April 21, 2015

NTCA Member Spotlight – March 2015 – Willoughby Tile

custom-sponsorWilloughby Tile:
boutique-style installation brings high level of service, design and expertise to San Rafael community

By Lesley Goddin

willoughby_logoNestled in the affluent coastal city of San Rafael, Calif., is Willoughby Tile (www.marintilesetter.com), owned by Ryan Willoughby, a first-generation tile setter. This small, boutique installation contractor has a tightly knit group of 4-6 team members who install beautiful tile and stone products for high-end remodeling projects in Marin County and San Francisco, primarily baths and kitchens.ryan_willoughby

“As both owner and an installer in the company I keep my finger on the pulse of each project,” Willoughby said. “We bring a high level of customer service, craftsmanship, design, and knowledge to our projects and by staying abreast of industry standards I can make sure my installers are given both the knowledge and products that will help them achieve a high quality installation.”

Willoughby has been a NTCA member for four years, finding particular value in what the association offered someone new to the trade.

1-willoughby“As a first generation tile contractor I found myself with questions from time to time, and when I found the NTCA, I found the answers,” he said. “I’ve found so much value in the NTCA, I don’t know where to start: the knowledge, the networking. I’d have to say the passion for the trade that I find in my fellow members is both humbling and inspiring. It is contagious and drives me to be a better contractor and member.“

His dedication to the association and what it offers continues with his work as Northern California State director for NTCA. And Willoughby recently partnered with NTCA Five Star Contractor Martin Brookes of Heritage Marble & Tile in nearby Mill Valley to sponsor a business-to-business Friday night educational program to foster education and networking amongst friendly competitors. The program, “How to Get Paid, Not Sued,” was presented by Sloan Bailey and Dylan Grimes of Flynn Riley Bailey and Pasek LLP. The event attracted over a dozen participants and productive discussion – so much so a future event is in the works.

2-willoughbyWilloughby is also passionate about installation excellence and was certified as a Certified Tile Installer through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation exam in 2012. He hopes to add another industry-sanctioned credential by taking the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) exams this year as well.

The following projects are representative of the stunning work Willoughby Tile offers the Bay area clientele – projects that are built to be not just beautiful, but also to perform beautifully.

By the Book – March 2015

brought_by_CTEFHot off the press: revisions to TCNA Handbook’s Radiant Heat Methods include electric heating methods

Josh_LevinsonBy Joshua Levinson, Artistic Tile

In 2011 when stone tile installation methods were first introduced to the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation, four radiant heat methods were included within the stone section. With radiant heating systems being in high demand due to their efficiency and ability to turn a cold floor into a calming experience, The Handbook committee has endeavored to increase the options for the 2015 Handbook.

The original four methods included the use of hydronic tubing (water system) only. No method was included in the Handbook for electric radiant heat systems. The original four included separate methods for hydronic tubing in both on-ground and above-ground methods where concrete is used to encapsulate the tubing, as well as a third method where an unbonded mortar bed is used to encapsulate the hydronic tubing, both in on-ground and above-ground methods. The fourth method involved the use of an unbonded mortar bed encapsulating the hydronic tubing, set on a wood subfloor system.

Two electric heating methods included in 2015 edition

1-bythebookThe 2015 Handbook will include six new methods. The methods include options to encapsulate hydronic tubing in poured gypsum or cementitious self-leveling underlayments, for both on-ground and above-ground concrete slab installations. Breaking new ground, the 2015 Handbook will now include two new methods for the installation of electric radiant systems, utilizing cementitious self-leveling underlayment for both on-ground and above-ground concrete slab installations. The floor-flattening aspects of each of these methods make them well suited for use with large-format stone tiles that are in demand today.

You might notice that there is still no method for electric radiant heat systems installed on wood frame construction. For this popular and efficient type of installation, you will have to continue to utilize installation instructions from the manufacturer of the radiant heat products. In all cases, it is strongly advised to read the complete manufacturer’s instructions and understand the compatibility of the product to natural stone. Don’t make the assumption that because a product says that it is a tile warming system, that a stone tile installation would be covered by the manufacturer.

