August 23, 2014

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 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




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

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!”

Tech Talk – Why movement joints and sealants must be installed in tile and stone installations

TEC-sponsorCurrent industry standards and design options

514-pompoBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC); University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS)

Many end users don’t want movement joints because they think they are distractive and ruin the appearance of their tile installation. So why should tile installers make sure that movement joints are installed in all of their tile installations?

The short answer is because industry standards say that all tile installations must have movement joints. If you don’t install movement joints, and there is some problem with the tile installation, then the fingers will be pointing your way and you will be held responsible even if the problem isn’t directly related to the lack of movement joints. Lack of movement joints can be a contributing factor to many different types of tile failures, so it’s not worth the risk to exclude them from your installations.


Cracked grout due to missing transition movement joint.

All tile and stone assemblies move in one way or another, whether due to thermal movement, moisture movement, shrinkage, freezing, or dynamic structural movements. To ensure a long-lasting installation, it’s important for architects to specify and provide the requirements for movement-joint design and placement, and to specify the correct type of sealant (caulking) for filling those joints. When there isn’t an architect – and the tile installer is determining how to install the tile – then it becomes the tile installer’s responsibility to specify and install the movement joints or to find someone else to specify them.


Tented glazed tile floor

“Movement joint” is a general term used for all types of joints seen in construction materials that control and allow movement. Most commonly we refer to these joints as either “expansion joints” or “control joints,” but there are various categories of movement joints. Generally they contain an appropriate pliable sealant for the intended application that is often referred to as a soft joint. Movement joints allow for the material in which they are placed to move without restraint, and they control where the movement manifests, avoiding random cracking in finish materials. An example would be the joints or separations in a concrete sidewalk. If there were no movement joints in the concrete sidewalk, then it would crack at some random point as it is subjected to shrinkage (contraction) as it cures, or subjected to expansion when it is exposed to moisture or heat, and then contraction again as it dries and cools.

514-tt-3I have seen tile floors without adequate movement joints where a portion of the floor was literally tented (debonded and raised) several inches off its substrate during the heat of the day, but laid flat at night when it cooled down. To see how small horizontal movements can result in exponentially larger vertical movements, take a 48’ (1219 mm) metal ruler and lay it on a horizontal surface. Restrain one end of the ruler and move the other end toward the center 1/8” (3.2 mm), and you will see a 2” (51 mm) rise at the apex of the ruler. In effect, this is what happens to tile floors when they tent. They are constrained at their perimeters with no movement relief and the tile expands.

514-tt-4Guidelines for movement joints

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) provides general movement joint guidelines for tile and stone applications in its TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation. The guidelines are listed under EJ171 Movement Joint Guidelines for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone section. When there isn’t an architect on the job then the tile installer should refer to these standards to determine where to install movement joints. If there is an architect and they haven’t specified movement joints, then the tile installer should submit an RFI (request for information) to ask for the movement-joint layout and design.

The general rule is that movement joints should be placed at the perimeters of tile installations and at all transitions of planes or transitions to different materials, as well as within the field of tile. Inside and outside vertical joints on framed walls should have movement joints and should not be hard-grouted. Bathtub or shower receptor to wall transitions should have a movement joint. In wet areas, movement joints are important not only to control movement, but they act as a water-stop at those transitions, providing another layer of protection against potentially costly water damages.

TCNA EJ171 states that movement joints for interior applications should be placed at least every 20’ to 25’ in each direction unless the tile work is exposed to direct sunlight or moisture. In that case, movement joints should be placed at least every 8’ to 12’ in each direction – the same for exterior applications.

EJ171 states that all underlying movement joints in the substrate need to continue through the tile assembly. This means that in addition to honoring the substrate movement joints, the tile assembly needs additional movement joints within its assembly. If there is a mortar bed over the substrate, then the movement joint has to be continuous through it to the tile surface, which is considered an expansion joint. If the tile is being bonded directly to the substrate, and there is no substrate movement joint continuing up from beneath, then it is called a generic movement joint. The generic movement joints are often the same width as the grout joints if they were designed to work at that width. The movement joint widths within the tile work should never be narrower than the substrate joint on which it is placed.

Membrane cautions

Some manufacturers of ANSI A118.12 crack-isolation membranes allow their membrane to cover non-structural movement joints (joints that only move horizontally, but without any vertical displacement) such as saw-cut or cold-control joints, even though TCNA does not recommend it. Structural expansion joints can never be covered with membranes, since the vertical displacement cannot be mitigated with a crack-isolation membrane. Crack-isolation membrane manufacturers require that movement joints are installed within the tile assembly installed over their membrane. Some manufacturers allow the movement joints to not line up exactly over the substrate control joints. Each manufacturer of crack-isolation membranes may have different recommendations and limitations, so it is always important to follow manufacturers’ instructions.

