TECH 2019 – explore emerging trends in technology that meet the demands of today’s tiles, and the contractors that install them

Every fall, as the leaves start to change and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING starts to appear in all the stores, it’s also time for the TECH issue of TileLetter. It’s hard to believe we are in the fifth year for this annual issue, bringing you news of technological trends in setting materials, tools, accessories and related products. 

The backbone of this issue is our product sections that explore emerging trends in technology from industry experts and present products that meet the demands of today’s tiles, and the contractors that install them. Interspersed in these sections are perspectives from contractors who work in the trenches with these products every day – Ashley Andrews, Pavlo Starkov and Tom Cravillion. 

In addition, we offer several stories for your consideration. NTCA Technical Director Stephanie Samulski gives you a guided tour through what’s involved in developing a product or installation standard. Do you ever wonder how a standard gets proposed, debated, and adopted? Samulski gives you the lowdown on this process and suggests ways you can get involved to have your voice heard and influence the outcome. Then NTCA President Chris Walker adds his perspective on the rise of technology, as well as the standards process, in his President’s Letter. 

NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga issues a “Call to Arms” concerning the growth of plastic-based materials (PBM) such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT) in the hard surface market. He posits the fact that customers are often choosing these products due to misperceptions about performance and longevity they believe these products offer, but which manufacturers don’t stand behind. Take a look at this story and arm yourself with knowledge as this battle heats up in the marketplace.

Yours truly offers an article about the effect tariffs – mostly against China – are having on our industry from the perspective of some of our top distributors. With tile from China comprising increasing amounts of imports in recent years, how are distributors dealing with the monthly increase in tariffs and what is their strategy going into 2020? Read and find out!

Lou Iannoco

Once again, a big shout out to Contributing Editor Lou Iannoco, who gathered much of the trend and product information in the materials categories. It’s a monumental job to compile all this data into a coherent, cohesive format for your reading pleasure and edification, and we would be hard-pressed to do it without him. 

So, pull up a comfy chair, grab a pumpkin spice latte, curl up with this issue of TECH, and arm yourself with knowledge for the year ahead. 

God bless,
Lesley Goddin
[email protected]

TRENDS you’ll see in 2019

We’ve been publishing this TRENDS issue of Tileletter for half a decade now, with the intent of giving you a leg up on the new year in terms of trends, style, sales patterns and new products that you will see at Coverings this year in Orlando, Fla., April 9-12, and beyond.

This year we add a bit of a twist – this issue focuses solely on the aesthetics of surfaces and colors and how designers benefit from working with qualified labor in challenging tile installations (See our TECH issue in the fall for the latest and greatest in setting materials, accessories, equipment and sundries). Take a look at our A&D story to learn why Glenda Wright of HHCP – one of the vignette designers in Coverings’ Installation & Design Experience this year – chooses to work with skilled labor and how that benefits her clients and projects. And Chris Walker has some important perspectives about qualified labor in this issue’s President Letter.

We delve into the broad cultural and historic influences on style and color with product designers Shelly Halbert and Laura Grilli of Dal-Tile Corporation, and take a journey through the world of tile trends with Joe Lundgren, who travels the country – and the globe – to stay abreast of cutting-edge technologies and fresh new aesthetics when it comes to tile. Natural Stone Institute has provided us with an overview of stone designs, trends and uses for baths and kitchens. And we present the hottest new looks in tile from Italy, Spain and Turkey to bring an international flair to our offerings. 

Contributing editor Lou Iannoco has culled together data from suppliers and distributors to bring you a report of what looks are selling in different regions of the country. He’s also compiled a product listing of new tile and stone offerings, many of which will be on display at Coverings. 

Kicking the whole thing off is a welcome from industry Ambassador Alena Capra, who walks you through a few of the changes you’ll see in the Installation & Design Experience and highlighted features you won’t want to miss on the show floor. 

We hope this issue whets your appetite for seeing the real deal in person on the show floor come early April in Orlando. There’s nothing quite like strolling through miles of stunning tile and stone exhibits (wear your comfy shoes!) and partaking of the many educational opportunities the show offers. A few inspiring days at Coverings will fire up your creativity and expand your palette of color and design options for upcoming projects. Don’t miss it. Find out more at

God bless,
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – TRENDS 2018

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  – Walt Disney

It’s hard to believe that this is the fourth year of Tileletter TRENDS, since we kicked off this annual publication at Coverings ’15. 

This issue is always one of my favorites, with a panoply of products to ensorcell and inspire and to make tile and stone installations easier, faster or better performing. This issue also has useful recommendations for A&D professionals looking to align carefully chosen finishing products that will shine in their projects with installations that will stand the test of time, executed by qualified contractors. 