2-bythebookAs you prepare for your next radiant heat installation, it is a good idea to take a few minutes to review the new methods in the 2015 Handbook. Of equal importance, you are going to want to read the particular manufacturer’s instructions for the product that has been specified, and take up any contradictions between the two with the manufacturer. With all radiant heat systems, you will want to determine what type of membrane may be optional or required for your installation, and make sure that all steps including the use of any necessary primers are undertaken. Your membrane choice very well may have an impact on your setting material options, which in turn may be impacted by the stone color, since white setting material may be necessary for light colored stones.

3-bythebookJoshua Levinson (joshlevinson@artistictile.com), president of Artistic Tile’s Wholesale division, participates in many industry initiatives as a member of the Marble Institute of American’s Board of Directors, voting member of the TCNA Handbook committee, NTCA Technical Committee member and voting member of the committee that recently developed NSC 373, the new standard for the Sustainable Production of Natural Stone. Artistic Tile has been a supporter of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) by hosting certification classes at its Secaucus, N.J. location. 

Tech Talk – March 2015

TEC-sponsorCustomers warm to electric-heated floors; WiFi thermostats allow remote-control energy efficiency via smartphone or web

By Lesley Goddin

Years ago, if your customer wanted a heated floor, they needed to invest in a complex hydronic system, with copper water-bearing tubes running beneath the floor and a boiler to heat the water and thus the floor.

Over the last few decades, ELECTRIC floor warming systems have been developed by a number of manufacturers. These systems – which utilize heated electrical wire or cable in a loose configuration, a mesh mat, wire snapped into a lightweight backer or uncoupling mat, or even carbon strips embedded in extremely thin PET film – all provide floor warming under tile and stone that is quick, relatively easy to install, and affordable.

1-tech-nuheatSmartphone control via WiFi thermostats

The latest innovation in electric floor warming (or in some cases, full-house heating) systems is WiFi controls, which enable users to control their heating systems, temperature, schedule and energy consumption remotely through their smart phones or other electronic device. Nuheat (www.nuheat.com) debuted this technology with its Nuheat Signature Programmable WiFi Thermostat. And this January at KBIS during Design & Construction Week, Warmup (www.warmup.com) unveiled a WiFi system as well – the 4iE Smart WiFi Thermostat.

Peter Thomson, vice president of sales for Nuheat was at TISE West. He noted that the Signature WiFi app can control up to 16 thermostats on one app, and it’s very zonable. “People are reclaiming their basements with supplemental heat sources,” he said.

Martin Brookes, of NTCA Five Star Contractor Heritage Marble & Tile in Mill Valley, Calif., installs radiant heat in about 60% of Bay Area homes, using the Nuheat system. “We really like the WiFi -enabled programmable thermostat. Living in the Bay Area, the clients are tech savvy and want things they can control with an app from their smart phone.”

2-TECH-warmupAt Warmup, Regis Verliefde, CEO, said the 4iE Smart WiFi Thermostat offers multi-zone and multi-room management as well, in line with Warmup’s goal to provide heating for the whole house. In addition to monitoring the energy consumption, Warmup’s device makes active recommendations to optimize energy use. All this can be directly managed from smartphones and tablets on the MyWarmup portal. (my.warmup.com)

“We are excited to attend KBIS to show off our latest innovation,” said Verliefde. “Warmup is so much more than luxury in the bathroom. It is a heating solution on par with any other one today, but healthier, more silent and maintenance free.”

3-tech-cmxHeating film; multi-function mats hold cables

Other interesting developments in electric floor warming have taken place over the years. Geo Dream (www.geodreamheating.com) encapsulates carbon strips in an extremely thin PET heat film for a system that is zonable, affordable and durable, and heats the house with far infrared waves.

In the last few years, flexible backers to configure wires or cables have emerged, such as RPM mats, which sprang onto the scene in 2006. These mats are studded to accept floor warming cables in any configuration. A new RPM-V1 design has vented studs, that accelerate the drying of the adhesive beneath the mat.

4-tech-schluterLaunched a few years ago is Schluter’s DITRA-HEAT, designed to snap heating cables into a studded uncoupling mat. This mat/membrane provides crack suppression, waterproofing, vapor management and helps to distribute loads as well.

“We just did our first DITRA-HEAT project and liked the flexibility of the system,” said Brookes. “Rather than having to wait for a custom mat, we were able to get the radiant heat we needed off the shelf. “

Italian-made PRODESO HEAT from Progress Profiles features a patented blue studded mat that can be installed as an uncoupling, crack isolating membrane. The heating cables are installed according to the needs of the project. Tiling can begin immediately. The entire Prodeso Heat system is less than 1/4” thick.

