Continuing education and training for highly-experienced tile professionals

Mark and Connie Heinlein

Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director, with Connie Heinlein, Training Assistant Extraordinaire

I am honored to be an NTCA Trainer for our members and the tile industry. I’ve been on this career path for five years, and Connie and I have brought NTCA workshops to eager installers around the country. I began in October 2015 when I flew to Las Vegas and the one and only Michael Whistler met me at midnight outside McCarran Airport. I hopped in the NTCA van with Michael behind the wheel and began a new adventure. That evening we drove to Utah to conduct a series of three NTCA training programs. I observed and assisted and picked Michael’s brain furiously. I had so much to learn – even though I was an experienced and CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI).

I do not like to be behind the power curve on knowledge or education or information or skills. I knew I had a lot to learn and I set myself a short timeframe to come up-to-speed so I could venture out into the world of the tile industry and NTCA training on my own. Sure, I knew how to set tile, I knew about a wide variety of products and resources to help me in my craft, and I knew I was good at it. It was not until I entered the NTCA world that I discovered how much I did not know. At first I was stunned and a bit intimidated.

This has been a non-stop, pedal-to-the-metal journey and today, five years into this career change, I can report to you that I have learned and experienced a huge amount of information from dozens, if not hundreds, of tile industry leaders – all for the purpose of helping others gain more knowledge and improve themselves as tile professionals. I learn continually – new things every single day. It never stops. It is to the point where I feel as if I know less about tile now than I did when I first met Michael five years ago, or when I was tiling 10, 15, 20 years ago.

Many installers and contractors in the trade for 30 years or more crave training and education to keep up with new standards, methods, best practices and products. 

Craving education and training

I have met and learned from many installers and contractors that have been in the tile trade for decades, even 30 years or more. These amazing people will tell you they crave training and education in their trade. They know that they have not yet seen it all. They understand that tile, setting materials, structures, and installation practices change – continuously. They have seen it happen during their long careers. They have kept up with the pace by constantly seeking to learn about new standards, methods, best practices, and products. These are the people that attend every workshop and take advantage of every training opportunity they possibly can. As writer Doris Lessing says, “That is what learning is – you suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”

I have also met plenty of installers who say, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years! There is nothing for me at a workshop.” Or they say, “I learned 30 years ago from my uncle who set tile for 40 years and never had a failure!” These experienced tile installers and contractors have been doing things one way for a long time and do not see the need or think they have time for training. It is tough to get through to these old-timers who resist new ideas and training. If I accomplish anything with these words that I am writing, it would be to get these installers to give professional education a try. 

Why is it important to know increasingly more information as an experienced, seasoned tile professional? Here are four considerations regarding the need for training and education in the tile industry:

New products and the approved methods that accompany these products are emerging all the time. How do tile installers keep up with such change without training and education?

1.Your training – Depending on how you came to the tile industry, you may have followed a variety of learning paths. If tile is your family business, your teachers were likely the generations of family that came before you and you started at a young age on the bottom rung, working after school and on weekends. Were those family teachers and mentors familiar with the tile industry’s recognized and published standards, methods and best practices? Did you receive a copy of the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation as a birthday gift? Did you long for your very own NTCA membership? If you learned the tile trade by other means – self taught or company training – how do you know what you may not know? If your company does its own internal training, is it standards-based? Who trains the company trainers? All of this is important to reflect upon as a professional. Many tile installers and contractors operate in an information bubble and do not know all that there is to know in this complex and challenging world of tile.

2. An ever-changing industry – Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” This is certainly true of the tile industry. Are you using current tile technology and the instructions and best practices that go with it? New products and the approved methods that accompany these products are emerging all the time. The tile industry is not the same as it was 30, or even 10 years ago. Science has introduced chemistry and physics to the industry that were unimaginable a few years ago. How do tile installers keep up with such change without training and education?

Good professional development is a professional booster shot that can do wonders for your attitude about your trade and your place within that trade.