Contributors that made this issue possible include Lou Iannoco, who gathered information for products sections and wrote the Sales Report; Coverings Ambassador Alena Capra, who welcomes us to the issue and to Coverings itself; Joe Lundgren, who penned the tile trends story; Dal-Tile’s Roy Viana, who provides a window into what’s rolling in stone for 2018; Leatrice Eiseman and the folks at Pantone, who painted a picture of color palettes that will inform fashion and interior design this year; and representatives from Italy, Spain and Turkey who shared what factories in their countries are offering the tile industry this year.

We also have a paper that Scott Conwell of IMI presented at Qualicer 18 in Spain in February, discussing the role of the architect as communicator and collaborator on ceramic tile installations, and a letter from NTCA president Martin Howard that will point you towards partnerships with knowledgeable, trained and skillful sales people and installation professionals to ensure successful projects. 

Our cover story hits it out of the SunTrust Park with an installation story about a homerun project by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company, using LATICRETE products. And speaking of products, the issue wouldn’t be complete without all the suppliers that contributed information about hot new products, many of which you can see at Coverings. 

Get ready to see these new styles, patterns, and products May 8-11 in Atlanta at Coverings 18. I’ll be there, and look forward to meeting you!

God bless,
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – TRENDS 2017

Here we are, in the midst of a long-anticipated spring. Weather is warming, blades of grass are poking out of barren ground and COLOR is everywhere.

That’s fitting since in this issue, we are having a veritable spring explosion of color – and style. Take a look at Shelley Halbert’s story for a bloom of fresh new colors that will be influential, inspiring and blossoming forth from everything from fashion to home decor. And in fact, the Pantone Color of the Year for 2017 is GREENERY – a life-affirming color of hope, and fresh new starts.

There’s a burst of new color and design from around the globe as well – see the stories from Tile of Spain, Ceramics of Italy and Turkish Ceramics to sample the international menu of important trends that will inform our industry. And just how are tiles incorporated into residential and commercial design? Explore the A&D Q&A to see how interior designers Lisa Mende and Patricia Gaylor create magical settings through the use of tile.

Kent Klaser speaks with us about budding stone trends and directions, and suppliers of stone and tile share with us what’s selling in their necks of the woods and identify up-and-coming trends.

Peruse our product section for an overview of color, aesthetics and formats in tile and stone this year. We also include a setting materials section because a sound foundation, complemented by the proper accessories, treatments and tools, helps ensure the beautiful finishing materials look and perform splendidly for decades.

And I would be remiss to not mention a big event for NTCA – this year marks this association’s 70th Anniversary. A festive celebration is planned Thursday night, April 6, at Coverings to commemorate NTCA’s perennial influence in supporting the trade, advancing the use of tile, and partnering with other sectors of our industry in creative ways to raise tile’s visibility as a beautiful and enduring surfacing material – and to ensure that installations perform beautifully for years to come.

There is so much beauty, drama and style coming into flower this year in tile and stone – and TRENDS is just the beginning. Enjoy the issue and see these trends come to life on the Coverings show floor in Orlando April 4-7, 2017.

God bless,
[email protected]

Publisher’s Letter – Tech 2016

bart_0114Inaugural Installation Summit sparks awareness for floor covering job opportunities

By Bart Bettiga

In early August, the National Tile Contractors Association participated in an invitation-only Installation Summit, promoted by leaders of the Floorcovering Leadership Council and managed by Informa Exhibitions. The event took place at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Over 70 industry professionals, including 25 from the tile and stone industry, came together to address what many people are now referring to as an installation crisis, especially as it relates to overall quality and availability of a trained workforce.

This was an important first step in addressing a serious issue. For many years, the lack of qualified installers has plagued our industry. With the economic recession now past, and a steady increase in growth in all flooring segments, we find ourselves faced once again with this shortage. What makes this even more challenging is that a new generation of workers does not appear to be on the horizon. Discussion at the Summit centered around all the great jobs available in the flooring industry, and the realization that there is very little awareness of these opportunities – not just in installation, but in sales, design, management, etc.

pub-02By holding an Installation Summit, we’ve brought all the groups together to identify common challenges, with the hope of a collective approach to address a potential crisis in all segments. Training and apprenticeship programs, certification, on-line education, and recruitment of new people into the trades were all listed as critical items to work on collectively.