5-tech-prodesoCautions and considerations

When working with radiant heating systems, technical service is as important as technology to John Cox, NTCA past president and owner of NTCA Five Star Contactor Cox Tile in San Antonio, Texas.

“The most critical item in my book is customer service. When I call Nuheat, I get answers. They have a staff that has been well trained and educated.

“Selling radiant heating has added additional income to our bottom line and added to the distinction of Cox Tile not being your average tile contractor,” he said. “We have developed a niche as being the expert in our area in Radiant Heating. When architects’ specs say Cox Radiant Heating, we know we have made an impact.”

6-tech-suntouchRicky Cox, of NTCA Five Star Contractors Memphis Tile in Memphis, Tenn., said, “We use Nuheat for the ease of installation, superb customer service, and a long working relationship that has kept us going back for more.  I have installed every system out there and Nuheat blows them all away. The wires are embedded between two layers of fabric that are easily thinset to the substrate.  Other systems are hard to ‘flip and roll’ and hard to figure out.”

Contractors and consultants offer a range of warnings and recommendations when working with electric floor warming.

“Always have the system inspected by a state inspector,” said Joe Kerber, owner of NTCA Five Star Contractor Kerber Tile, Marble & Stone in Shakopee, Minn.

“Always test the cable and sensor for resistance and continuity, before, during and after the installation,” he said.” Be careful when walking on and troweling over the cable so not to crush it or nick it with a trowel. A nick could cause the GFCI to trip when heated. Remember the wires are very fine. The sensor is very fragile so do not step on it.

“There are two types of cable,” Kerber continued. “Most are the double-wire cable that goes out from the box and ends at the end of the cable in the floor area. SunTouch Warm Wire and Nuheat cables are example of these. The other is the single wire that has to return to the original box. The Nuheat mat and Flextherm cables are examples of these. The double-wire cables are easier to install because you don’t have to get the other end back to the box. However, the single wire cables are much easier to repair.”

Jan Hohn of NTCA Five Star Contractor Hohn & Hohn, Inc., in neighboring St. Paul, Minn., added, “I usually prefer to do wires or cables instead of a mat. With the wires, you can really customize the space that you are heating because you can run the wires where you want them, putting them closer together for more heat in a specific area and/or farther apart where there is less foot traffic. Another reason I like the wires is because I float my floors with mud so the wires are buried in the mud bed, which allows for a more consistent floor heat (more mass to heat up, but once it is heated it holds the heat longer and more evenly).”

Hohn cautioned against placing wires or mats under any cabinetry, toilets, or other plumbing fixtures.  “Some systems can be used in showers, but not all, so it is important to determine if the system you want to use can be used in the shower,” she said.

“Recently, it has been recommended to install two floor sensors with one system,” she added. “If the first sensor stops functioning, you can hook up the second sensor without tearing the floor up. It is cheap insurance.”

Rich Goldberg of Avon, Conn.-based Professional Consultants International, LLC (PROCON), noted that “Radiant heat naturally increases cycles of expansion and contraction of a tile assembly, making proper installation of movement joints critical. Butted grout joints with no movement joints in high-end residential stone installations are also a common problem, causing chipping and crushing along stone edges at butted joints.”

Often radiant heat is used to “accelerate” the curing, he said, but this can create problems with premature drying, and expansion stress on the thinset before the bond strengthens. Rapid drying of underlying wood framing in new construction and cement backers can telegraph movement to the tile assembly and result in cracking.

He also warns that cable trays can create dividers in mortar beds that encapsulate the system and crack the mortar, and eventually the tile. They can also prevent mortar adhesion, so PROCON favors systems that “employ the heating cables within a reinforcing mesh so that the system can be properly encapsulated by mortar top and bottom, and the reinforcing distributes any heating/drying/expansion/contraction stress evenly in the mortar bed.



Qualified Labor – March 2015


CTI, ACT testing at TISE West elevates respect for trade

Showgoers esteem certification as useful in raising the bar for tilesetters

By Lesley Goddin

[LAS VEGAS, Nevada] – At the recent The International Surface Event (TISE) West held at Mandalay Bay Convention Center here the third week of January, there were two industry-recognized certification classes taking place on the show floor.

