July 25, 2014



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Business Tip – June 2014

mapei_sponsorThe daily huddle

One of the most effective leadership and management tools at your disposal

wally_adamchik By Wally Adamchik, president FireStarter Speaking and Consulting

It works for (insert your favorite quarterback here) and it can work for you, too. It is, perhaps, one of the most effective leadership and management tools at your disposal, and takes just a few minutes to execute. But it is rarely used effectively. What is it? A daily huddle.

You need to tell your people things they need to know to do their job. They want to hear those things. Contrary to popular belief, there are employees at all levels and all ages who want to do a good job. Many of those who are disengaged feel that way because the boss is not communicating with them. The daily huddle is a fine solution. And it can work in any industry. It works especially well in construction.

The concept is simple. Before the workday starts, you gather your team to deliver key information to align them for the day. Are there any special events/visitors/promotions? How about a key training or safety tip? On the jobsite you should talk about production targets for the day. All this information gives your team direction and helps them to be more productive. You also might toss in some feedback about how things went yesterday. (While this is not a time to single out poor performers, you may highlight some wins from the day before.)

Make sure to ask for input and questions. If the huddle is a new concept for your team, people will be reluctant to share anything initially. But, over time they will see you are serious about the huddle and will work with you to make it better. I have seen – and participated in – huddles that were also a stretch-and-flex period to increase safety awareness and to warm up cool muscles before starting physical labor. It sends a strong message that the company is serious about safety when the boss joins in the huddle and the flex when he is visiting. I have also seen CEOs blow off that part – and that sends a message, too!

Communication is one of the keys to success in just about any endeavor. I have never conducted an employee satisfaction survey for a client in which the results indicated there was too much communication. In fact, over 85% of my surveys have indicated that communication from management is in need of drastic improvement. The huddle is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to fix a major problem.

Let’s look at why it works. First, it is personal. No texting or email is involved. This is direct, eye-to-eye contact – still the most compelling form of communication we have. When we look someone in the eye we know we have their attention and we can see them understand our message.

Also, engaging in eye contact shows people they are important, that you want to communicate with them. It conveys the message that you trust them enough to share this information with them. When you ask for their input, you are literally saying, “I want to hear what you have to say. I am interested in you and the value you contribute to our team.”

It comes down to trust and respect. And it educates and aligns people on key business issues. They feel like they are part of the team and they operate from a “we,” not a “they,” perspective. When I interview an employee who speaks of his or her firm in terms of “they do… they say,” it makes me cringe. It is as if the employee does not actually consider himself part of the company, but rather some visitor who has little stake and even less affiliation and sense of camaraderie.

Keeping people informed is your job. Setting direction is one of the primary roles of a leader. In the case of the huddle, the direction is short term. We are not communicating the strategic plan of the company; we’re merely stating the goals of the day.

What’s the payoff? You get employees who are more motivated and educated to do the job. Does it always work? No, not every single employee may respond to the huddle – but most will. I can guarantee though that starting the day without a huddle ensures a workforce that is uninformed and de-motivated. And not even the worst quarterback in the league would attempt that.

NTCA has partnered with Wally Adamchik to bring his interactive virtual training system at www.firestartervt.com to NTCA members. Contact him at [email protected] to learn more about how the NTCA/FireStarterVT partnership can shave your training dollars while improving your leaders at all levels.

Ask the Experts – June 2014


What is the normal direction to lay herringbone tile (which way do the “arrows” point) in a secondary room with only one entrance? I would think they point in the direction from the door to the back of the room but I have seen them “sideways” which seems strange. The rest of the floors are strip hardwood laid in a normal front-of-house-to-back-of-house pattern. The room to get herringbone tile is a small, step-down wine room off to the side of the dining room.


It is common to use a herringbone pattern “square-to-the-room,” or in other words in a “front-to-back” layout, but a diagonal herringbone is also popular. It really depends on the end user or design professional to determine the directional layout of the tile pattern.

The tile contractor will often create a dry layout of tile in a small area and have it approved by the responsible party before beginning permanent installation.

The only reference to layout in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A-108 is Center and Balance: no cut tiles smaller than half-tile where possible.

This is a matter of preference. No written documents are available pertaining to what direction to install herringbone patterns.

Gerald Sloan, technical consultant
NTCA presenter


I would appreciate your assistance in letting me know if there are conditions under which it would be proper to use spot bonding for a 6” x 24” porcelain tile to be installed on a concrete floor? That is, if proper adherents and materials are used and coverage space is adequate (80% for residential tile) is it appropriate to use spot bonding?