3. Professional booster shot – Most professions require certification and continuing education. The tile industry provides the opportunity for both of these. The obvious benefit of professional training is that you learn new things. The less obvious benefit of such training is what it can do for your morale and enthusiasm for your work. Good professional development can do wonders for your attitude about your trade and your place within that trade. It can elevate you in your career. It truly is like a professional booster shot. It is necessary in our careers to get excited and reinvigorated in our work lives. If you attend a training event and are able to take even one small thing away with you that will improve the next workday, then the training has value. More than that, however, is the strong possibility that learning something new will create a craving for even more learning. You might even have the opportunity to relearn something you once knew all over again. Even Michelangelo said, “I am still learning.” Maybe he said this after painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

4. Risk – The concept of risk and the levels of aversion to risk that we have as installers and contractors is an important topic that requires much more than a cursory mention in this article, but it at least deserves mention in terms of training and education. Whenever we take on a project that we are hired to do, we take on a certain amount of risk, both financially and to our reputations. The more up-to-date an installer is on industry standards the less risk that installer has if and when a failure might occur. Not knowing about industry standards is its own risk. The NTCA will be exploring the topic of risk in its 2021 training programs. Make sure that you don’t miss out on this learning opportunity.

As Julia Child advised, “Find something you are passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

Do experienced tile professionals need training and education? You bet they do! There are so many benefits to learning, membership in the NCTA – your professional association, and in becoming a Certified Tile Installer. Get yourself to an NTCA workshop, webinar, regional training, roundtable (even virtually!). I think you will agree with me that it will be worth your time. 

I love this advice from renowned chef and educator Julia Child: “Find something you are passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

See you at an NTCA training program soon!

Clemson University Online offers Applied Drone Technology Course for General and Specialty Contractors

The Applied Drone Technology course, offered through Clemson Online, provides a comprehensive curriculum for contractors to start using this technology safely and profitably.  This course is  taught by one of the foremost drone educators in the country.  Dr. Joseph Burgett is a tenured professor at Clemson University and has extensive experience in the field.  He is a licensed General Contractor and specifically developed this course for general and specialty contractors. 

With 40 hours of material, you’ll learn everything you need to; 1) start saving time, 2) reduce risk, 3) improve logistics and 4) increase efficiency. 

This applied drone course, offered by Clemson University Online, has been developed for general and specialty contractors.

  Click Here for a Video Overview 

Enrollment Fee Includes:

  • Simulator software
  • Simulator controller 3D modeling software
  • FAA study guide
  • FAA test supplement booklet
  • 40 hours of material and activities

Those enrolled will:

  • Earn their Part 107 FAA Remote Pilots Certificate
  • Create 3D models, topographical surveys with incorporated ground control points and stich photos together. (software included) 
  • Quantity take offs such as earthwork volumes 
  • Use our drone simulator to practice flying (software and controller provided)
  • Know how to identify FAA airspace
  • Understand the FAA rules for drone use
  • Much more

Click the link below for more information    

NTCA Roundtable Live! Artisan Edition – Session 2 set for Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 6:00 pm Central

NTCA Roundtable Live Artist Edition

On October 20, NTCA hosted its first ever NTCA Roundtable Live! Artisan Edition.  The goal of this and future artisan roundtables is to infect tile industry professionals with the joy of bringing their finely honed skills to another rewarding level.

Now, NTCA has scheduled a second artist roundtable. The upcoming one-hour NTCA Roundtable Live! Artisan Edition-Session 2 on Tuesday, November 17 at 6:00 p.m. CST, promises to be informational and engaging, with plenty of time for attendee discussion and questions.

Twenty six people attended the initial gathering, and artisan tile setters extraordinaire Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile, Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile & Stoneworks, and Angie Halford Ré of Unique Mosaics LLC gave background on themselves, discussed how tile is used as a medium in the world of the tile artisan creating one of a kind works of art for all types of discrimination clients.  They fielded questions from participants and NTCA’s  Mark Heinlein, Robb Roderick and Randy Fleming.