1-QL-315The first was the Certified Tile Installer hands-on test. Scott Carothers, certification and training director at the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), which conducts the test, said, “Testing experienced installers at the show yields two benefits. The first, of course, is that an experienced tile installer is demonstrating his or her hand skill in hopes of passing the test and becoming a Certified Tile Installer (CTI). The second benefit allows show attendees to view the intensity of the CTI test, demonstrating that it is not a ‘show up and get a certificate’ program.  It is a tough test designed to separate the qualified tile installer from those who are not able to pass the test or think that they don’t need it, when actually, they do.”

Earlier, all participants had taken a written exam about tile setting basics online.

2-QL-315Also being held at TISE West was the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) hands-on exam. Six participants – three open shop and three union installers – were tested for their proficiency in setting large-format porcelain tile and subfloor preparation, mud walls and floors, showers and membranes.

​Carothers added, “At the upcoming Coverings show, we will debut our two newest ACT tests: Grouts and Thin Porcelain Tile (TPT), which expands our testing program to a total of seven. ACT will continue to grow the program, adding new tests as needed. Our goal is to provide the marketplace with installers who meet and exceed the requirements of qualified labor as found in the TCNA Handbook and in the specifications being drafted by many architects. The demand for quality by the consumer, whether it be residential or commercial, is growing and the ACT program meets the challenge.”

Jaime Ruelas of 3rd Generation Tile, a family-owned business in San Diego, Calif., stopped by to observe the process. “We need certification,” he said, explaining that work opportunities are being eroded by a combination of workers coming over the border to Southern California from Mexico to set tile, and big box stores giving the impression that setting tile is a snap. “Electricians and plumbers are certified – why not tile setters? Just having a license doesn’t mean much of anything,” he said.

3-QL-315Talan Nielson, sales manager for RM Interiors & Design, Inc., in Mesa, Ariz., also took some time to watch the test unfold. “The trades across the board are diminishing, so any time you can get certification, it’s excellent,” he said. “Since the quality of work is going down, you need a tool to set you apart from the next guy.”

Nielson echoed Ruelas’ comments about Mexican nationals and an influx of Chinese workers who he saw as “driving down labor prices.”

“We sell and install tile,” Nielson said. “We sub it out to licensed and bonded installers. It would be nice to see that they have certification too.”

For more information on becoming a Certified Tile Installer, visit http://tilecareer.com/courses/certified-tile-installer/. For information about ACT, visit www.tilecertifications.com.

Another class of hands-on exams for CTIs and ACT-certified installers will take place at Coverings 2015 in Orlando, at the Orange County Convention Center, April 14-17. Contact Scott Carothers at scott@tilecareer.com or call 864-222-2131 if you are interested in taking the CTI or ACT exams.



Feature Story March 2015 – LATICRETE

Somewhere under the rainbows

LATICRETE® products renew treasured Hilton Hotel Rainbow Tower murals in Waikiki

Every project is challenging and iconic in its own way. But, sometimes, a project is so iconic that it is synonymous with its surroundings and the city in which it is located.

The Hilton’s Rainbow Tower stands tall over the Waikiki beach and Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon in the Waikiki neighborhood in Honolulu, HI. Whether you spotted it in the opening credits to the new Hawaii Five-0 or on promotional photographs of this seaside city, you have likely seen the hotel’s impressive dual rainbow murals.

In 1968, the Rainbow Tower opened with what is considered “the world’s largest ceramic tile mosaic.” With 16,000 tiles the murals stand 286 feet tall, 26 feet wide and can be seen on either end of the tower.

After more than 45 years the entire mural needed to be replaced. This was a challenging task.

The project’s first major challenge had to do with its scale and orientation. While the total square footage of the project is not especially daunting, the tile installation required a flat vertical surface. The nearly 300-foot vertical span of the mural made a completely flat surface difficult to achieve under the best of circumstances.

The project’s second major challenge was the elements. While Hawaii enjoys famously pleasant weather, the murals are exposed to the forces of nature. They are constantly buffeted by wind and temperatures that can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface of the mural – well beyond the 90 degree Fahrenheit maximum temperature recommended for tile installation. Furthermore, the seaside-facing mural must deal with saltwater spray.