TCNA F125-Partial and F125-Full Crack Isolation Membrane details provide guidelines for isolating non-structural cracks with an ANSI A118.12 crack-isolation membrane. This detail recommends that a movement joint be placed at one or both ends of the tile, parallel to the crack which is bridging the underlying shrinkage crack or non-structural control joint, as recommended by the membrane manufacturer.

Sealants for soft joints

The type of sealant (caulking) used to fill movement joints is critical to the success of the tile installation. TCNA EJ171 states that an appropriate ASTM C920 sealant must be used to fill movement joints of all types. An ASTM C920 sealant includes high-quality silicone, urethanes, and polysulfide sealants. These types of sealants are normally rated as highly weather resistant with high-elongation properties, and high-adhesion characteristics that come with 20-year commercial warranties. Too often we find installers using some type of acrylic, latex, or siliconized sealant, because they are easier to work with, but these sealants have very low performance values and basically no warranty.


Using sealants that are not suitable for foot traffic may may be dangerous to those who wear high heels.

Different sealants have different physical properties and performance capabilities. EJ171 provides guidelines and the nomenclature for determining the appropriate Type, Grade, Class and Use sealant for the intended application. For instance, some sealants are not suitable for foot or vehicle traffic, so you must use a “Use T” sealant for those applications. A traffic sealant should have a Shore A Hardness of 35 or greater, which is critical because otherwise it would be dangerous to those who wear high heels. Some sealants can’t be used in a submerged application and some can’t be subjected to certain chemicals. Not all ASTM C920 sealants are compatible with natural stone and could cause the stone to stain. Some sealants require the surfaces to be primed after cleaning the joints and prior to installing the sealant.

Movement joint aesthetics

Movement joints are a necessary part of tile and stone installations and can even accentuate design features, rendering the joints unnoticeable, when specifiers take the time to design the movement joints into the installation.

Manufacturers of one-part silicone sealants have a broad range of colors available; custom colors are generally available to match the grout. Two-part urethane sealants can be mixed on the job by experienced sealant installers and can easily match the color of the tile grout. Movement joints placed more frequently in the installation can be narrower to match the width of the grout, also making them less noticeable. If your tile pattern has staggered joints, you can use the staggered-grout joint (referred to as a saw-tooth joints or zipper joints) as a generic movement joint to make it less noticeable. When done well, movements joints are not noticeable and can enhance the features of the installation.


All tile and stone assemblies move in one way or the other, whether due to thermal movement, moisture movement, shrinkage, freezing, or dynamic structural movement. To ensure a long-lasting installation, install movement joints and use the correct type of sealant (caulking) for filling those joints. The key to a successful tile and stone installation is to follow industry standards.


Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Pompo provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier magazine Article of the Year Award. Pompo can be reached at [email protected]

Qualified Labor – May 2014


Left to Right: Owner Dirk Sullivan of Hawthorne Tile, Vladimir Blashchishchin – Certified Tile Installer #1000 – and Scott Carothers of the CTEF.

CTEF announces 1,000th Certified Tile Installer

It seems like yesterday that The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) launched its Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program at Coverings, 2008, but in the first quarter of 2014, the program reached the milestone of its 1,000th Certified Tile Installer.

On March 17, 2014, during an official CTI test conducted at Daltile in Portland, Oregon, Vladimir Blashchishchin became the CTEF’s 1,000th Certified Tile Installer. A quality-oriented tile installer with Hawthorne Tile in Portland, he was the well-qualified recipient of this prestigious award.

Dirk Sullivan, owner of Hawthorne Tile and long-time member of the NTCA, was truly excited that one of his installers (and his company) would be involved in such a milestone of the CTEF.

Why CTI?

CTEF launched the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program to provide a means for top-quality, highly knowledgeable installers to verify their skills and subsequently promote themselves to potential clients and employers.

Certification enables professional installers to provide industry-recognized proof of their abilities, which ultimately helps them get more work. The program was developed in response to the lack of any credible mechanism helping consumers gauge the level of proficiency of prospective tile installers. By encouraging consumers to use only the best-qualified installers, this program continues to raise the quality of installations in the U.S. Making strides toward this goal is important in maintaining the status of ceramic tile as the material of choice.

The Certified Tile Installer evaluation is a comprehensive testing of the skills and knowledge of experienced tile installers that includes both a multiple-choice exam and hands-on test. Based upon current industry standards and best practices for producing sound installations that exhibit good workmanship, this certification process is the validation of the skills and knowledge of men and women who presently are installing tile successfully in the United States. Installers who successfully complete the CTI testing, receive nationwide recognition of their accomplishment, by being listed on the CTEF website which provides the contact information of CTIs to everyone from the architect to the residential consumer.

