Stackable wall tile

stackable wall tile


We’ve been struggling with production when it come to installing “stackable” wall tile. I’ve been installing for 31 years and stackable wall tile used to be fairly simple. It seems that installers today are having more trouble than ever getting their footage numbers due to bad tile sizing. We’ve shown several samples to the factory reps, but the answer always seems to comes back as “yes, these tiles are actually within tolerance.” Go figure! I was wondering if you could possibly help me to determine how to gauge what is considered out of tolerance and how to pursue the manufacturer about this problem. Thanks for any and all insight. 


I’ve not heard this complaint very often, maybe because of the shift away from the use of stackable wall tile. The ANSI A137.1 standard for size difference seems to be a very liberal number allowing quite a bit of difference before the tile doesn’t meet standards. I do think there can be significant difference depending on the manufacturer of the material. If another manufacturer makes a similar material, there might be a better substitute.

Because stackable wall tile has a set grout joint size usually 1/16”, if the tile has very much deviation it may not meet minimum grout-joint size tolerances. The TCNA Handbook says the minimum grout joint should be three times the facial deviation of the tile themselves. The example they give is for tiles that deviate 1/16”, you should not have grout joint smaller than 3/16”. You could create a larger grout joint to hide some of these size differences, but those changes would have to be approved by the end user. Also, the fact that the tile is stackable is desirable to some installers because installations can be done quicker. I think speed was a major issue to begin with.

Looking for a substitute, or changing the grout joint size, are the only things that come to mind. 

– Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer

Testing might help, but just to note, TCNA will only measure and report the tiles supplied. They won’t assess whether the tolerances actually apply in a given scenario or look at any other nuances that could be relevant, for example whether there is a spec requiring the tile to meet A137.1, or if the manufacturer claims conformance to it. There are enough instances where these things are not the case. Testing costs money, and there is not much reason to have it done if meeting the standard isn’t somehow expressly required in the first place. When conformance to A137.1 *is* required, there are also sampling and lot acceptance criteria in the standard that allow for some of the tile to be outside the tolerances. It’s not a huge amount, but just mentioning it.

I agree with Robb’s suggestions on looking for a substitute or changing the grout-joint size. But I’d want to know more before making changes, just to be surer about the root cause. For me, that would influence whether the additional cost of improving the look is something that could/should be charged for.

I’d be really interested in knowing more about these tiles or getting a box. If they truly meet standards but are taking significantly more effort labor-wise, and this is happening more and more, that would be something to possibly try to address in the standards arena. It could be a PSA for contractors, or for GCs, given to them by contractors. 

– Stephanie Samulski, NTCA Technical Director

Evaluate your team’s competitive advantage

It’s still fairly early in the year, with most of it ahead of you, affording you the ability to make positive changes to take you in the direction you want your company to go in 2020. To assist in that endeavor is the following checklist from Firestarter founder Wally Adamchik. He encourages you to use these questions to assess your business and make course corrections now before heading down the wrong road too deeply into the year.   – Lesley Goddin


Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself to identify potential competitive advantages or areas for improvement.

Check the box if your answer is yes.

ο Have you completed or is your annual planning meeting scheduled for 2020?

ο Do you have your annual kickoff meeting scheduled for 2020?

ο Do your teams consistently improve margins on jobs?

ο Is your overall profitability/ROI above industry average?

ο Is your safety better than industry average?

ο Is safety trending in the right direction?

ο Do you have a clearly articulated vision or mission and values?

ο Do your people understand and buy in to the vision, mission and values?

ο Are you innovating in ways that add to the bottom line and increase customer satisfaction?

ο Are you comfortable with your voluntary turnover or are people leaving that you don’t want to leave?

ο Is your bench strength solid with 75% of supervisory positions having an identified and 75% qualified successor?


THE GRADING SCALE –––––––––––––––

• 8 or more YES answers indicate a strong team. Keep it up!

• 6-8 YES answers indicate your team needs to address some key issues.

• Less than 6 YES answers indicate some major concerns.

Need some assistance in reaching your goals? Contact Firestarter at or call 919-673-9499.