Here are just a few of the topics that were discussed during this engaging evening:·      

  • How do you get into the artisan tile market?
  • How much creative freedom do you have with your designs?      
  • What materials do you use?      
  • What kind of tools do you need?      
  • How do you develop estimates for such custom work?      
  • How do you interest your clients in custom designs?      
  • How much of your work is traditional tile setting and how much is custom?      
  • How do you develop your renderings and sketches?      
  • How do you manage the different thicknesses of your materials?
The upcoming one-hour NTCA Roundtable Live! Artisan Edition-Session 2 on Tuesday, November 17 at 6:00 p.m. CST, promises to be informational and engaging, with plenty of time for attendee discussion and questions.

TileLetter editor Lesley Goddin also gave a brief overview of a brand new magazine geared towards custom tile work. TileLetter ARTISAN will publish in the spring and fall next year and will focus on the beauty and precision of artisan tile setting in stunning traditional and custom residential  and commercial projects.

The upcoming one-hour NTCA Roundtable Live! Artisan Edition-Session 2 will feature a blend of education and discussion. The session wraps up with the “Ask the REF game,” developed with Custom Building Products and sponsored by the setting materials supplier.  This feature poses questions that are derived from the NTCA Reference Manual. In a fun interactive format,participants who answer correctly have a chance to pick swag of their choice from CUSTOM.

Prior to the program, register and receive the link to the Zoom meeting on the NTCA website by going to this link:

Directly join the Zoom meeting here:

Looking forward to seeing you on November 17 at 6:00 p.m., CST!

NTCA Roundtable Live! “Who is NTCA? with President Chris Walker” set for Wednesday, November 11, 1 p.m. CST

Chris Walker, NTCA President

NTCA has set its next NTCA Roundtable Live! for Wednesday, November 11. This session is the first in a series to feature the  NTCA President and Vice Presidents as guest moderators.

The one-hour November 11 event will take place at 1:00 p.m. CST, with NTCA President Chris Walker of David Allen Company, as guest host. Join the discussion to get to know NTCA officers, discover the people behind NTCA, what the association offers you, and why you belong!

Coming months will feature First Vice President Martin Brookes of Heritage Marble & Tile, Second Vice President Sam Bruce of Visalia Ceramic Tile and Third Vice President Rod Owen of C.C. Owen Tile.

In addition to the dialog inherent to the NTCA Roundtable Live!, each session wraps up with the “Ask the REF game,” developed with Custom Building Products and sponsored by the setting materials supplier.  This feature poses questions that are derived from the NTCA Reference Manual. In a fun interactive format,participants who answer correctly have a chance to pick swag of their choice from CUSTOM.

Prior to the program, register and receive the link to the Zoom meeting on the NTCA website by going to this link: Or directly join the Zoom meeting using this link:

Looking forward to seeing you on November 11 at 1:00 p.m., CST!

CUSTOM supports training with sponsorship, virtual and in-person options

So, pandemics can have silver linings. 

While the training and education aspect of our industry has taken a hit with the suspension of in-person events, workshops and classes, necessity has been the mother of invention when it comes to virtual, on-line classes and events. 

Will White

In September, we reported on the NTCA Roundtables Live that are led by our trainers and aim to keep people in the industry connected, impart information on tile-related challenges and methods, and provide a format that is conducive to civil and productive discussion. From the beginning, Custom Building Products was on board as an NTCA Roundtables Live sponsor. According to Will White CTC/CMT, Director of Technical Communications & Training, Custom Building Products, White brainstormed some ideas with NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein, then developed a “fun program of answering questions and directing people to the NTCA Reference Manual,” he said. The point was “to make that human connection and provide support and appreciation.”

Thus the Ask the REF (short for “Reference Manual”) was born. This feature of the NTCA Roundtables Live is to “point out the value to the contractors – of not just best methods – but also how to protect themselves in their businesses and set expectations for stakeholders on the job by using letters in the NTCA Reference Manual,” White said. 