1-feature-0315Premium and proven solutions

“These murals mean a lot to the Waikiki community, and Hilton Worldwide needed a solution they could trust,” said Kevin Coronas, technical sales representative with LATICRETE. “While there is no off-the-shelf product for a project like this, we worked to deliver a premium and proven solution with a 25-year system warranty.”

Prior to installing tiles, the mural sites had to be prepared correctly. This entailed removing the old tiles, cleaning and preparing the surface and flattening the underlying structure so new tiles could be applied. The preparatory phase was important because the project required a bed of leveling mortar ranging from 1” to 4” in thickness. LATICRETE® 3701 Fortified Mortar Bed was used for this task and was placed in 1/2” increments.

2-feature-315When the new tiles arrived, the whole mural was preassembled on the ground, without any adhesive or bonding agent. To ensure the correct tiles would be placed in their exact positions on the side of the building, each tile was then numbered and mapped. Finally, netting and lifts were assembled on the exterior of the hotel to deliver both the tiles and installation materials up to 30 floors in height.

With everything in place, an integrated system of LATICRETE products was used to install the mural. This system included: the aforementioned 3701 Fortified Mortar Bed; HYDRO BAN®, which was applied to expansion joint areas to facilitate proper movement and to provide crack isolation at the movement joints; 254 Platinum adhesive to strongly adhere the tiles, which sat as high as 300 feet above the ground; PERMACOLOR® Grout, which provided color-consistency throughout the installation; and, LATASILTM silicone sealant to treat movement joints throughout the installation. This integrated system was installed successfully despite the challenging conditions and is covered by the LATICRETE 25-year system warranty.

The entire Rainbow Mural project took three years from inception to complete. The project culminated in a private blessing ceremony that was held in the Rainbow Suites in The Hilton’s Rainbow Tower on June 23, 2014.

Commenting on the project’s completion, Kevin Coronas remarked, “As a lifelong resident of Honolulu, I can tell you these murals mean a lot to the entire community. This is arguably one of the most important and iconic projects that we have had to undertake in Hawaii and are justifiably proud of the work carried out.”


PERMACOLOR® Select offers industry-leading performance, revolutionizing the business and logistics of grout

LATICRETE® has introduced PERMACOLOR® Select, the industry’s first dispersible-pigment grout solution that separates colored pigment from the PERMACOLOR Select Base. In addition to offering industry-leading performance, PERMACOLOR Select is the first product to innovate the business and logistics of grout, providing specific benefits to distributors and contractors alike.

permacolor-1The revolutionary product comes in two parts: a Color Kit and the highly-engineered Base powder. The process of preparing the grout begins with the dispersible pigment packets included in the Color Kit. When added to water, these packets dissolve like laundry or dishwasher packets. When the neutrally-colored Base is added to the pigment-water mix, a color-consistent grout is formed that does not require sealing.

Color Kits contain two color packets and come in all 40 existing LATICRETE grout color options as well as the top selling competitor colors. The Base powder comes in 12.5 lb. and 25 lb. options.

permacolor-2“PERMACOLOR Select is designed for virtually all types of residential and commercial installations offering optimum performance on the most demanding exteriors or interior applications,” said Sean Boyle, director of marketing and product management. “It is a unique product and promises to save distributors and contractors time and money while providing industry-leading performance.”

The benefits for contractors are significant. PERMACOLOR Select is fast setting, suitable for joints 1/16” to 1/2” wide on floors or walls, and virtually eliminates batch-to-batch color variation. It exceeds ANSI A118.7 and achieves ISO 13007-4 CG2FAW. Equipped with STONETECH® Sealer Technology, PERMACOLOR Select offers enhanced stain resistance with no sealing required. It offers anti-microbial protection and vibrant consistent color that resists efflorescence. PERMACOLOR Select is also reinforced with Kevlar® to resist cracks and shrinkage. The fast-setting grout is ready for foot traffic in three hours. GREENGUARD® certified, PERMACOLOR Select is also low VOC. And, a lifetime warranty is available when used with other LATICRETE products.

PERMACOLOR Select is the first product to innovate the way grout is ordered, inventoried and sold – resulting in distributors running their businesses and serving contractors more efficiently.