Use your time wisely

Most of us would agree that there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. There is always some sort of fire to extinguish, the unexpected phone call that takes longer than planned, or pleasing your customer who wants to add more work to the project just when you were planning to call it complete.

The work is on the schedule and needs to be completed as planned and promised. But how do you squeeze more time out of the clock or jam more stuff into the available time? The answer is time management.  

Wikipedia defines time management as: “The process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity.” Further, planning or forethought is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal.

In order to apply these principles in the tile trades, an installer must develop a plan of action by either building the project in his or her head prior to beginning the work, or by sketching it out on a piece of paper. Having a plan in place is the roadmap to a successful project completion. 

Plan ahead with a grid pattern for layout

Waiting in line at the wet saw to make two cuts is a huge waste of time. 

The use of a grid pattern for floor tile layout is a good example. It may take a little more time to mark the layout on the substrate, pop key lines, and grid it out, but once in place, all the perimeter cuts can be made. Making these cuts on a snap cutter saves more time. In this case, almost all of the cuts, with the exception of “L” cuts, can be made right where they will be installed. No need to walk to the wet saw, make the cut(s), dry the back of the tile, and walk back to the install point. Additionally, once the mortar is properly mixed, the grid pattern allows multiple installers to work in the same area, which really increases productivity.

When cuts need to be made on a wet saw and the installer is working alone, mark as many pieces that can be safely carried to the saw and make all of them at one time. Making multiple trips to the saw with only one or two cuts can devour a huge amount of time. 

Better-grade materials can save time

Using a better grade of setting materials that have thixotropic (becoming flowable when moved in a back and forth motion) characteristics will yield better mortar coverage and transfer to the back of the tile. Many times, these products will eliminate the need to back-trowel (formerly known as back-buttering) the tile with additional mortar.

Keeping focused

Evaluators of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program routinely stress this phrase to the installers preparing to take the hands-on test: “Use your time wisely!”

Something that wasn’t even a factor ten years ago is now a significant drain on the productivity of a tile installation. Not surprisingly, a smartphone and Facebook bring new challenges to the workplace. Everyone needs to be connected these days, but the jobsite should be just that, with nothing to interrupt the thoughts that went into the plan. When focus is lost, so is the valuable time that is needed to get back on track and keep moving. 

One more thought; show up to the job early each day well rested and ready to go. Establish your plan and stick to it.

And finally, the Evaluators of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program routinely stress this phrase to the installers preparing to take the hands-on test: “Use your time wisely!” 

Natural Stone Institute Announces 2020 Stone Industry Education Series

Oberlin, OH, January 14, 2020—The Natural Stone Institute and Stone World magazine are pleased to announce the schedule for the 2020 Stone Industry Education Series. Stone Summits will be held in nine cities across the United States.

The nine Stone Summits scheduled for 2020 will cover topics relevant to stone fabricators, including maximizing shop efficiency and profits, using metrics to measure success, understanding OSHA safety regulations, and creating a plan for finding and retaining top talent. 2020 Stone Summits will be facilitated by a team of experienced industry leaders including GK Naquin, Duane Naquin, Tony Malisani, and Eric Tryon.

2020 Stone Industry Education Series:

February 27

Arkansas Stone Summit: 12 Business Axioms

Pacific Shore Stones

Mabelvale, AR

March 12

California Stone Summit: Stone Shop Management


Orange, CA

April 2

Colorado Stone Summit: Know Your Business

Arizona Tile

Denver, CO

May 7

Massachusetts Stone Summit: Key Pulse Points for Building a Successful Stone Fabrication Business


Westwood, MA

June 4

New Mexico Stone Summit: Key Pulse Points for Building a Successful Stone Fabrication Business

Arizona Tile

Albuquerque, NM

July 16

Oregon Stone Summit: Stone Shop Management


Tualatin, OR

September 17

Illinois Stone Summit: Know Your Business

Universal Granite & Marble

Chicago, IL

October 8

Alabama Stone Summit: Stone Shop Management

Triton Stone Group

Birmingham, AL

November 5

Texas Stone Summit: 12 Business Axioms


Austin, TX

To learn more about each event, visit

Your journey to emotional ownership

Pain and pleasure are such close cousins.  In life, it’s painful not to experience pleasure.  Too often though, it’s the holding on for dear life to familiar pain that keeps us from having what we say we really want.