With increased awareness of the CTI program, the growing desire of installers to elevate themselves above the crowd by getting certified, and the fact that architects are now calling for “qualified labor” on an increasing number of their projects, the CTI designation is poised to grow even more rapidly in the near future.

ACT_logo_generalACT: the next step from CTI

Vladmir’s certification qualifies him to participate in the Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT) program, which validates competency for tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA guidelines for floor and wall. ACT certified installers represent the pinnacle of performance in the tile trade and maintain a level of excellence superior to non-ACT certified installers.

ACT is not a training program; it evaluates the skills and knowledge of tile installers who are either CTEF Certified Tile Installers (CTI) or Journeyman installers through the IUBAC. Advanced competencies in the following areas are evaluated:

  • Large Format Tile & Substrate Preparation
  • Membranes
  • Mortar (Mud) Floors
  • Mortar (Mud) Walls
  • Shower Receptors

By certifying key installers via the ACT program, companies become part of an elite group of contractors eligible to bid projects specifically requiring ACT-certified installers.

The Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program was created through the combined efforts of six leading organizations in the tile industry: the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF); the International Masonry Institute (IMI); the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC); the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA); the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

CTI testing returns to Albuquerque

Amidst the Albuquerque Daltile warehouse where the April 12 CTI testing was taking place are (l. to r.): CTEF’s Scott Carothers; Daltile’s Bill Fergison; LATICRETE’s Tim Evans; Daltile’s Kevin Sebesta; and NTCA’s Michael Whistler.

Amidst the Albuquerque Daltile warehouse where the April 12 CTI testing was taking place are (l. to r.): CTEF’s Scott Carothers; Daltile’s Bill Fergison; LATICRETE’s Tim Evans; Daltile’s Kevin Sebesta; and NTCA’s Michael Whistler.

Back by popular demand, in April, CTEF’s Scott Carothers and NTCA’s Michael Whistler conducted another Certified Tile Installer (CTI) evaluation at Daltile’s Sales Service Center on Venice Ave. NE in Albuquerque, N.M., the second in six months. The event had 20 initial registrations for tile installers from Santa Fe (Coronado Paint & Decorate; Dominguez Carpet One), Farmington (Carpet One Floor & Home), Grants (Mesa Floor Coverings), Roswell (George’s Carpet and Tile) and Albuquerque, N.M., and drew installers from as far away as Spectrum Floors in El Paso, Texas, as well.

LATICRETE reprised its December role as a primary sponsor for this event, and National Gypsum donated backer board sold through Daltile for use in the modules.


A passel of tile installers came to Daltile in Albuquerque to have their skills verified though hands-on testing through the Certified Tile Installer program, administered by CTEF.

Test results will be in soon – and the New Mexico/El Paso region will have a new crop of qualified tile installers for the A&D community and consumers to draw on. For more information on upcoming CTI evaluation near you, visit

Business Tip – May 2014

SponsoredbyMAPEINever drop your prices again!

How to stop selling on price

wayshakBy Marc Wayshak

I was recently at Lord & Taylor with a close friend of mine when she held up two pairs of high-heeled shoes. Both pairs were black, appeared similar and looked pretty to me. “What do you think each pair of shoes costs?” she asked.

“Well, this is a nice place, so I’m guessing that they both cost about $150,” I replied.

She smiled at me as if she were watching a puppy hopelessly barking at the moon. “Actually, this pair,” she said, holding up the shoes in her left hand, “costs $110.”

“I was close!” I said defensively.

But then she continued. “Now this pair,” she said, holding up the shoes in her right hand, “costs $650.”

“What?!?!? But they look so similar!” I exclaimed in surprise.

Upon further reflection, I began to see the parallels that women’s shoes have with selling on price versus value: Products or services that are fundamentally the same can sell for drastically different prices. It all depends on the way they’re sold.

Let me introduce you to two salespeople: Don and Liz. Both have been selling bathroom accessories for 20 years. However, they each sell in a completely different way.

Don is all about price. He’ll walk into a prospect’s office and say, “I see that you’re working with Grohe, and I can show you how you can save 50% by working with me instead…”

Liz, on the other hand, is all about selling on value. She’ll walk into a prospect’s office and begin a conversation by saying, “I really appreciate your inviting me in today. I want to tell you up front that if you are looking for the lowest prices, I’m not your gal. My goal is to help my clients create a bathroom that ‘wows’ visitors. Does it make sense for us to continue talking?”

Both approaches lead to sales, but the difference in the average transaction size and profitability is night and day. Liz wins, and she wins big.