The format is more interactive than a Q&A, White said – kind of a combination between Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Cash Cab, with a group share where everyone can chime in and an “ask a friend” feature to get answer options. 

Ask the REF is also useful to “break up the sequencing of conversation pieces,” White said. “When NTCA Roundtables Live started, everything revolved about COVID: the ups and downs, challenges, safety protocols, do customers want you in their home, etc. Putting in a game piece was important for a brain break, levity and balance. It also offered a ‘people piece.’ It helped direct attention away from COVID into installation and business practices.” And of course CUSTOM supplied swag too for winners – buckets and grout floats and tools that tile installers use every day!

CUSTOM training: live and virtual

In addition to its support of NTCA Roundtables Live and the Ask the REF program, CUSTOM has been running its own training events, which employ a hybrid format at present. “We’ve invested a lot of effort to produce and deliver virtual content,” said White. This is tailored to each segment of the market – architectural, tile contractors, distributors, general contractors. The company has even conducted virtual porcelain tile panel training, he said. The format involves a technical consultant who is giving the virtual instruction and a local rep on-site to assist with hands-on one-on-one trainings with a dozen or so attendees for special projects. There have been three virtual trainings and two of the hybrid trainings so far with plans for more. And reps are also available through a range of platforms – Facetime, Zoom, Webx, Teams, or GoToMeeting to meet customer needs.

Looking ahead, CUSTOM is eager to get Custom Technical University (CTU) up and running again full time in 2021. The facility, located in Seal Beach, Calif., has been closed since March 2020. But White foresees trainings resuming next year, albeit with some adjustments – “Using COVID precautions, working more closely with smaller, focused groups for in-person support where allowable and where makes sense,” White said. “We have to wait until the right time, and be respectful of clients, and their families and our employees’ protection – as early as April all the way out to a June start.” 

The 50,000 sq. ft. CTU is designed to work with groups of about 40 people at a time, and to facilitate classroom and hands-on application with a six-person training team. Courses address surface prep, industry standards, guidelines, best practices, troubleshooting. Though, “We talk about how our products fit into those standards and let you apply those products,” White said, it’s not an “infomercial. Everything is keyed around product and installation standards, designed to be a visual, audio and kinesthetic learning experience for those who attend.” Essential industry manuals and handbooks are given to attendees to support the learning.

IMI/BAC 2019 Western Sates Apprenticeship contest and Cleveland BAC event

In addition, prior to COVID, the CTU was on the road, bringing that experience to local areas, offering road shows in large convention rooms in local venues and working with the local sales team to bring week-long trainings in waterproofing, surface prep or even gauged porcelain panel installations. “It’s like a mini trade show,” White said. “CUSTOM recognizes the value to invest the time and effort into these trainings.”

When the live CTU trainings resume, virtual training won’t disappear – in fact, White said, CUSTOM will soon push out a teaser for a new e-learning platform, called CTUOA – Custom Technical University Online Anytime – that will launch in first quarter 2021. 

“It’s part of our plan to offer various experiences of engagement,” White said. “If you are in an office and can’t get out to an in-person program, we can set up in e-learning in bite-size pieces. New standards are coming, and those will be added to the menu. Most of us have been inundated with virtual world since that’s all we have. Going forward, we will get back to new norm, but I think the virtual experience will be as important.” 

CTEF schedules first Certification Testing event of 2021

CTEF, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, has scheduled its first Certified Tile Installer (CTI) hands-on testing event for 2021 at The Carpet & Tile Warehouse in Vero Beach, Florida on Saturday, February 20, 2021. CTEF provides education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, CTEF had to cancel all 2020 certification and training events, effective March 2020.

“Scheduling this first CTI hands-on testing event is a testament to the importance of CTEF’s mission and the support of the entire tile industry,” said Scott Carothers, Director of Certification and Training for CTEF. “The pandemic has reinforced the importance for the tile industry to have a pool of talented and certified installers available to handle the amount of new work on the horizon.”

