug” or mural of uniquely shaped tile to enhance an entryway or shower is another way ace tile installers are able to demonstrate the artistry and craftsmanship at the heart of the tile trade – and in a way that delights clients with a completely custom installation.

Are you interested in bringing recruits into this fantastic trade? If so, please check out the NTCA University Update that details a pair of recruitment flyers designed to educate those new to the field about what’s involved in being a tile setter and offers information on additional career paths for a journeyman tile setter.

Another training-related story is a contribution from the new CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director, Heidi Cronin, addressing the role CTEF’s Certified Tile Installer program plays in increasing qualified labor in the industry. And NTCA President Chris Walker takes a closer look at the benefits offered by the national NTCA Apprentice Guide-lines Program, recently approved by the Department of Labor. 

Issues like this fill me with pride in our industry and the way technical excellence, craftsmanship and pure artistry combine to create unforgettable projects and signature solutions for walls, floors, exteriors, pools – you name it. It also makes my heart swell to see how the industry comes together to offer training, support and encouragement for those looking for a satisfying career. 

Be well! God bless!

TileLetter Green issue discusses eco-centric issues in the tile industry

Welcome to the Green Issue of TileLetter! Each year, we take a look at some eco-centric issues that impact the tile industry in our August issue. In this issue, TCNA staff examines the revision process of OSHA’s Table 1, as it relates to the Respirable Silica Rule. We also feature a Letter to the Editor from James Woelfel that takes a different perspective on the feasibility of OSHA regulations in protecting worker health. 

Terri Hogan Dreyer, managing partner/principal, NANO Architecture|Interiors, discusses how natural materials like tile and stone are foundations for her firm’s quality control process. TCNA’s Bill Griese tours us through the latest version of LEED – LEED v 4.1 – that generates more achievable objectives that build on expanded product life cycle considerations and are favorable for tile. 

Our Training and Education feature explores the recently DOL-approved NTCA National Apprenticeship Guidelines for members, which provides a career road map in the tile trade, explaining the process of developing this program and how this will benefit members and the entire trade. NTCA’s Becky Serbin takes it a step further in the NTCA University Update, describing how the establishment of the apprenticeship program will mandate more course development to support the finisher and setter tracks. 

We meet Jake Swoboda in our Member Spotlight, one of the younger members of the industry, and learn how he is carving a path to tile setting success, based on familial training from his uncle, and augmented by his CTI credentials and membership in NTCA. 

In this issue, we also bid a sad farewell to a beloved member of the tile industry and all-around nice guy, Steve Rausch. Though he will be deeply missed, all of us who knew and worked with him are richer for having known him. His sudden passing reminds me to let people who are important to me know I appreciate them – personally or professionally. Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to do the same in the coming month. 

God bless,
Lesley

TileLetter’s midsummer issue brings lots of great articles

There are lots of great articles in this midsummer issue of TileLetter, from our cover case study by Merkrete of the renovation of the Naples Fire-Rescue Station, to the timeline by Schluter’s Dale Kempster about uncoupling methods making it into the TCNA Handbook and upcoming uncoupling standard, to Donato Grosser’s exploration of the industry from an independent distributor point of view, to the happy tale about NTCA Five-Star Contractor Rod Owen’s involvement in the community and how bringing information about the tile trade to high schools has paid off in terms of his own hires. Not to be missed is the Member Spotlight on Carl “The Flash” Leonard, NTCA Education and Curriculum Director Becky Serbin’s piece on the value of NTCA’s Regional Training Events and the preview of our next big industry event – just three months away – Total Solutions Plus, this year scheduled for Nashville, Tenn. 

But I also want to highlight a couple of especially compelling pieces that are on the pulse of what is happening in our industry right now. One is our news blurb about the May 23, 2019 Department of Labor acceptance of the NTCA National Guidelines for Apprenticeship. This is a huge step forward for our industry (with hats off to the tireless efforts of Becky Serbin in bringing this to fruition). The NTCA Apprenticeship Guidelines Program combines field experience with online learning and designated classroom training. It’s designed to provide members an opportunity to attract new skilled labor into the ceramic tile industry. The program will offer guidance to NTCA members in developing their own tile finishers’ and tile setters’ apprenticeship programs. You’ll learn more about this in our August issue, but it’s vital news that needs to be on your radar screen now.