In 1988 I joined the National Speakers Association, a trade group for professional speakers.  No, I wasn’t a speaker yet, but I wanted to be.  I had closed down my manufacturers’ representative company to accept a position of vice president for my principal manufacturer. Two years later, I found myself without a job.  It was now time to fish or cut bait.  Was I going to pick up another line and go to war with the manufacturer that fired me or was I going after my dream?  I went after my dream.  A decade later, I’m a nationally recognized keynoter on business alliances.

This experience, for all of the pain and pleasure, has yielded a path, my path to emotional ownership.  Since discovering this path, I have interviewed several business leaders and found that my path was also theirs.

Whatever pleasure you seek; there is usually pain in the way of having that pleasure.  I believe this path is also your path to the emotional ownership, of staying the course to having what you want in your life, both personal and professional.

In your personal and professional life you continually have challenges.  Challenges without solutions or answers generally cause extreme pain.  To solve or remove this pain, you must either move into action or simply do nothing and hide out.  Action means possibilities. Doing nothing is a formula for failure.  Doing what you have always done and expecting different results is called experiencing insanity. Nobody intentionally wants to be insane.  You will succeed at what you want through understanding and remaining on your path.

What is your challenge?  What would you like to do you are currently not doing?  What major decision would you like to make?  Your first step will be to think up ideas on how to deal with your challenge.

1. Idea

Some ideas are gold and some are worthless. You must constantly seek possibilities to your challenges.  Earl Nightingale would sit with a yellow pad thinking of solutions to his day’s challenges every morning before the rest of his family awoke. Dr. Robert Schuller’s idea of possibility thinking is to list no less than 20 ways to solve your challenge.  His 20th is how he started the church that is known today as the Crystal Cathedral.

2. Excitement

When an idea crystallizes, excitement sets in. Your view of the challenge is like a world of possibilities.  All is right as you are moving closer to dealing with your pain.

3. Hope

Hope is the apex.  Hope without how will get you nowhere.  From this pinnacle the slow degrade begins.  As the reality of the challenge sets in doubt begins.  Unfortunately, at this point, hope turns into nope!

4. Reality

When the reality of the steps, work and pitfalls involved in creating a solution set in, a feeling of hopelessness is not far behind.

5. Desperation

Many people are living lives of quiet desperation.  Even people who are moderately successful find it difficult to make a new decision that would position them for greatness.  When the pain is at a level so high that anything else must be better, the point of decision is near. This is where tension can help you to mobilize, but too much tension can immobilize you.

6. Purpose

Clarity of purpose allows you to see and understand the value of your struggle.  You must know you are playing in the right sandbox and for the right reason.  Now comes the promise of success.  Through example or belief, you now know success is possible and you can make a decision to go for the success.  If you are off purpose, are settling for less or see your world from the window of scarcity, you might make the decision of indecision and only move toward failure.

7. Decision

The decision to move forward or to make no decision, the choice is yours. Knowing what to hold on to and what to discard is crucial to your well being.  This is where your emotional ownership comes alive.  No decision, no ownership and a continual decline.  Yet, with a new decision, all becomes possible.  Look for your emotional strength and security rather than comparing your self to what is not real. Be cautious of not falling into the impostor syndrome, thinking that you are not really good enough.  Look for your moments of decision. A friend quit drinking, and I ask him about his moment of decision.  He told me that it was one night while he was hanging out his second-story bathroom window, about to fall out and in a drunken stupor and realizing that he should change his life.  He said that he knew if he didn’t make some changes soon, he would no longer have a life.

8. Paying the price and taking risk

This is the truth detector.   This is the point on your journey where you must internalize the intellectual ownership of your decision.  You must be willing to pay the prices.  Nothing good is free.  Having a track record of previous success and concrete examples of other successful person’s journeys will help.  It’s now time to stick your neck out!