Following this town-hall group approach, tile and stone leaders met in intensive breakout sessions, seeking feedback to association direction in our industry. Representatives of the NTCA, MIA and BSI, and the CTEF were able to engage with our members for a focused discussion of how to work with other flooring industry segments.

pub-01On the second day of the Summit, all the attendees got back together to discuss next steps. The leaders of the Summit came out of the meeting with some clear direction. The group agreed an awareness campaign needs to be developed to inform people of job opportunities in the industry, with a special emphasis on installation as a trade. In order to accomplish this, Summit leaders agreed that a small group representing a cross-section of the industry will need to be created to brainstorm how to achieve these steps. This group will be appointed by Summit leaders, and will work closely with the Floorcovering Leadership Council for support and direction.

The NTCA would like to thank its staff, contractor and associate members who attended the event and provided valuable feedback. We are committed to participating in the committee, and will give a full report to our board of directors at our annual meeting, held in conjunction with Total Solutions Plus October 22nd-25th in Indian Wells (Palm Springs), Calif.

Editor’s Letter – Tech 2016

Lesley psf head shot“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
– Arthur C. Clarke

As science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke aptly stated, advanced technology is a bit of magic. We see the stuff of this today – surface treatments, glazes and inkjet printing processes for tiles that replicate anything from lace to wood with perfect authenticity or quirky artistry; tiles that are thinner than the diameter of a pencil; mortar that can bend and flex…the list is endless. Our industry truly is a marvel of advanced engineering that provides a spectrum of amazing surfacing materials, setting materials, tools, and accessories with which to make projects more enduring and better performing, while streamlining the process for the installer. The magazine you hold in your hands pays homage to this.

Welcome to the 2016 repeat performance of our TECH issue of TileLetter. NTCA debuted this publication in 2015, and it’s back this year by popular demand.

Overall, this issue takes an in-depth look at new technologies and advances of a range of product categories: substrate preparation; electric floor warming; shower systems; mortars; grout; tools, accessories, and apps; and this year we added a sustainability category.

Within each category, you’ll find manufacturer comments about the direction the category is taking and what advances we can expect to see emerging over the next year. As an adjunct to each category, we present a range of new products that demonstrate these cutting-edge advances.

And in many categories we include comments from contractors and installers working in the field. These give a view on what REALLY works and what doesn’t by those putting them to the test on the job – and occasionally ideas for improvement.

In addition to our category content, we have a cover feature by TEC about the expansion of The Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, Ind., and a collection of stories that support the advance of technology and standards in our industry. Kevin Fox, Methods and Standards Committee chairman discusses the development of some new submissions and additions to the 2017 TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. Crossville’s Noah Chitty updates us on the latest in the quest for product and installation standards for gauged porcelain tile, the tile formerly known as large thin porcelain tile. NTCA president Bart Bettiga uses his Publisher Letter to report on the first-ever Installation Summit, held in Dallas at the beginning of August, which brought together 70 representatives from all flooring installation sectors (25 from tile and stone alone!) to put their heads together about what is being called an “installation crisis” – particularly quality work and lack of experienced installers.

Something that’s new for this year is the Regional Sales Snapshot, where several major suppliers share information about what is selling in their region, in terms of setting materials, tools and tile and stone products.

We’re grateful to everyone who shared their wisdom and perspectives in this issue. We hope it’s a useful reference document for the entire year to come, and brings technological magic within reach for your upcoming projects. Think of something you’d like to see in the 2017 edition? Send your ideas to me at [email protected]

God bless,

Editor’s Letter – February 2016

Lesley psf head shot


“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”  – Albert Einstein

A couple of topics for this letter.

First, I want to post this photo, taken in December 2015 at association headquarters in Jackson, Miss., of the brand new, updated NTCA logo and most of the NTCA staff and distinguished guests. The porcelain logo was created for the association by Tom Ade and Filling Marble & Tile in Egg Harbor City, N.J. It just so happened that the installation of the logo coincided with a visit of most of the staff to headquarters for year-end meetings, planning , and a holiday dinner. Shown are (l. to r.): Sandy Bettiga, Bart Bettiga, Lesley Goddin, Mark Heinlein, Mary Shaw-Olson, Jim Olson, Becky Serbin, Scott Carothers, Michael Whistler, Jill Whistler, Tricia Moss and Michelle Chapman. Missing is Lisa Murphy, NTCA accountant, and Joe Tarver, NTCA executive director emeritus.

Second, I want to further the discussion, started in the December Editor Letter, about solutions to the labor shortage in the U.S.

Just this second week in January, we received a report from the Associated General Contractors of America that showed in December, construction firms added 45,000 workers, as construction unemployment continued its decline from 8.3% a year ago to the current 7.5%.