The other piece is by NTCA President Chris Walker, who has his finger on the pulse of the industry with his perspective on tariffs on tile from China and the anti-dumping/anti-subsidy investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). What are the pros and cons of these actions and how will they affect our industry down the road? Read this important letter and stay tuned in future issues of TileLetter for more information about how these developments will impact the tile industry and how different sectors of the industry are coping with them. 

Got thoughts or comments to share about these or any other topics? Shoot me an email and let me know your perspective. 

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

There are advantages to learning a trade

CREDIT: MOVIESTORE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

“One of the things that I find distressing about life today is that people don’t really seem to enjoy their work anymore. When I was growing up on Walton’s Mountain, my father and my grandfather loved their work and they instilled a respect for work in each of us. But I recall one time when my brother Jason had to make a choice, a choice that was difficult for him, but even more difficult for my father.”

– John-Boy Walton, reading from his journal


The last few months, after a long day at work, I’ve been relaxing with TV. Not network TV, mind you, or cable or political commentary, but with a warm and wholesome television show that those who grew up in the ’70s will remember: The Waltons. This nine-season semi-autobiographical series created by Earl Hamner is about John and Olivia Walton in 1930-40s Virginia, making a living during the Depression and World War II, with seven children and Grandma and Grandpa Walton sharing their home. 

It just so happens that John Walton and his father Zebulon operate a sawmill on their property. This mill keeps them afloat during the Depression though money is tight. As the Depression draws to a close, the family expands the business into crafting fine furniture.

In an episode called “The Choice,” John Walton’s second oldest, Jason, must choose between accepting a scholarship to attend the conservatory and become a musician or learning the family’s trade. John, Sr., is scripted to usually be very accepting of his children’s decisions, such as supporting his eldest son John-Boy’s decision to attend college in pursuit of his passion of becoming a writer. But in this episode, he is staunch about the importance of Jason learning a trade to be able to eventually take care of a family and put food on the table as he’s been able to do even in this economic crunch. He makes a strong case for the necessity of learning a trade and how it is something you carry with you for the rest of your life. This very old show brought to mind the very contemporary reality that young people face today – what path will give you a good living? What career will support your future? What can’t be outsourced? And what will fill you with pride each day? Jason hedges his bets by choosing the conservatory – AND studying his family trade (It’s a television show, after all!). 

Another thing this show brings to mind is OSHA (not formed until 1971) and the incredible risks everyone working at the Depression-era mill takes. Though they wear heavy gloves to push trees through the saw to make lumber, there are no self-adjusting guards, no eye protection, no kickback protections. I cringe whenever I watch them, just waiting for disaster to strike. So far, by season five, no one has lost an eye or finger, but I’ll bet in real life, those in the lumber business back then had lots of accidents. I think of today’s brilliant advances in automated tile equipment, and eye and ear protection and the regulations, equipment refinements and improvements in setting-material formulas that help tile installers avoid the ravages of silicosis. (In a stroke of synchronicity, Will Geer, who plays Grandpa Zebulon Walton, narrated a short 1940 documentary called Men and Dust, about miners and silicosis!) Why not take advantage of safeguards available today to protect your hands, eyes, ears, and lungs? Replacements are VERY expensive – and not always possible.

What this meandering letter is about is this: the solid advantages afforded by a trade cannot be overlooked. This show illustrated the point by travelers who came through Walton’s Mountain who lost their white collar jobs when the Depression hit, but the Waltons were able to maintain a modest living by virtue of a trade. Now, anyone in the trade doesn’t need a 1970s TV show to tell them about the advantages of a trade, but it is a poignant reminder. 

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

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