9. Getting help

Relationship building at its finest.  Nobody goes it alone.  Every successful person seeks help.  You may end up with some unlikely partners; especially people that can help you connect with your inner strength.  Receiving help connects you back to all your previous steps.  Also, you must accept help in anchoring back to your moment of decision.

10.  Accepting success

Self-confidence and self-worth go hand in hand.  Accepting that you are worthy of success is key. When you have completed your journey to Emotional Ownership, you do it all over, repeatedly.  Additionally, you must realize that you are currently at different steps in different aspects of your personal and professional life.

Every day you are starting another journey in a different area of your life; personal and professional. Your journey always comes full circle; you can never just sit back because another phase of your total life journey is about to start. Enjoy your journey.

Go ahead, Tweet it: seven ways to capitalize on the social power of your satisfied (and not-so-satisfied) customers

We love telling people about our latest experiences, and we love hearing about what others have experienced. But author Ron Kaufman says many companies are missing out on tapping the social power of their satisfied customers.

“Companies should be saying to their customers, ‘If you did not enjoy our service, please tell us. If you did enjoy our service, please tell someone else,’” Kaufman said. “Tell happy customers to be social about their great experiences and encourage unhappy customers to come to you via social media so that you can make it right and improve your overall service.”

Kaufman notes that a lot of customer service is already being done online, customer to customer, through comments on articles, user forums and message boards.  Companies that embrace this behavior can improve their service and save on costs.

Kaufman said customers will “go out of their way to help a fellow customer find a solution, but for companies to do that back-end customer service there would be a cost. By engaging your customers to help each other, you can defray your costs, improve your customer satisfaction, and stimulate a loyal community by encouraging people in your online social space.”

How do you keep your customers spreading great things about your company while bringing their complaints only to you? Read on for Kaufman’s advice.

Make it easy for them to go social. Provide links in post-service surveys where people can share experiences and encourage them to do so. Kaufman’s website,, offers a Spread the Word section that makes it easy for people to share their experiences.

Say thank you. Show a little love for the love your customers show you. Try a message of gratitude that says, “Thank you so much for spreading the word. As one of our happy customers, when you tell other people about us, it helps us grow and serve you better.” Don’t incentivize this behavior; it tarnishes the genuineness of the comment.

Invite them to reach out. Create a ‘Thanks for Being Social’ promotional piece that includes the company’s Twitter handles, Facebook pages, Yelp and TripAdvisor pages, helpful Twitter hashtags, etc., with a line that reads, ‘If you enjoy our service, please let the world know.’ Leave it with the customer after a job, or post it beside the cash register.

Ask how you can improve. Welcome good and bad instant feedback via social media. “Hear them out, provide them with great service, and then THANK them for sharing their experience with others via Twitter, Facebook…” Kaufman said.

Encourage them to recognize great one-on-one service. United Airlines’ “Outperform Recognition Program” encourages MileagePlus members to enter an exemplary employee’s name via a mobile app; both member and employee can win prizes in a random drawing. “Social programs like these boost employee morale, get customers focused on what employees are doing right, give employees another ‘measurable’ feedback for giving great service, and create a lot more ‘social input’ from customers to the company,” said Kaufman. Compliments received during this process can also be used in publicity campaigns.

Funnel customer questions through social media – then share the best answers. Ask customers to post questions on your Facebook wall, and answer them there for everyone to see. This shares useful information with other customers and enables your company to gather information.

Make talking about your brand irresistible. Provide service so great that customers simply can’t resist telling people about it. In a blog post on The Huffington Post, Chris Hurn, CEO of Mercantile Capital Corporation, shared how the Ritz-Carlton staff went above and beyond after his family accidentally left his young son’s favorite stuffed animal behind after a recent stay. The staff found and safely returned the stuffed animal and took pictures of its extended stay to show Mr. Hurn’s son what a great time his stuffed-animal friend had while staying a bit longer at the hotel.

“That blog post was seen by a portion of The Huffington Post’s 26 million monthly readers and was then tweeted, retweeted, and posted by many on Facebook,” Kaufman said. “Taking photos of a stuffed animal in funny situations didn’t cost Ritz-Carlton a penny, but it delivered social value in a huge way!”