CTEF has created a four-page Certified Tile Installer COVID-19 policy which will be in effect during installer orientation, set up, and hands-on testing and will coincide with the location’s state and local guidelines. Per CDC guidelines, the following procedures will be in place:

  • Face masks will always be worn by the evaluator, installers, and hosts
  • Social distancing will be in place during orientation, set up, and during the operation of the test
  • No-touch temperature readings will be administered at the beginning of each day
  • PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) must always be in place
  • Tools and equipment may not be shared

“We are very grateful to Deby and Robert Winter of The Carpet & Tile Warehouse for supporting the CTI program especially during these unprecedented times,” added Carothers.

The Certified Tile Installer Program

The Certified Tile Installer Program

The CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge which is recognized by the tile industry. It offers owners, whether residential or commercial, peace-of-mind that their tile installer has the right skills to complete a successful tile installation.

The CTI designation identifies the professional installer who has reached a level of proficiency to independently and consistently produce a sound tile installation that displays good workmanship. Certification is the validation of the skills and knowledge of the men and women who presently are installing tile successfully in the United States.

To qualify for the CTI Program, installers must have at least two years of experience as the lead installer setting ceramic and porcelain tile on a full-time basis. This means having full responsibility for substrate prep, layout, coordinating the tile installation with other trades along with properly installing underlayment, tile, grout and sealant materials.

“The CTI program is strictly a test of the installer’s skills and knowledge; it is a self-study course which offers no instructional classes,” says Carothers. “However, many installers who have completed the CTI tests say that studying the written materials was very valuable and assisted in the completion of the hands-on test and that the CTI Manual provided the correct methods for tile installation which may not have been the way they installed tile in the past.”

chanel with cti module
Chanel Carrizosa, Icon Tile & Design, after completing the hands-on portion of her CTI exam.

The CTI program includes two separate tests.

  • An online open-book exam which is taken at home or the office as the installer’s schedule allows.
  • A hands-on test which is conducted at regional locations across the United States. The hands-on portion of the test begins with an hour-long orientation class the day before the hands-on test to provide the installers with all the information they will need, get their tools in place, and have their questions answered. Installers arrive on test day 6:30 am to complete their final set up and be ready to begin. The test starts at 7:09 am and must be completed by 4:00 pm.

The written test must be successfully completed before participating in the hands-on test.

Those interested in registering for the February 20th, 2021 hands-on testing event at The Carpet & Tile Warehouse in Vero Beach, FL should go to

More certification events are forthcoming for 2021.

M-D PRO goes live with the PROVA Digital Product Knowledge Series!

Prova Digital Education Series

M-D PRO recently opened registration for the PROVA Digital Product Knowledge Series to all within the building products, flooring trade and home renovation industries. What started as a private program for its immediate customer-base will now be available to anyone who wants to learn about a North American alternative solution for ceramic installation and waterproofing.

The marketing and technical teams at M-D PRO worked quickly to get a webinar series produced and launched for their flooring distributor customer base back in the Spring amidst the COVID-19 quarantine. “This was a great opportunity to keep us in front of our customers despite the company- wide travel restrictions that were put in place,” said Fredrik Olsson, V.P. of Sales, M-D PRO. “Many of our customers were shut down and their sales teams had an appetite for continued education and training.”

The M-D PRO marketing team took this time to review and refine the webinar process that was initially created. “This allowed us to test our webinar-hosting skills and formulate a soft launch for the newly-
created series through the summer so we could work out the kinks and be ready for a mass audience,” added Melanie Duchak, Marketing & Events Coordinator, M-D Canada.