One of the telling aspects of the report, however, was this statement: “Association officials noted that most contractors remain concerned about shortages of available construction workers, noting that 70% of contractors report having a hard time finding workers. They urged federal, state and local officials to act on measures outlined in the association’s Workforce Development Plan to support new career and technical education programs. In particular, they called on Congress to enact needed reforms and increase funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”

SEVENTY percent. That’s huge. I don’t currently have a figure for the tile industry, but I suspect it would be in a similar ballpark. Which brings us back to the December letter.

We received a lot of feedback to this letter – phone calls to Bart in the office and emails to me – thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! Some respondents were very favorable to the idea of exploring the possibility of importing labor in the form of skilled, certified Mexican workers on a temporary basis to help alleviate some of the immediate labor shortages that are plaguing our industry; some also cited personal experience with excellent work of Mexican laborers they had worked alongside.

Others misunderstood the intent of the letter, fearing an influx of unskilled, undocumented workers, which was never part of the original discussion. But the point was made numerous times about the importance of developing U.S. resources, whether in trade schools, recruiting ex-military – goals NTCA is involved in at various levels, including our online apprentice program in development. And in fact, NTCA president James Woelfel added this comment:

“Young African-American males between the ages of 16-19 are unemployed at the rate of over 20% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young women are in the same range. Here in Arizona young Navajo males are at around 70% unemployment, these numbers are staggering.

“Have we as an industry done our best to reach out to these diverse groups? I don’t think so. Are we selling our own citizens short? We need to do better in outreach to the younger people in our country, no matter the ethnicity (Ed. note – And, I would add, the gender). We have plenty of opportunity in our industry to employ young Americans.”

Well said, and great points. And yet I can’t help thinking that while all the plans to develop U.S. resources are good ones that should definitely be pursued, this issue is that educating, training, enticing and convincing U.S. citizens to enter the field, obtain necessary training and certification and make tile setting their life’s work takes a long time. Certainly, a great goal to shoot for and to attract more U.S. workers into the field from trade school paths, ex-military, inner city populations.

Yet we have an immediate need  – a NOW need – for workers. SEVENTY percent of construction contractors report a shortage. Would a program to certify skilled Mexican workers to help alleviate this situation be able to be implemented more quickly? That is anyone’s guess. But it might make sense to initiate efforts on both fronts. Once any obstacles are overcome in getting these trained workers here legally, we would be working with a population that has the desire to work in this field vs. starting from square one when it comes to plans to recruit U.S. workers.

I invite continuing discussion on this topic, and let’s see what arises!


[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – TRENDS 2016

Welcome back to the TRENDS issue of TileLetter, your spring report on all things new in tile and stone.

This second annual edition of the latest and greatest our industry has to offer – including setting and ancillary materials – culls information from around the world, and around the block.

You’ll find a view into the new from Joe Lundgren of Joseph Lundgren Consulting, style directions from Italy, Spain, and a look into what Turkish producers are introducing into the U.S. marketplace. You’ll find a color forecast from Scarlet Opus (and a look into Pantone’s Color of the Year) and a take on stone stylings from Josh Levinson and Jill Cohen of Artistic Tile. Dal-Tile Corporation’s Shelly Halbert gives us a peek into what it takes to develop on-trend products for the U.S. marketplace. And the A&D professionals who are participating in the Coverings Installation Design Showcase this year – including Coverings Industry Ambassador Alena Capra – weigh in on design directions, and how tile and stone are being used to support fresh new fashions for interiors and exteriors.

Accompanying these stories are new product sections for tile, stone and setting materials, to give you a leg up on what you’ll see this spring and at Coverings.

NTCA continues strong in its efforts to support and foster collaboration among the A&D, manufacturing, distributing and installation sectors for appropriately specified, properly installed installations that not only look stunning, but perform flawlessly. While you’re at Coverings, find NTCA at 8436, as well as with a presence in the North American Pavilion near TCNA at information central, booth 7325. Visit the Installation Design Showcase in booth 6245, sponsored this year by The Home Depot, to watch the four vignettes come to life in real time over the course of the show through the efforts of the A&D professionals, NTCA Five Star Contractors and material sponsors. For the backstory, come to the Installation Design Showcase Deconstructed Session followed by the Final Reveal and Reception on Wednesday, April 20 from 3:30 – 5:30 PM.

While you’re at the show, be sure to attend the Coverings Installation Design (CID) Awards and Opening Night Celebration, which honors outstanding projects and allows you to meet the winners in an interactive showcase of the winning projects. The “Taste of Chicago” themed reception takes place Monday, April 18 at 5:30 p.m.