“Your customers’ voices are vital to your organization,” Kaufman concluded. “Social media provides an incredible opportunity to engage those voices, to turn one customer’s great experience into an advertisement that attracts new customers and gets current customers thinking positively about you. It’s an incredibly advantageous way to address customer concerns and improve your company’s service culture in real time.”

Tile and bath safety

With all the beautiful tile available today, it is sometimes difficult to make the perfect choice. However, when considering your selection of a floor tile in a stall shower, many decisions need to be made to ensure a safe environment.

Many times, the tile selection process for a shower floor is focused on the aesthetics of the installation being a beautiful blend of products that will further enhance the overall project. But the primary goal here is to obtain tile that will yield a safe surface on which to stand while using the shower. 

The TCNA Handbook does offer some helpful information that can guide the selection of the appropriate floor tile. Under the header, “Coefficient of Friction and the DCOF AcuTest®”, it states the following: The DCOF (Dynamic Coefficient of Friction) measures the dynamic friction, which is the frictional resistance one pushes against when already in motion. Under this test, a slip occurs when pushing off with more force than the surface can resist. Tile which is tested to this protocol yields a minimum wet DCOF AcuTest value of 0.42 for ceramic tiles for level interior spaces expected to be walked upon when wet. 

A clean crisp look featuring a single slope shower floor leading to a linear drain along the base of the shower seat. Image courtesy of Daltile.

While this test does not identically mimic the process of standing in the shower (not walking) and is not level due to the slope to the drain, it does provide some guidance as to which tile may function better in wet conditions.

The Handbook further makes this statement: “According to the standard, tiles with a wet DCOF AcuTest value of less than 0.42 are only suitable for floor areas that will be kept dry. Polished tiles generally fall into this category.” Caution should be exercised when considering high-fashion polished tiles that are pleasing to the eye, but offer little resistance to slipping, especially when combined with soap, shampoo, and water. 

For years the popular and functional selection of shower floor tiles resided with a 1” x 1” or
2” x 2” mosaic tile as shown in the attached photo. This small facial surface area tile provides a significant number of grout joints that can aid in providing a surface that offers good traction. 

However, today’s consumers are demanding the use of larger tiles that offer a sleek look that slope to a linear drain located either in the center of the floor or at the intersection of the wall. These large-format tiles look great on the shower floor and offer a look not available in the past. Imagine combining a realistic woodgrain plank floor with a gorgeous marble wall that both offer the benefits of a porcelain tile.  

After the tile has been selected and properly installed, the appropriate maintenance regimen must be instituted. Normally, a pH-neutral cleaner will work well for routine cleaning. However, if a residue of soap scum, body oil, shampoo, and/or cream rinse accumulate on the floor surface, the use of a high-alkaline cleaner may be needed remove the build-up. As always, carefully follow the directions on the container to ensure thorough cleaning and a trouble-free tile installation that will stand the test of time.

Installing tile when a pattern is involved

Michael Moreno noted, “The tile itself isn’t a handmade tile, but they are somewhat irregular on all six sides and the installation did have its difficulties because of this. Experience is key in these situations.”

Installing ceramic tile can be challenging enough in itself, but when the job calls for a tile pattern, life for contractors and installers can get more difficult than usual. There are several different obstacles in play when it comes to putting down a tile pattern, and it’s part of the job for the contractor to recognize, assess and overcome each as they present themselves.

According to Michael Moreno, Owner, Artisan Tile, Lompoc, Calif., tile patterns, generally, aren’t difficult. “The problems I have run into are when the pattern is on an irregular or handmade tile,” he said. “Patterned handmade tile can and does cause problems when taking a change of plane. The pattern and the tile often want to do two separate things. 

“Change of plane with a handmade tile is already problematic in matching joints,” he explained, “especially on a diagonal. Add a pattern onto the tile and it can be a tug of war between matching the joints and pattern. It becomes a game of averaging between the two.”

The J&R Tile team precut, dry-laid, and asked for approval prior to installation. The octagons in this project were five different pieces.