The PROVA Digital Product Knowledge Series is broken out into quick and easy-to-follow 20-minute modules that can be viewed on a lunch or coffee break. “We understand that a viewer or user will not get the full value of experience out of watching installation-based virtual training,” said Julia Vozza, Director of Marketing, M-D Canada. “That is something that needs to be done in a physical setting where the user can be hands-on to get the true value from it. These days, many are working hard trying to get business back on track and we know that it may be unrealistic to expect users to allot 2-3 hours of their time to virtual installation-based training.”

M-D PRO has instead gone back to basics with PROVA product and technical knowledge to inform those that may not be familiar with the brand or the system and want to learn something new in a timely manner. “This series is meant to provide the specific and key differentiators of the PROVA system to educate a larger audience on what it can offer and how it can create efficiencies and cost-savings to the user,” Vozza said. “And we hope that these succinct modules will provide a level of convenience and
satisfaction to users in today’s environment. We look forward to getting back to physical installation- based training when it is safe for us all to do so.”

The series is moderated by Melanie Duchak, Marketing and Events Coordinator, M-D Canada and presented by Duane Farley, PROVA Technical and Installation Specialist, CDN as well as Mark Albonetti, PROVA Technical and Installation Specialist, U.S. The fall line-up also has some bonus content featuring special guest, Clint Watson of TileFreak, a tile enthusiast and influencer with over 20 years’ experience in the tile trade. The series concludes with an open Q&A session in late Fall titled “The Floor is Yours” where all 3 expert panelists will be ready to take on any and all questions related to PROVA, tile, installation, and the trade.

The Fall schedule is now live and registration open with dates through to mid-November. Those who attend the entire series will be entered into a draw to win 1 of 3 PROVA product prize packs, valued at
$500 each. Winners will be announced at the end of the series in late November.

Registration page:

NTCA names residential and commercial Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year

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

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

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

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

Judging criteria included the following factors: 

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

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

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

Let’s meet our winners!

Ferid Hasic, Grazzini Brothers & Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leo Reynaga, Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTCA brings training to you with virtual workshops and roundtables

New NTCA VIP Text Messaging Program keeps you in the loop for upcoming training events

Here we are, in September, and no doubt you are missing some of the great training opportunities NTCA is known for. But did you know that although NTCA trainers are not physically roaming the country to present workshops and conduct roundtables, you don’t have to miss out on these educational events? In fact, you don’t have to leave the convenience of your phone or computer to take part in NTCA Workshops and NTCA Roundtables Live, all presented virtually.

NTCA Workshops

The NTCA Workshops were some of the most-anticipated training opportunities each year. Now you can enjoy the 90-minute virtual program anywhere you have a connected device, through the magic of virtual conferencing! 

The focus of the programs for this year is The Ins and Outs of Layout, which was developed to help contractors and installers master layout principles that can expedite your projects and create balanced layouts. The program reviews the basics of squaring a room, determining the focal point of the room to properly balance the tile installations, using grid pattern in tile installation and more. These principles are utilized by installation companies of all sizes in any type of job, so take the opportunity to tune into this virtual presentation and up your layout game. You’ll also have a chance to ask questions of the NTCA Trainer, and videos of the tips and techniques discussed will be shared with attendees. 

Visit for more information and to view a teaser video of the program. 

NTCA Roundtables Live

In June and July, NTCA Roundtables Live were held virtually in each region, with the Regional Directors moderating. This is a change to discuss pressing topics with peers, NTCA trainers, manufacturers and other industry experts and get answers to technical questions. They started up again in August, backed by the sponsorship of Custom Building Products through the end of the year.  

“Losing that human interaction has been crazy and difficult for all of us,” said Will White CTC/CMT, Director of Technical Communications & Training, Custom Building Products. “This roundtable series provides a way we can all connect. CUSTOM has always held high the standard of supporting the contractor on the job, in the trenches, getting it done day in and day out. More now than ever, creating a forum where we can meet, asking the difficult questions about installation issues, challenges and even experiences on this new way of life together is immeasurable. Custom Building Products and I are very pleased, excited for the growing participation and thankful to the NTCA for the honor to engage and support this new effort.”

