March 28, 2015

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

1_CTI_20x20

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.

4-QL-315

 

Business Tip – March 2015

mapei_sponsor

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

SponsoredbyLaticreteQUESTION

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?

ANSWER

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

QUESTION

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.

ANSWER

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

Stone – February 2015

mapei_sponsorMIA receives Macael Award in Spain from AEMA

On November 21, 2014, MIA president Tony Malisani (Malisani, Inc. of Great Falls, Mont.) accepted the coveted “Institution Award” at the 28th edition of the Macael Awards in Macael, Spain. This award was one of nine awards given by the Asociación de Empresarios del Mármol de Andalucía (AEMA), the leading natural stone association in the Almeria region of Spain.

“It is my honor and great privilege to receive this award on behalf of the members of the MIA,” Malisani said. “The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has 1,700 members that are located in 56 counties around the world. It is our belief that one way to strengthen the stone industry in the United States is to strengthen our ties with the international natural stone community. The marble industry here is one of the oldest, and is also one of the most innovative. Certainly there is much we can learn. We are hoping to continue our outreach and increase cooperation, communication, and education with the Asociación de Empresarios del Mármol de Andalucía.”

0215-STONE-1During the event, AEME president Antonio Martinez highlighted that a strong global stone market demands that collaboration occur between stone associations. He acknowledged that the MIA’s standing in the natural stone industry for developing technical standards, safety initiatives, current development of an international import/export handbook, and innovation were factors that caused the AEME to recognize the MIA with the “Institution Award,” a special award for stone trade associations.

The event drew 500 attendees from several countries and was an impressive presentation and recognition of outstanding stonework. Malisani noted that “with over 10% of the MIA membership residing outside of North America, it is rewarding for the MIA to be recognized for outstanding programs that benefit the entire global stone industry.”

In addition, The MIA also had the opportunity to meet with AEME officials to present several key industry initiatives including the newly adopted, ANSI-approved sustainability standard championed by the Natural Stone Council (NSC). AEME’s first vice president and MIA member Eduardo Cosentino hosted the MIA delegation that included Malisani, MIA secretary David Castellucci (Kenneth Castellucci and Associates of Lincoln, R.I.), and MIA executive vice president Jim Hieb.

In the upcoming months, the MIA and AEME will also be collaborating on a translation of the MIA’s Dimension Stone Design Manual (DSDM) into Spanish to further expand the use and understanding of technical standards.

MIA’s Castellucci added, “We also had a very good conversation about safety, quality standards, and education for architects, as well as stone professionals. It was also great to tour their technology center (Fundación Centro Tecnológico Andaluz de la Piedra) and discuss advances in stone testing and other technology.”

TexaStone Quarries earns NSF sustainable stone certification

NSF Sustainability, a division of global independent public health organization NSF International, has certified TexaStone Quarries to the sustainability assessment standard for stone – ANSI/NSC 373 Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone.

0215-stone-2Certification to ANSI/NSC 373 is based on point totals to achieve Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level certification. TexaStone’s quarry earned Gold level certification and its processing facility earned Silver level certification, which includes criteria for the environmental aspects of stone production including water, transportation, site management, land reclamation and adaptive reuse, and management of excess process materials and waste. Monitoring and periodic re-evaluation is required to maintain certification. Once a full chain of custody is established and certified, stone products moving from quarry to customer can also carry the ANSI/NSC 373 Genuine Stone mark.

“Dimension stone is a sustainable product because it is natural and has a long durability, but the industry wanted to identify how the stone was processed from the quarries and the processors,” said Tom Bruursema, general manager of NSF Sustainability. “As the first to earn certification to ANSI/NSC 373, TexaStone leads its industry in adopting more sustainable practices that help its customers and organizations meet the continued growth in green buildings.”

Transparent, credible standards along with independent third-party certification are important to meet the demands of members of the construction industry seeking more sustainable stone products. This includes government agencies (local, state and federal) and others seeking to comply with U.S. Executive Order 13514, which aims for 95% of governmental contracts to include products and services with sustainable attributes, as well as a U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) standard for sustainable construction (GSA PBS-P100 facilities standards for the public building service).