Of course the show itself will unveil even more than we can fit in the pages of this book. Be one of our roving reporters and let us know what you see at the show that knocked your socks off. Email me at [email protected], and your comments may appear in an upcoming issue of TileLetter.

Here’s to the timeless and the trendy in tile and stone!


[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – TECH 2015

Lesley psf head shot

“Change is the end of something you know, and the beginning of something else that you don’t know. Something new that holds opportunities.” – Kholoud Yasser


Welcome to our first ever issue of TECH, a special publication of TileLetter.

Like the TRENDS issue of TileLetter, published this past spring, TECH presents the emerging trends, but in technology that supports and enhances successful tile and stone installations. You’ll read about hot technological trends in subfloor prep – including leveling, crack isolation, waterproofing and backers – shower systems, radiant heat, mortars, grouts and tools and accessories.

Manufacturers have presented non-proprietary overviews of the specific category as they see it; these are supported by product entries to make the forecasts concrete and give you some ideas for great new products to incorporate in your future projects.

In addition, we have a collection of Contractor Perspectives – reports from the field from the people who are working with these trends and products, seeing them unfold, and sharing their experiences. Some of these comments are non-proprietary, but some of our contractors name products with which they have had good success.

We also have contributions that describe the workings of our Technical Committee and the Methods and Standards Committee, as well as the new ACT Certification for Thin Porcelain Tile, and an update on the new NTCA “Trowel & Error” video coming out this fall.

The TECH issue is a hybrid of our TRENDS issue and the concept of presenting short technical pieces that originated with our TileLetter Reference Manual Issue in 2014. TECH takes last year’s publication a step further, projecting and presenting budding trends to equip you with the information you need to go into the brave new world of thin porcelain tile, ready-to-use-grout, uncoupling/radiant heat combos and barrier-free showers, to mention a few.

Speaking of the NTCA Reference Manual, for those of you who are members, you are receiving THIS TECH issue packaged with the 2015-2016 issue of the manual. Those who are not yet members, the manual is available through the NTCA Store at

Many thanks to all the manufacturers and contractors who participated in this issue and who shared their wisdom and experience. It’s our hope at NTCA that this is a publication you’ll refer to again and again over the course of the next year.

Inspired reading!
God bless,

Editor’s Letter – TRENDS 2015

Lesley psf head shot“It is the old, the new, the made, the hand-me-down, the collected, the worn (but loved) things in your home that make it your own.” – Stacy Risenmay 

What’s new?

It’s one of the most popular questions we ask each other. It’s the reason we attend trade shows and conferences, read magazines and watch remodeling shows.

What’s new and fresh – or classic materials used in original ways – fuels us with passion to design, sell, create and install with excellence. A new product or a new perspective inspires us and invigorates us, and in turn our readers, customers, clients and colleagues.

With that in mind, we developed this special annual TRENDS issue of TileLetter magazine. We culled up-to-the-minute influences in color, style, materials, tile and stone designs, and emerging developments in setting materials that you will see here at COVERINGS ’15 and beyond. It’s our intention that this collage of the new – and redefined classics – will inspire and inform while giving you the tools to work smoothly and beautifully with tile and stone finishes, in addition to providing vital information about materials needed to install them to best effect.

Within these pages, you’ll read about color trends from Leatrice Eiseman and The Pantone Institute, view international tile trends from Italy and Spain, domestic trends from spokespeople in the U.S., and learn about innovations in stone use and application from CTaSC’s Donato Pompo. COVERING’s Industry Ambassador Alena Capra presents an A&D view of accessing and utilizing trends, and industry experts in setting material, sundries and maintenance products outline the direction many of these materials are taking to support today’s finishing materials. What’s novel is not the only thing on the radar screen – TRENDS also examines the tension between the timeless and the trendy.

To support each section – tile, stone and setting materials – we’ve included a product section that includes original introductions from industry suppliers, many of whom are showing at COVERINGS (look for their booth number in the blurb!) and web information to connect you if they are not.

NTCA supports the collaboration of the A&D, manufacturing, distributing and installation sectors working together for beautiful installations that perform flawlessly. Stop by NTCA booths 3830 or 3015 to find out more or visit the Installation Design Showcase in booth 461 to see that collaboration in action, as tile and stone for four locally-designed vignettes are installed in real time by NTCA Five Star Contractors.

The Coverings Installation Design Awards and Opening Night Reception also celebrate this collaboration. Come join the party at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, April 15 in room S310!

As always, we value your input and feedback. What did you see at the show that was a standout product or what trends did you sense emerging from the show floor? Email me at [email protected], and your comments may appear in an upcoming issue of TileLetter.

Enjoy the show, and be inspired!

Lesley – [email protected]