I ask because the little information I could find online indicates spot bonding is never appropriate for floors under any circumstances.


You are correct in your search for suitability of spot-bonding installation methods. It is never acceptable to use spot-bonding for floors. Spot bonding is exactly what it implies, placing spots or dabs of mortar on the back of the tile or substrate, then pushing the tile down hoping the spots will expand enough to get proper coverage. This “spot expansion” really never occurs, giving sub-standard coverage. It is difficult enough to get proper coverage using a notch trowel correctly.

There is usually a reason installers want to use spot bonding, and it is that the substrate is out of plane and they need to build the tile up to avoid lippage issues. This actually causes two bad results: one – poor coverage; two – mortar applied too thickly, exceeding manufacturer’s maximum allowable thickness that leads to shrinkage and possible de-bonding. Substrates need to be prepared to proper flatness before proceeding with tile installation. Having a flat substrate allows faster installation and a better end product.

There IS one allowable method for spot bonding, and it is for walls only. There are manufacturer’s proprietary epoxies available that allow you to spot-bond tile to walls by using their products and following their written installation instructions.

– Michael Whistler, technical consultant
NTCA presenter

President’s Letter – June 2014

dan welch imageWow! I just finished my OSHA 30 class this morning. In April, I talked about a safety culture and the need to get on board. The 10-hour or 30-hour course investment in safety is just the beginning. Over the past few months we have provided each employee with new personal protective equipment (PPE). We purchased new and replaced old Welch Tile clothing, tools, and equipment – including extension cords. We updated our safety manual, spent a significant amount of money on training our new safety manager, and developed a safety committee. Our first meetings are being planned now and will focus on changing our culture with zero injuries as our goal.

Education is a major hurdle for controlling injury. Our investment in an apprentice training program is how we intend to build a better, more educated workforce. This week we had our second tile-finisher class with 10 new employees in the tile trade. It’s exciting to see their passion to learn and be involved in the company’s success.

I feel that training and education is paramount for many reasons. The ability to spend time with your employees and getting to know them personally, not only builds relationships but trust and loyalty.

An apprenticeship program can benefit in other ways as well. Many requirements are mandated by federal and state government such as a chauffeur’s license for employees driving company vehicles or Hi-Lo certifications. These certifications and requirements can be provided through this type of formal program. MSDS/SDS discussions can be expanded on and will give these new employees a chance to develop good work practices based on facts. Vendors and manufacturers will offer time and money to help with this training as well. They benefit by the education and the end result of a more educated installation community.

2014 is our year for safety. Is this the year to make changes in your organization? I am told that true change happens when the pain of doing something “the way you always did it” outweighs the pain of making the change. I have always embraced change, adapted to it, organized, assessed, planned, implemented, and reassessed it. Safety and apprenticeship programs are the right thing to do but they cost time and money to implement, administer, and keep relevant.

Tile is a trade that requires investment in people. This is the sand box we chose; how we play in it directly affects our industry. The outcome of your investment in people is the same as mine: when we do it well, customers will recognize it and pay for it. When we don’t, they will be stuck with the end result, whatever that is.

Our industry needs us to make these changes. People in our trade need your leadership. This change is tough. It requires vision, dedication, knowledge, and trust. One thing is for sure, when the pain of bad jobs and poorly motivated, uneducated tile setters outweigh the pain of implementing this type of program, true change can happen!

Dan Welch
NTCA president
Welch Tile, president
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – June 2014




“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.“
– Vincent Van Gogh

Lesley psf head shotOur June issue is always an interesting one to put together, since it comes on the heels of the Coverings show. This year’s show – the event’s 25th anniversary held at the Las Vegas Convention Center – was especially full, and packed with a growing roster of events and features for every market segment in the industry. Trust me when I tell you that this issue could easily stretch to 300 pages long, but we’ve elected to give you a taste of the expo to deliver essential news and whet your appetite to attend next April 14-17, when Coverings returns to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

There’s good news for the tile industry coming out of Coverings. According to TCNA figures and the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2013 market showed 12.9% growth in volume over 2012 to 2.48 billion sq. ft., and value figures were up 16% for $2.80 billion. The U.S. volume import trends through Feb. 2014 year to date (YTD) show 267.7 million sq. ft. of ceramic tile arrived in the U.S., a 3.4% increase from Feb. 2013 YTD. Visit the TCNA update story in the Industry News section for more details, and the Coverings Review for an overview of the show. Register for Coverings 2015 at www.coverings.com.