If you’re determined to sell on price like Don, then you should stop reading this now. However, if you’re open to selling on value like Liz, then stay with me…

Here are four ways to stop selling on price:

1. Stop being a vendor: Don is a vendor to his customers, while Liz is a strategic partner to her clients. Get away from just being another vendor offering the best price. Instead, focus on how you can help provide massive value to your clients. The prospects that just want the best price are not who you want to work with. At least 60% of prospects want something more than just the best price. Target those folks.

2. Be distinct: Both of the shoes my friend showed me appeared to be similar, but one had a very distinct brand, while the other was essentially no-named. You don’t need advertising to be distinct – your approach to selling can be what makes you stand out. While Don’s approach was pretty cheesy and predictable, Liz was bold and totally distinct from what the prospect typically experiences. Immediately, the prospect is intrigued to understand more about why Liz isn’t the cheapest. Everyone knows that they get what they pay for, so let them experience the best.

3. Create value in your conversation: Every qualified prospect has challenges that you can solve. For example, in the case of Liz, her qualified prospect might be a developer that has used cheap bathroom accessories in the past only to find that they frequently break and need to be replaced after only a year. By learning about the prospect’s experience and how much that cost him in lost revenues, Liz is creating tremendous value for her products – before she ever shows him her product line.

4. Pile it on: Good prospects are willing to pay more when they believe they are getting tremendous value. This means that, in order to create that value, you must think in terms of selling solutions and packages. For example, Liz not only sells bathroom accessories, but she also offers custom design and assistance with actually installing the accessories in order to ensure that they last for many years. This perceived added value allows her to charge a higher price than Don could ever imagine charging. How can you add additional products or services to your offering to increase the perceived value of your product or service?

Selling on price is never the only option for a company. By following these four steps and thinking creatively about how to increase your value in the eyes of the client, your sale size will increase dramatically.

Marc Wayshak ( is a sales strategist who created the Game Plan Selling System. He is the author of two books on sales and leadership including his latest book, Game Plan Selling ( and a regular online contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post Business section. Get his free eBook on 25 Tips to Crush Your Sales Goal at (Twitter: @MarcWayshak)

Ask the Experts – May 2014


I am getting ready to do a good-sized tile job at our offices and have a question that I have received contradicting answers on from various tile contractors: do plastic leave-in spacers crack the grout with temperature changes?

Some of the comments I have gotten from different tile contractors have been:

1. Eventually plastic spacers will crack the grout.

2. I would never leave a plastic spacer in a tile job, leave-in or not.

3. I have left plastic spacers “in” on a tile job and they do not crack the grout, at least not in the first year that I guarantee my work.

Can you tell me what the real truth is? Thank you for your immediate attention.


Leaving spacers in a tile job has caused many failures. Cracking of grout at the spacer is one possibility, but the higher risk lies in the color that the grout cures at the spacer. Cementitious grout needs a uniform depth and width in joints while curing, otherwise you end up with different colors at thinner versus thicker areas of grout. For the relatively tiny amount of time it takes to remove spacers from a job, why subject yourself and your client to those risks? My advice: always remove spacers.

Michael Whistler,
technical consultant
NTCA presenter


I am a project manager of a school facility. I am in the middle of developing some design standards and came up with some questions for ceramic tile. Can you help me out with the following questions?

1. Existing standards asked for three coats of penetrating sealer with standard grout. If we specify for epoxy grout, do we still need the sealer?

2. How does penetrating sealer with standard grout compare with epoxy grout on life cycle?

3. If epoxy grout is better, would we still need to waterproof or use a sealer on the installation? Does the sealer also protect the tiles from staining? For the school’s benefit, should we specify epoxy grout and sealer? Would that be redundant?


1. No. Epoxy is very dense, eliminating the need for sealer.

2. Depending on traffic, cleaning and maintenance practices, and UV exposure, penetrating sealers need to be renewed on a consistent basis. As long as epoxy grout is not damaged by cleaning and maintenance practices, epoxy should last the entire life cycle of the tile work, without the need for sealing.

3. Neither grout (including epoxy) or sealers are waterproof. If you need waterproofing, it needs to be incorporated into your installation beneath the tile. See the 2013 TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation for relevant methods. It is available on our website ( for sale, or contact a NTCA member near you (also on our website in “Find a Contractor” tab).

Depending on the type of tile, a penetrating sealer can help with stain resistance. Sealers are designed to allow the passage of moisture in both directions, and are more to “slow down” staining than to create a “stain proof” surface. Regular cleaning and maintenance are still required. A pH-neutral cleaner with a good clean water rinse works well with either system.

Michael Whistler,
technical consultant
NTCA presenter