Only two pallet spaces are needed for the Base and one shelf for the Color Kits – saving dozens of pallet spaces in a warehouse by eliminating inventory of individual bags per each color stocked. The logistical innovations of PERMACOLOR Select allows distributors to:

  • Reduce grout pallet space requirements by 80%, reduce grout inventory value by 50% and increase turns by 100%
  • Expand color availability and options
  • Improve order pick time and accuracy
  • Fulfill orders quickly and directly to customers
  • Reduce grout breakage
  • Save labor handling costs

For more information on PERMACOLOR Select, visit LATICRETE.com.


Business Tip – March 2015


Obstacles to doing more business

Often salespeople are their own worst enemies

steve_rauschBy Steve Rausch

There is an old adage that says: “When I ask you what time it is, please don’t tell me how to build a clock.”

Many of us in this industry find ourselves “constructing clocks” frequently instead of listening completely to the question the customer is asking (don’t assume you know), and then answering that question, and that question only. It’s wise to ask the customer another question if you want to go further in your information-gathering process.

Listen, and keep it simple

It’s perfectly understandable how we grow into making these mistakes: we’ve spent years learning and perfecting our skills in the ceramic tile and flooring industry, and we are delighted to share that knowledge whenever we can. Unfortunately, we tend to forget to LISTEN to the question completely. Instead, we listen until we hear something we want to hear, and then like a buzz saw we take off “helping” that person by sharing all of our technical knowledge about the subject. The problem is the customer didn’t want to know all of that, or why/how it works, etc. He or she just wanted that one question answered.

Please try to remember this: “IF I want more information, I will ASK for it.” An example of this would be: “I was only asking about the color or grout because I want to coordinate with the new furniture I am planning to buy for that room when the work is completed. I really don’t care about all the technical characteristics of the product.“

Buzz-word fail

The same holds true for industry buzz words that you know and use, but are confusing for the customer because they don’t know, use, or even care to learn them. That’s YOUR job, not theirs.

Think of it this way: if you are standing in a courtroom explaining your side of the case to a judge, who knows nothing about your industry, telling that judge that ANSI, ASTM, TCAA, TCNA, or NTCA is the authority on this situation will not endear you to that judge. However, if the judge asks you WHY you did your work the way you did it, then you have permission to explain, in plain language, that your company does all work to ceramic tile industry standards as published by the Tile Council of North America and the National Tile Contractors Association. You can further explain that those two organizations publish technical manuals for material and installation procedures that your company follows. Now you are showing your true technical expertise without scaring or offending anyone.

Gently lead, don’t steamroll

Another obstacle to doing more business is giving your customer the impression (true or not) that you know everything about everything and whatever it is they want doesn’t matter. An example of this would be saying or thinking: “This product will be right for you and the other one you picked just isn’t going to work.” You may in fact know that, but you must gently lead the customer to come to that conclusion on their own. I one time had a salesman who really did know better than I did what I should have been looking at and purchasing; however, my resentment toward him for the way he expressed himself blocked me from purchasing from him. I went to a competitor, was properly treated and educated, and ended up purchasing that exact product. The first salesperson lost the sale with his inappropriate expression of his vast product knowledge. The second salesperson may have had exactly the same knowledge, but in addition, he had people skills enough to “read” the situation and educate me to find the proper conclusion with his expert guidance.

Stop talking!

The final point in our discussion of obstacles is too much talking after the sale is made. In the classic TV series Columbo, starring Peter Falk, in almost every episode the prime suspect blabbers on, answers unasked questions and provides more details about the crime. Almost without fail, that unrequested information was what allowed Columbo to put them in jail.

The same is true with many salespeople. The customer has made the decision, yet the salesperson just keeps on chattering and unwittingly raising new issues the customer hasn’t thought about or considered. Sometimes that slows down or completely eliminates the sale.

An easy example of this would be a seemingly innocent statement like: “Oh yes, this product you are buying – and this exact color – is and has been our single most popular product. Everyone is buying this.”

“Oh,” replies the customer, “Cancel my order. I wanted something unique and different than anyone else I know.”

If you are trying to generate revenue for your company, please consider these points and consider attending training in a sales and/or business development program to learn the most efficient way to increase your business without being tripped up by the many obstacles that are present every day.

Steve Rausch has been involved in the tile and flooring business for over 30 years and is currently an industry consultant specializing in sales, marketing, and interpreting technical issues in understandable terms. You can contact Steve at Rauschsteve@comcast.net or 404-281-2218.