As Erin Albrecht, principal/executive vice present, J&R Tile, San Antonio,Texas, noted, two different thicknesses are always a challenge, and scribing and inlay work with porcelain can be difficult when not using the right tooling and blade setup. “A ‘random’ (not to scale, artistic freedom of installer) is always a little nerve racking when a designer wants something to be an organic outline or interpretation of a drawing.

“That freedom of the installation team can make us nervous at times,” she explained, “versus a formal drawing, because of the design intent’s risk of being lost in interpretation and an owner/client being disappointed by the outcome.”

Martin Brookes, founder/owner, Heritage Marble & Tile, Mill Valley, Calif., believes partnering with material manufacturers and asking for job-specific installation materials reduces the risk of failure, while presenting the scope of work to the client gains their trust in his company’s ability to perform the task. 

“Everything is dry-laid, and issues are discussed ahead of time so the expectation can be achieved,” Brookes explained. “Careful reading of all tile and setting material literature is done prior to starting the job. We have an understanding of how critical the layout can be. Even with a perfect installation, if this is overlooked, the install can fall short of expectations.”

According to Sal DiBlasi, the secret to installing patterned tile is all about planning and communication with the owner to explain what the plan is, what is possible and what is unfeasible.

Sal DiBlasi, owner, Elite Tile Co., Medford, Mass., believes the difficulty inherent with pattern tile jobs depends on the type and size of the tile, and the pattern being installed. “If it is a larger tile with a complicated repeating pattern involving several sizes of tile, just keeping the pattern correct can be a challenge,” DiBlasi said. 

Like Brookes, he believes layout is “another headache. You need to be sure to get decent size cuts,” he explained. “This can be time consuming and has to be correct, since once you start installing tile, it cannot be changed. I’ve found that using the smallest tile as a unit to figure out the layout will generally make it easier. The layout becomes much harder when you must consider kitchen cabinets, an island, and if the floor branches out into other areas.”

Another challenge, said DiBlasi, is size, which apparently really does matter. For smaller, or mosaic tiles, he noted, you want to avoid having tiny cuts at thresholds at the tub or where they’ll be visible. “If you can’t avoid them, lay out the floor so all the ‘bad’ cuts will be in inconspicuous areas or where they’ll be covered,” DiBlasi said. 

If the area is symmetrical, he explained, “then balance is another important consideration. “You don’t want the area to look lopsided or uneven. Grout is another concern: Do you want the pattern to be the dominant visual effect, or do you want it to be subdued? A contrasting grout will make the pattern stand out, while a grout that blends will pull the color and texture of the tile to the eye.”

How should contractors overcome tile pattern problems? According to Moreno, it’s all about doing it. “Understanding what you are looking at and what you need to do to fix it comes with experience.”

DiBlasi concurs, and said, in addition to planning and communication, having 35 years in the business means he can draw on the experience of past projects to help figure out what to do next. “This isn’t to say new challenges don’t arise, but having that many years as an installer really helps.”

Martin Brookes noted, when it comes to working with pattern tile, his firm makes sure the installers never feel pressured into installing tile until the layout is approved. “Earlier in the year we did a mosaic wall. We knew it would be challenging, and the contractor was nervous, given he had a previous experience with the same tile that failed. He had many questions, which we answered with confidence. The artist, Johanna Poethig, was heavily involved in the layout. Her vision came to fruition and the rendition almost mirror imaged the finished project. This collaboration and patience really paid off and everyone was happy with the end results.”

Is installing tile over sheet vinyl goods still a “questionable substrate”?


Can you please tell me where to locate in the 2019 TCNA Handbook information to determine if installing tile over sheet vinyl goods is still a “questionable substrate”? I do not see any ANSI specs that reference installing tile over glue-down sheet vinyl as an option. Is there a spec for this?


There is not an ANSI specification or a TCNA Handbook method or detail for installing tile over sheet vinyl goods. The NTCA Reference Manual lists sheet vinyl as a questionable substrate. 

However, many manufacturers produce mortars that may be used to install tile over sheet vinyl provided it is fully adhered (not simply edge glued) and non-cushioned. Should you choose to do this, it is critical to follow the mortar manufacturer’s instructions.