“The purpose of the ANSI/ NSC 373 standard is to drive sustainability practices in the natural stone industry. At TexaStone, we have made a commitment to transforming our organization into a more sustainable company to lead our industry in the transition to verified, more sustainably extracted and processed natural dimension stone,” said Brenda Edwards, owner of TexaStone Quarries.

Certification to ANSI/NSC 373 by quarries and processors such as TexaStone is the first step in the product certification process for natural dimension stone. Full certification for stone products will be achieved through a combination of ANSI/NSC 373 certification for quarries and processors along with the Natural Stone Council Chain of Custody Standard for Natural Dimension Stone (NSC COC) requirements for the rest of the distribution chain.

Tech Talk – February 2015

TEC-sponsorAchieving successful natural stone installations

tom_plaskota_web

By Tom Plaskota, Technical Support Manager, H.B. Fuller Construction Products

Although advances in manufacturing have expanded the possibilities of man-made tile, natural stone remains highly sought after for both residential and commercial installations. A truly timeless building material – among the world’s oldest – natural stone offers a look that cannot be perfectly emulated by a manufacturing process. By guiding your clients to the right stone and setting it with the most appropriate materials, you will achieve beautiful and durable installations.

Natural stone, as its name suggests, is quarried from the earth. Because of this, it does not offer the perfectly consistent appearance of man-made tiles. Encourage your clients to view several sample tiles from the same lot before making their selection. That way, they can get a sense of how their tile’s appearance may vary.

This diverse material is available in a variety of finishes, and the finish your client selects should be dictated by the project’s environment. Polished stones, for example, are very reflective and may be more sensitive to scratching than other tile types. Honed, flamed/thermal and water-jet finishes are rougher, often obtaining higher slip-resistance ratings than polished finishes. Direct your clients toward higher slip-resistant finishes for floor installations – especially in wet areas.

0215-tech-1If your client’s installation will be on an exterior surface, be sure that the tile they select can withstand freeze/thaw conditions. Specific ASTM tests will verify how well a material may hold up in extreme conditions. Suppliers should be able to provide guidance and technical data to support the recommendations.

Similarly, installations in wet environments – like a shower or pool – require particular attention to stone selection. Many green marbles warp when exposed to water, even from water-based adhesives. These moisture-sensitive stones should not be used in wet environments and should be installed with 100% solid epoxy mortar. Take absorption into account during your selection. The higher the amount of water absorption, the greater the likelihood of damage caused by moisture.

Both performance and aesthetics will determine the setting materials to accompany the natural stone you and your client select. Some natural stones – including light-colored marbles, limestone and onyx – can experience staining or darkening from grey mortars. It is best to specify white mortars for these applications.

0215-tech-2Regardless of color, natural stone requires a minimum of 95% mortar coverage. No voids in the adhesive can exceed 2 square inches and no voids should exist within 2” of tile corners. To achieve consistent coverage, use a larger U-notch or square trowel than you would for similarly-sized ceramic tile. You can also back-butter the natural stone to help ensure 95 to 100% coverage.

Grout is the final ingredient for a successful natural stone application. Particles in sanded grout may scratch limestone, travertine, marble and onyx. If using one of these softer natural stone tiles or polished stone, specify unsanded grout and use grout joints of 1/8” or narrower. Be sure that the grout selected – sanded or unsanded – will not stain the natural stone. Using a grout color similar to that of the natural stone tile will help minimize this risk, as will applying a sealer or grout release prior to grouting. Use the same sealer prior to grouting that you plan to use afterwards.

0215-tech-3To make cleanup easier, consider using a grout bag to grout natural stone installations, particularly with textured tiles. Mix small batches of grout, scoop them into the bag, and squeeze grout from the bag directly into joints. Use a grout float to pack each joint, and then scrape away the excess. If the tile is less textured, use a float to apply the grout directly into the joints.