One thing that is exciting is to see the growing level of excellence in our industry, fueled by the effort behind certification – both for basic skills in Certified Tile Installer (CTI) validation, and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT). The trade is really getting behind these industry-recognized certifications, giving installers a way to showcase their expertise and raising the bar for the industry as a whole. Check out the Qualified Labor section to learn how LATICRETE is expanding its support and making it easier than ever to get certified.

Also, just a plug a year in a advance for both the Coverings Installation Design Awards (www.coverings.com) and the NTCA Five Star Contractor Awards ([email protected]) – riffle through your best projects and enter them in these competitions – there’s no entry fee, and it’s easy to do. There’s great prize money and recognition of the awesome tile and stone contractors you are!

‘Til next time, be well and God bless.


[email protected]




The NTCA, along with other leading tile installation trade associations, has released a position statement on thin porcelain tile. For more information on this statement, contact Bart Bettiga, NTCA executive director. ACT_Position_Statement_Thin_Tile

Benefits Box – May 2014



Whoever thought that NTCA Tile & Stone Workshops are all work and no play, well, must never have been to one.

Yes, it’s true that for over 30 years, the NTCA’s “road show” – one-stop, one-evening training events – free of charge to the trade – have been wowing contractors, helpers, salespeople, and A&D professionals with news of the industry’s latest developments, technical information, materials and installation methods. NTCA technical consultants Gerald Sloan and Michael Whistler travel around the country to 70+ locations, supported by industry experts and sponsors, bringing an evening of information, food, fellowship and fun.

That’s right, I said fun. Whether it’s Michael Whistler throwing sponges into the audience for those who give the right answers to his technical questions, to host sites that go the extra mile, these NTCA Tile & Stone Workshops are a thoroughly enjoyable and valuable experience.


In addition to the valuable industry information the 55-60 Boise attendees gleaned at the workshop, you can rest assured that they’ll never forget the fun they had posing with other attendees and just having a ball!

In doubt? Take a look at the hardworking attendees literally pictured at a “Fun Box” – a modern version of a photo booth – set up at Daltile in Boise, a recent host of a NTCA Tile & Stone Workshop on February 19. “I thought that it would be a great way to create a lasting memory with our customers, vendors, and employees,” said Justin Carr, sales representative for the Daltile Boise location. “I think that it worked too because now I’m seeing them in my customers’ offices and around Daltile. It was a very fun night!”

“Some locations get extra creative in making our event a real success,” added Jim Olson, assistant executive director, NTCA.

And that’s not all – this year, at each workshop, NTCA will give away a free one-year membership. If you have already paid your 2014 dues then you will receive 2015 for free. Also, tickets will be handed out at each workshop and a drawing will take place to be eligible for all-expense-paid trips to both Total Solutions Plus 2014 (TSP) and Coverings 2015. NTCA will draw one name at each workshop for the chance at a free Total Solutions Plus giveaway and one for the chance at the free Coverings trip. Those winners will qualify for the trip giveaways. The first drawing will take place at the end of August to announce the winner for the trip to TSP in San Antonio, TX at the end of October. The second drawing to announce the Coverings 2015 winner will take place at TSP. For more information contact Jim Olson, at [email protected]

Those of you attending workshops on the eastern side of the country may see this trailer soon – it’s Gerald Sloan’s brand new workshop trailer, which he pulls with a Ford F-150 to all the NTCA Tile & Stone Workshops in his region. This is a well-supported program, as evidenced by the logos of all our generous sponsors, emblazoned on the trailer sides. Visit www.tile-assn.com and click on Training & Education to see the next workshop located near you!

ntca-trailer-1 ntca-trailer-2

What’s new in the 2014 Handbook?


ANSI A118.15 Mortar (thin-set) added

The 2014 TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation has been released, and this year’s edition includes the newest performance designation for tile bonding mortar within the ANSI system: ANSI A118.15 American National Standard Specifications for Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar. The new mortar standard is important because it enables contractors’ project bids to be compared more evenly – particularly when a higher-performing mortar is needed – because it provides a means for requiring or specifying use of a higher-performing mortar. Previously, many mortars that are now classified as an “A118.15 mortar” would have been categorized under ANSI A118.4, which still exists, but with a slight name change (now the American National Standard Specifications for Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar).

How does this affect tile contractors?