It is vital that that you use an appropriate cleaner to remove all wax and surface contaminants from the vinyl. I recommend you do not sand or abrade the surface of the vinyl as some products may contain asbestos. 

– Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director

The list of questionable substrates is found in the 2019-2020 NTCA Reference Manual on page 31. They are not listed in the TCNA Handbook. There is, however, a method for renovations in the Handbook on page 288, Method TR711. It states “Ideally, existing finishes should be completely removed so the tile work can be placed on the substructure. This isn’t always practical, and as previously stated, some mortar manufacturers will warranty installations over vinyl flooring, provided they meet certain criteria.” TR711 goes on to give general guidelines for renovations. 

– Rodd Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer

Synergy amongst the trades: How teamwork makes the dream work

Fast-track construction projects often can be ultra-fast paced and hectic. They require industry professionals across several different trades to blend together for a common goal – getting the project done correctly and on time for the client. 

How well – or not well – trade professionals synergize can directly affect the outcome of most any project. In many instances, the vision of cohesiveness and synchronicity among these different units becomes just that: a vision never to be realized; a goal that never reaches fruition, much to the chagrin of architects and designers.

In what ways can trade professionals come together to make sure the job gets done right, to have “the big picture” be realized to the satisfaction of all? According to Karl Parker, owner/president, All American Design & Construction, Albuquerque, N.M., an eagerness to learn is just as critical as the need to work together in order for professionals and projects to realize their true potential.

In New Mexico, Parker noted, there is a different feel and respect for when work among varying trades overlap. “Big steps have been taken with plumbers and inspectors working with tile installers on complex shower installations. Everyone is eager to learn about these products and excited about the overall outcome of install performance.”

As Lee Callewaert, owner, Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Grafton, Wis., espoused, nothing is more critical to multiple trades working together successfully than the relationships built while on the job. “We’re fortunate to work in a specific market that brings some of the best trades together,” he said. “We’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the same people on multiple projects. 

According to Jane Callewaert, this is an example of the kind of enhancements her husband, Lee, is able to add to projects because he works so closely with the other trades. “In this case, the cabinet maker was able to adjust his drawer fronts in advance so Lee could add custom marble insets.”

“When the relationships are built on mutual respect and the various trades are working together for the same goal (making the end result the very best it can be for the client),” Callewaert added, “all the trades involved develop a positive reputation in the market. 

“We have general contractors, architects, homeowners, etc., who hire us and some of the same other trades for all their projects because they know that this group of professionals will make their job so much easier,” Callewaert added. “We will rarely come to them with an issue as we work together and solve the problems ourselves.”

Parker agreed, and noted a specific instance in which an opportunity to join a trade association brought professionals together in the same room for a common cause. “One aspect I can speak about from the trade gap is, being invited to join the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). The depth of this association runs from code (UPC) to reviewing our own products for listing and acceptance for sales.

“From my very first meeting, it was all about open arms and further invitations to run CEU programs for the union and plumbing officials,” Parker explained. “It seems as though the big gap in trade is with officials and actual plumbers.”

Callewaert echoed Parker’s sentiment, saying that when the trades work together, you are better able to achieve a positive outcome for the customer, which is the ultimate goal. “When working together as a team, everyone has that same goal in mind,” Callewaert said. “The projects that involve multiple trades with mutual respect are consistently of higher quality and result in much happier clients.”

Reiterating the relationship theme, Callewaert said both he and his wife/business partner, Jane, teach their staff to get to know the other trades on the job. “Build a relationship,” he said. “Demonstrate respect. Ask what they need from us to make their job easier.

“We’re never too busy for the other trades involved,” he explained. “If they need our help to execute their job well, they’ve got it. Maybe they need to gain access to the space we are working in so they can finish. It might not be convenient, but because it helps them finish, we will figure it out. Respect goes both ways. When we need something from them, they are quick to accommodate.”

As Parker concluded, “we are currently working on filling that [trade] gap and getting everyone on the same page with wet area tile installations. When we all come together for a common goal (industry standards or above), there is a greater understanding and appreciation of everyone’s job.”

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