Ask the Experts – March 2015


I am reaching out to you because the electric floor heating installation instructions of the system I am about to install listed you as a source for technical advice. I am about to install a cable system, and according to their installation instructions, they say to put down either cork underlayment or anti-fracture membrane prior to installing the wire. This makes sense to me for heat distribution up rather than down. I don’t see how I can just lay cork on the floor and tile over it.

suntouch-heated-floorAs far as the anti-fracture membrane, other manufacturers say to put the heating wire under the mat. That seems to defeat the purpose of putting anything down for insulation. This is a 60+ year old floor, no cracks; so barring an earthquake, I don’t foresee any cracks starting now. Could I have your views on this please?


Floor-warming systems generally work way more efficiently if you incorporate a “thermal break” to stop a good portion of the heat from radiating downward into the substrate. Cork or foam building panels are all used as this thermal break beneath the heating element. Follow manufacturer installation instructions to properly install these products over your substrate.

Michael Whistler, NTCA presenter


I have a question regarding the installation of a porcelain tile floor using 12” x 12” tiles. The room size of the kitchen is 23′ x 13′.

We have 24″ on-center (OC) trusses, which are known for flex. We currently have 3/4” plywood nailed to the trusses.

I need to know what is required for additional subflooring to prevent the tile and grout from cracking because of the flex.

From research I have done online, I have come up with varying opinions, but all seem to point in the direction that additional plywood is required before the cement board.

If specs could be sent, it would be greatly appreciated.


There are actually six methods in the 2014 TCNA Handbook of Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation that show allowable 24” OC installations. Five involve the use of a secondary layer of plywood, one shows uncoupling membrane and one shows coated glass mat water resistant gypsum backerboard.

There are also numerous backerboard and tile substrate manufacturers that allow and warranty their products over 24” OC if used in accordance with their installation instructions.

The NTCA always recommends that you contact the manufacturer of the products you intend (or would like) to use and procure a written warranty. We also highly recommend that you have and read the TCNA Handbook before proceeding in order to acquaint yourself with all the issues involved and to ensure a successful installation.

Michael Whistler, NTCA presenter

President’s Letter – March 2015

JWoelfel_headshotLearning from each other is an important value of membership in the NTCA.

I really enjoy sharing information at seminars during various industry shows such as Coverings, Total Solutions Plus and Surfaces/TISE West.

At TISE West In January, NTCA past president Nyle Wadford and I discussed how to bid, run and perform profitable work. Our 90-minute presentation covered documentation, communication, submittals, ordering of products, specifications and associated items involved in performing ceramic tile installation work.

The next morning, while I was driving back to Phoenix, I started thinking about the session. I realized that in a lot of these seminars we talk about all of the great and profitable points but we do not discuss what happens when we, as contractors, make a mistake on our estimate, proposal or bid, sign the contract and then realize when reviewing all of the documents – “Wow, I screwed up!” Believe me, we have made plenty of mistakes: missing wall tile heights or the number of bathrooms in a school, even transposing material numbers on a take-off. We all know any of these mistakes can potentially be very costly.

self_levelingSo to learn from my “expertise” in mistakes, here are some things I have done to minimize losses or to break even on a project:

First, I will sit down with the contractor or owner and discuss the fact that I have made a mistake on this project. I have had a few occasions where the contractor helped close the gap on my costs. A good contractor will respect the honesty.

Next, I visit the material supplier and ask for a little help; a few pennies a square foot always helps mitigate the impact of the mistake. The supplier has worked hard to get the specification and will appreciate the loyalty versus switching to lower-priced products.

warped_tileAnd finally, the most important thing I do is to make sure my best teams of mechanics install the project. This strategic move will accelerate the job and cut down on errors. Yes, there will be cost on the front end, but your punch list will be smaller and you’ll save that money on the back end.

To me, the two worst things that any tile contractor can do when he or she has made a mistake is to hide from the situation or try to cut corners in an effort to save money. This will only make things worse and expose you to liability. We all make mistakes when bidding work. It is part of the business.

wear_glovesWe try to minimize errors but when they are discovered we must be proactive, not reactive. Hit it straight on. Out-perform all of the other subcontractors on that job. By being up front, we have been able to turn a negative into positive, and actually earn new customers by being the best subcontractor on that job.