If you have any questions about the aesthetic or performance compatibility of your tile and setting materials, create a sample board using your client’s natural stone with the mortar and grout you’ve selected. This process will help you determine whether staining is prominent and how the grout and tile look together. Share it with your client to ensure that they will be happy with the final installation.

0215-tech-4

Qualified Labor – February 2015

1_CTI_20x20“Knowledge is power,” for recently-certified installer Kevin Hurla of Fox Ceramic Tile

By Lesley Goddin

Recently, seasoned installer Kevin Hurla embarked on the journey to become a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) program (tilecareer.com/courses/certified-tile-installer). Hurla has been with Fox Ceramic Tile in St. Marys, Kan., since February 2014. Fox Ceramic Tile, which specializes in commercial work, gained NTCA Five Star Contractor status in 2011.

kevin_hurla“I know installers who went through the course, and I took an interest,” Hurla said, who has logged 20 years as an installer, starting as a finisher in 1989 and then completing a two-year apprenticeship.

After taking the written test online, Hurla completed the hands-on test at ISC Surfaces in Kansas City on September 19, 2014. ISC Surfaces’ host Brent Stoller holds the record for hosting the largest number of CTI tests at one site. In fact, he received the first annual CTI Host of the Year award in 2014.

Hurla didn’t think either the written or hands-on tests were difficult. “The whole process has information that installers should know to ensure proper installation,” he said.

Hurla is proud to be a CTI. “The CTI symbol is displayed on the back of our company uniform, and on the sleeves of the Certified Tile Installers,” he explained.

Kevin Fox, PE, owner of Fox Ceramic Tile, added, “We have eight tile setters on our team, and 100% of them are Certified Tile Installers. I have just hired two more tile setters and they are scheduled to take the test in March.”

Fox said that his company just got the green light for a Department of Labor-approved apprentice program – and the CTI test is the final requirement to achieve journeyman status. “What started out as something I was asking the tile setters to consider now has become a requirement if they want to reach full journeyman scale,” Fox said. “I think the certification is that important.”

According to Hurla, becoming a CTI has lasting benefits. “It gives me confidence in my ability to  find the correct solution to any obstacles that may arise,” Hurla said. “I also carry the CTI books in my truck so I can look up any questions I don’t know off the top of my head. “

Since passing the tests, Hurla said he pays “close attention to the products I use and the proper instructions on how to use them.”

Fox added, “Having certified tile installers has been part of the strategy in targeting larger and negotiated work. It is just one of the aspects GCs see, along with the company’s involvement with NTCA and Five Star that shows we are a company that not only ‘says’ we will perform on a project with qualified mechanics (everyone says that), but that we have shown our passion for the industry by validating the skills of the installer and investing the time and talents of the company by being active in the industry’s organizations.” Fox is a NTCA State Director and a member of the NTCA Methods and Standards Committee.

The value of what Hurla learned while going through the certification process and its impact on his work prompts him to endorse every opportunity to gain education. “The most important thing to remember is ‘knowledge is power,’” he said. “If you think you know it all, you’re limiting yourself.”

The next level of certification is Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT), which offer certification for union and open-shop installers in any or all of these skill sets: Large-Format Tile and Substrate Preparation, Membranes, Mud Floors, and Shower Receptors (www.tilecertifications.com). The prospect of taking his career to the next level excites Hurla.

“If I have the opportunity to take the ACT certification I would jump at the chance to educate myself even more,” he said.

Business Tip – February 2015

Five ways to get strong referrals – and lots of ‘em

SponsoredbyMAPEImarc_wayshakBy Marc Wayshak

Running a small business in today’s economy requires a departure from conventional business rules. In order to sell a product or service, businesses can no longer rely upon old-school sales tactics of bygone eras. Prospects are overwhelmingly distrustful of the traditional sales pitch; they’re busier than ever and they have access to more information than ever before.

As a result, small business owners must master a new set of tactics in order to make sales. The key is to start with strong referrals.