Specifications that called for an ANSI A118.4 mortar allowed a wide range of mortars in terms of performance. When estimating, contractors would have to decide whether or not to factor in a higher-performing (likely more expensive) mortar. Given the competitiveness of bids, doing so could jeopardize the chance of getting a job by adding cost to a bid that others are not including because it is not required. At the same time, experienced contractors and estimators know that some installations and applications need – or would at least benefit from – a higher-performance mortar, even if the job spec doesn’t require it. With the new A118.15 standard in place, there is a more level playing field. Plus, it could be argued that the consumer and end user will benefit because, when a higher-performing mortar is needed, the job specifications can call for it, and the project is likely awarded to a contractor that included it.

What methods are affected?

In the just-released 2014 Handbook, A118.15 mortar has replaced A118.4 mortar as the minimum requirement for tiling above-ground balconies and decks, pools, and steam showers. For interior above-ground floor installation methods (for example F113A), the mortar requirement depends on whether or not a membrane is being used. If there is no membrane, A118.15 mortar is required – the concept being that having a flexible component in such systems is helpful. If a membrane is used however, an ANSI A118.4 mortar may be used. Similarly, A118.15 mortar is required when a membrane will not be included when using the radiant-heat floor-installation methods and the exterior-wall methods.

Manufacturers of A118.15 mortars are already educating design professionals on when higher-performing mortar is needed and how to specify it. Be on the lookout for updated specs and be sure to bid accordingly.

Schluter-Systems hosts training and educational seminar for NTCA members

bart_0114By Bart Bettiga

Schluter-Systems’ new LEED Gold certified building is located just outside Reno, Nevada, and offers a picturesque view of mountain ranges on the horizon surrounded by terrain adjacent to the property with running streams and wild horses roaming freely on the land. In addition to the state-of-the-art facility, Schluter’s 97,500-sq.-ft. building is strategically located to offer increased service and faster delivery of products for their west coast distributors, dealers and contractors. It is also an ideal location for training and educational programs. The facility features a multitude of sensible and sustainable technologies to maximize energy efficiency, water usage and air quality.


The Schluter Reno building used thousands of square feet of tile in both interior and exterior applications, and acted as a virtual hands-on research and development project.

Schluter recently hosted over 75 NTCA members for a training and educational seminar and tour of the facility. This was also an excellent opportunity for NTCA staff to update the attendees on association direction and strategic planning. The program included a complete presentation and tour of the building, which was in essence a hands-on research and development project for Schluter. Many of their products are showcased throughout the facility, offering a great example of how conventional building methods continue to evolve, and how tile and stone can be key elements in the successful implementation of sustainable systems that maximize energy efficiency.

schluter-sidebarAndy Acker, a leading trainer and presenter for Schluter-Systems, was the lead speaker and facilitator of the program, which consisted of two complete days of highly-engaged interaction. Former NTCA regional director and contractor John Trent, who is currently employed with Schluter, was instrumental in putting the program together and assisting in its development and promotion.

Topics discussed in the first day of the training seminar included lengthy interaction on the principle of uncoupling, covering details from the TCNA Handbook and thin-set installations. New product introductions included a preview of the new Ditra-Heat system, which was recently introduced to the trade. NTCA and Schluter leaders then held an open-forum discussion on installation practices and business strategies before heading out to a fabulous dinner.


Dee DeGoyer of Schluter-Systems was the tour presenter and explained the detailed planning that went into the state-of-the-art facility.

Day Two consisted of the NTCA strategic planning update and a Schluter presentation on moisture management, including a lengthy discussion of waterproofing and examining details of both the TCNA and Schluter installation handbooks. Presentations on Schluter Kerdi Board and their innovative profiles as solutions to challenging installations completed the morning sessions. After lunch, all of the attendees broke into groups and moved into the training center locations, where several territory managers were ready with demonstrations of products in carefully-constructed modules. All of the groups had time to see the hands-on training demonstrations, ask questions and make comments, and move on to the next module.


One of the highlights of the seminar included round -robin presentations in small groups of Schluter pw2ju22XZ(922fgroducts and systems.

The educational portion of the event concluded with presentations by Schluter leaders offering a glimpse into the future, sharing some strategies of products currently being considered for development. Schluter also shared their position on supporting Certification through the CTEF programs, and pledged to support the ACT Certifications currently being offered.

Many of the attendees stayed an additional day to go skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling in the beautiful mountains located near Lake Tahoe. By all accounts, those that stayed the extra day were treated to a memorable experience. Schluter-Systems and NTCA leaders agreed that future meetings of this nature would continue to provide value to our members.


New products demonstrated at the seminar included the Ditra-Heat system, which will be on display at Coverings.






Several attendees took the extra day offered by Schluter to enjoy the winter climate with skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling adventures.