NTCA Roundtables Live allows viewers the opportunity to discuss technical topics and answer technical questions with peers, NTCA trainers, state ambassadors, and other industry experts.

Each NTCA Roundtables Live is conducted via virtual conferencing and runs for about an hour, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time (12 noon Central/11 a.m. Mountain/10 a.m. Pacific). There is a general topic set for each meeting; some topics that have been explored in past roundtables include: 

  • Exterior Installations
  • Installer Habits (good and not-so-good)
  • Use of Mastic (when and where – or – when not and where not)
  • Substrate Preparation
  • Jobsite Security
  • Qualified Labor in the tile industry
  • Bring your questions and conversation! We want to hear from you!

There’s also plenty of opportunities to discuss other topics that come up in the group. 

NTCA Technical Director Mark Heinlein co-moderates with the Regional Director, and NTCA Trainers Robb Roderick and Randy Fleming are on hand for technical discussion and questions. While all members from the states in the scheduled region will be invited to attend, non-members can take part as well. And going forward, each roundtable will be open to the entire industry, not restricted by state. 

One big advantage of the NTCA Roundtables Live is the format gives seasoned contractors and those new to the industry positive support through a respectful forum, said Heinlein. 

“The roundtables are really starting to take off, with more and more people attending and engaging in fantastic discussions,” he explained. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to talk about tile in a safe place with industry professionals, without fear of ‘keyboard bravado’ that is sometimes seen on social media sites.” In fact, Heinlein said – although participation powers the discussion – contractors and installers can join the call to just listen if they wish. 

One of the new features of the NTCA Roundtables Live in the second half of the year is the “Ask the REF” feature. This feature poses questions that are derived from the NTCA Reference Manual; participants who answer correctly have a chance to pick swag of their choice from CUSTOM. 

Visit to register for the NTCA Roundtables Live. 

NTCA VIP Text Messaging Program

Got too much going on to check your calendar to see when Virtual Workshops and NTCA Roundtables Live are available? NTCA has you covered. You can now opt-in to NTCA’s VIP Text Messaging program that will alert you no more than 4-6 times a month when and where our next educational event is – or when our trainers get back on the road – in your area. Just text NTCA to 31996 from your mobile phone and you’ll get a confirmation. You’ll receive notification for the next event and information on how to participate. 

Trainers are looking forward to seeing you, talking with you and answering your questions in these new, age-of-COVID, virtual formats. Take advantage of this new format to pump up your tile installation know-how, coming soon to a phone, tablet, or computer screen near you. 

Attend NTCA Roundtable Live, NTCA Virtual Workshop, Wednesday, August 19!

Are you looking for an opportunity to virtually gather with other like-minded individuals to discuss issues pertinent to the industry? Are you looking for some tile-related banter, expert information and inspiration for your business?

Join the next NTCA Roundtable Live on Wednesday August 19

Tune in to the NTCA Roundtable Live on Wednesday – August 19 at
10:00 am Pacific / 11:00 am Mountain / 12:00 noon Central / 1:00
pm Eastern.
“We will be discussing tile related issues that matter to you. Bring your questions, and discussion points for our team,” said Mark Heinlein, NTCA Technical Director.

Register here to receive a Zoom login link to attend the discussion.
Play the “Ask the REF” game — and test your knowledge of the NTCA Reference Manual — to win prizes from Custom Building Products!

In the evening, you’ll have the opportunity to attend a NTCA Virtual Workshop, held at 6:00 pm Pacific / 7:00 pm Mountain / 8:00 pm Central / 9:00 pm Eastern

Register here for the NTCA Virtual Workshop.

Learn from the one and only Randy Fleming as he presents NTCA’s The Ins and Outs of Layout workshop.  Stay to win prizes including a floor warming system provided by SunTouch and WattsWater!

Receive reminder updates for NTCA’s educational events, including NTCA Roundtables Live and NTCA Workshop. Opt in to NTCA’s VIP Text Update by texting NTCA to 31996 or click on this link:

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