It sounds elementary, but we have to learn and make the best out of our mistakes.

James Woelfel


Editor’s Letter – March 2015

Lesley psf head shot“Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.”
– Adrienne Clarkson

Here we are in March, poised between the busyness of winter markets in Las Vegas and regional shows around the country, and the big reunion we have next month in Orlando at the industry’s major show in North America – Coverings 2015, returning again to the Orange County Convention Center.

This issue is shaped and flavored by the cluster of industry conventions and conferences that took place in Las Vegas at the end of January – The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), the International Builders Show (IBS) and the International Surfaces Event West (TISE West), all in town at the same time and known as Design & Construction Week. This was the first year I got to visit KBIS – I’d heard so much about this show, and for good reason – it is a carnival of product and services, complemented so well by the offerings at IBS and TISE West.

Peppered throughout the stories and products in this issue are snippets from the show – new developments in electric floor warming launched or seen in Vegas appear in the Tech Talk radiant heating story; a look at the importance of installer certifications gleaned from observers at the Certified Tile Installer and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers exams conducted at TISE West weave the Qualified Labor story; James Woelfel’s President’s Letter was inspired by his participation at show conference sessions; and of course the show review and new products, which come to you directly from the show floor.

I was struck also by the truth that underlies every conference and convention – they are a place for coming together with friends, business associates, meeting people face to face; and discovering new contacts on the show floor or after-show events. This is the deep truth that I’ve known for over 20 years of attending these shows. This year, new friendships were forged and old friends were missed in a constant rhythm of hello and goodbye that we who travel the trade-show circuit experience. Each convention or conference is a chance to say hello again, put faces to voices heard on the end of the phone or emails exchanged, reconnect and then return to our businesses renewed and reinvigorated for another few months until our next meeting.

For many of us, that next meeting will be in Orlando at Coverings, April 14-17. I am looking forward to seeing you there – or meeting you anew!

God bless,

Helping Hands – February 2015


MRC/TPFH recognize Florida Tile for 10 years’ partnership

Mountain Re-Source Center (MRC) and Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH), the tile industry partnership that is part of MRC, recognized Florida Tile for 10 years of partnership and support of community improvement projects through generous donations of ceramic tile.

0215_hhMRC and TPFH met Florida Tile employees at the company’s corporate headquarters in Lexington, Ky., last December to personally thank them for the incredible impact of the donations and the involvement of the company. They also presented CEO Michael Franceschelli with a marble plaque thanking Florida Tile for its ongoing partnership.

Florida Tile has donated to TPFH and MRC since 2004, when it provided 895 sq. ft. of floor tile for two Habitat for Humanity homes in Atlanta, Ga. Since then, the company has donated more than 800 loads of tile that have gone to more than 20 states, 40 nonprofit organizations, and 15 countries.

Central West Virginia Outreach Center in Gassaway, W. Va. and Operation Compassion in Cleveland, Tenn., have also benefited from Florida Tile’s generosity, and representatives were present to express thanks to the tile manufacturer.

Herb Miller, executive director of MRC and TPFH, said the partners wanted to demonstrate just how much the donations have meant and to underscore the importance of the longevity of the partnership. He congratulated Florida Tile on its 60th anniversary in 2014 and said the company has done well to focus both on business and supporting communities.

“Florida Tile is one of our longest-standing partners and they have truly made a difference in the lives of thousands of families.  We work with nonprofit partners around the country and tile is one of our most-requested items. We’re grateful that Florida Tile understands the value of donating and the good that their tile does in so many communities. They are one of our core donors and we couldn’t do what we do without them!”

Florida Tile CEO Franceschelli was pleased to have the opportunity to support MRC and its partners.

“Our working partnership with Mountain Re-Source Center is very important,” Franceschelli said. “It provides a simple, functional method for helping local communities. It is also important for Florida Tile, which is owned by international tile manufacturer Panariagroup, to be able to reach more distant communities in need. The affiliation with Mountain Re-Source Center enables distribution of materials internationally as well, including to regions such as Central and South America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.”

Diane Hancock, director of the 6th Congressional District, thanked Florida Tile for its incredible community support on behalf of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. She presented Franceschelli with a letter from the Governor recognizing the company’s contributions to both the local economy and to communities around the world. She also gave him a pewter mint julep cup from the office of the Governor.