Over 75 NTCA members attended the training seminar at the recently completed Schluter-Systems LEED Gold Certified building in Reno, Nevada.


Thin Tile – Thin tile adds majesty to university façade

SponsoredbyMAPEIThe University of New England (UNE) has a new $14.5 million Oral Health Center on its Portland, Maine, campus. It is the clinical home of UNE’s College of Dental Medicine teaching clinic and oral health center facility, which opened in the fall of 2013 to coincide with the admission of the first entering dental class. The center was designed by Port City Architecture and Kahler Slater and built by Allied Cook Construction. The new state-of-the-art, 36,000-sq.-ft. facility houses the only such school in northern New England. The dental school addresses the shortage of dentists in rural Maine, and the Oral Health Center offers patients access to affordable dental care, while allowing students to gain clinical experience.


During construction, White crews used a scissors lift to raise the thin tile panels to the higher levels of the installation.

The architects wanted to add some drama to the traditional brick face of the building on the historic campus, and they chose large, thin tile panels to add the right design element. According to their plans, the large-format porcelain tile resembling gray slate would frame the brick masonry on all sides and along the roof line, allowing it to be viewed from any direction.

Allied Cook Construction selected Paul G. White Interior Solutions (Portland, Maine) to install the 39” x 118” Daltile SlimLite™ panels. Paul G. White has been in operation for 44 years in New England, and three generations of the White family work in the tile business. Paul G. White himself oversaw this project, with his son Jonathan White acting as project manager.


The building under construction, showing the placement of the porcelain thin tile panels with a look of gray slate.

“At first, I thought my dad was being too much of a perfectionist,” Jonathan said, “but, as usual, he saw the critical factor in the installation immediately. We had to pre-plan extensively before we began the actual placement of the tile panels.”

Because this would be the installation team’s first experience with using the huge, ultra-thin SlimLite panels, White arranged with tile supplier Daltile and installation systems manufacturer MAPEI to conduct a seminar for everyone who would be involved. “Education is the foundation on which our company’s strength is built,” Jonathan commented. White has developed an entire floor of its headquarters for ongoing education and training for installers.


A close-up showing the different cuts that had to be made to fit the tile onto the façade around windows and in alignment with soffits.

With knowledge of the best practices in hand, Paul instructed the crews to “measure carefully.” The architects provided a layout that matched the panels up with window lines and soffits to gain the proper effect. While some panels could be placed in their entirety, others had to be cut to accommodate the layout. Some panels had to be cut only 3”-4” wide by the full 118” length to do wraps at windows and bump-outs on the face of the building.

Because the warehouse was nearby, White crews pre-cut the panels before trucking them the 4-5 miles to the jobsite. “The panels are very fragile when they are in thin strips,” Jonathan said. “We had built a backboard where the installers could lay the panel against the side of the scissors lift we were using to raise the panels into position. The teams put MAPEI’s Kerabond/Keralastic mortar on both the building surface and on the tile panels. Crews used suction-cup handles to hang them and horseshoe spacers to bring them together.


Another close up, showing how spacers were used to perfectly align the Daltile SlimLite™ tile panels.

One important step the crew learned in training was to go over the panels with a vibrating sander to set the mortar in place. Once the mortar was set, the panels were grouted with Ultracolor Plus grout in black. The use of Ultracolor Plus significantly reduces the possibility of efflorescence on the finished façade.

“We were able to complete roughly one side of the building per week,” Jonathan said. “We followed the masonry installers, so we followed their timetable.” The White teams set approximately 1,500 sq. ft. of the SlimLite panels on the front of the building and the same amount on the back, plus 750 sq. ft. on each side. There were also some panels installed to cover build-outs on the roof. Paul’s admonition that they do the pre-cuts carefully made the installation easy, fast and successful.

“This was a new venture for our company, considering we have hung the traditional marble and granite slabs on buildings before,” Jonathan said. “It felt very different to be able to pick up these large slabs with just one or two people. We’re looking forward to doing more with these slim panels because of the relative ease of use. That really counts when you’re working in the middle of the summer, like we were on this job.”

White does anywhere from one to five exterior building facades annually, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of square feet of interior flooring the company installs each year. The company sees the new slim tile panels as a means of doing the job more easily, and hopes it may increase the number of exterior jobs.

“Using the MAPEI installation products ensures that we will have a successful job,” Jonathan said. “The best thing is, when we run into a problem, MAPEI technical people are always there to help us out. Together with Daltile and MAPEI, we make a pretty good team!”