It’s no secret that getting referrals from clients who believe in your services is an effective way to connect with new clients. But in today’s business world, it’s not enough to just get referrals – they have to be strong, and there have to be lots of ‘em! Here are five ways to get lots of strong referrals:

1. Ask for introductions, not “referrals”! Salespeople often tell me that when they ask for a referral, all they get is a name, a phone number and an instruction to “tell him I sent you.” This is not a referral – it is, at best, a warm lead. The term “referral” is vague and unclear, which is why requests for them can frequently lead to disappointing outcomes. Instead of asking for referrals, ask for introductions. You want to be introduced directly to the person you want to meet, after all. The introduction can take place via face-to-face meeting, phone call, email exchange, or social media, but the key is that an actual introduction is made. Now, promise yourself you’ll never ask for a “referral” again!

2. Get over your fear and ask! I’ve done extensive research on what holds people back from getting more introductions, and it always comes back to the same issue: fear. Asking for introductions shows vulnerability and can feel uncomfortable. But the reality is that if you don’t ask, people will not think to introduce you. It’s your job to ask everyone in your network for introductions on a regular basis. The more you ask, the easier it becomes. In all of my years as a sales strategist, I’ve never heard of someone losing a client because they asked for an introduction. So what do you have to lose?

3. An introduction a day…really adds up. I have a challenge for you: ask for one introduction every work day. It’s a task that takes less than five minutes, but it holds enormous potential for your business. Here’s how.: One introduction per day equals five per week; five introductions per week equals 250 introductions per year. That’s a lot of introductions! Let’s say that you receive only one in five of the introductions you ask for – that still means you’ll receive 50 introductions in one year. If you turn half of those introductions into sales, then you’ll have closed 25 new pieces of business. What are you waiting for?

4. Ask for help. Help. That simple four-letter word is one of the most powerful in the English language. When you ask for help, people generally want to give it to you. On the other hand, people are turned off by phony confidence and a reluctance to accept assistance. So ask for help when it comes to introductions, just as you would in any other context. Start the introduction conversation by saying, “I’m wondering if you might be able to give me a little help.” Let the person say that she is happy to help – which she probably will be if you have any relationship at all. Then ask for the introduction to the type of prospect you’re looking to meet.

5. Help people help you. Salespeople frequently squander the chance to get introductions by not clearly explaining the exact type of prospect they’re looking to meet. When someone says that he’s willing to help you out with introductions, don’t respond, “Well, who do you know?” This forces the person to have to figure out which of the 1,000 people he knows to introduce you to. Instead, be laser-focused on the exact type of person you want to be introduced to. For example, you might say, “I’m looking to meet high-end custom-home builders or remodelers who invest in qualified labor.” When you get very specific, you narrow a person’s mental rolodex down to 1-3 people. Bingo!

When you focus on receiving more introductions (and actually take action!), your business can grow exponentially. If each of your clients introduced you to one new client, your business would double. By following these five simple strategies, you can bring on more clients without a massive effort.

Marc Wayshak (www.marcwayshak.com/) 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 (http://amzn.to/15MdhA9)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 http://gameplanselling.com/. (Twitter: @MarcWayshak)

Ask the Experts – February 2015

SponsoredbyLaticreteIn November 2014, TileLetter published the story, “Stacking the deck: manufactured/natural stone veneers pros and cons,” on page 54. Later that same month, this question about installing brick veneer came in from an NTCA member:

QUESTION

Hello – I’m an existing NTCA member, with a question about an upcoming project involving brick veneer.

Does method W243 – 14 apply to brick veneer, and if so, is it applicable in a basement environment? Are there any limitations as to when or where this method can’t/shouldn’t be used?

veneer_paver_tilesANSWER

The method W 243 – 14 that is referred to in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation is a suitable installation method for installing “thin” veneer brick paver tiles but not an acceptable method for “full thickness “ brick veneer installations. “Thin” is typically 5/8” thickness or less. This direct-bond method is only applicable due to weight-pounds per square foot dead load applied to substructure including the facial surface of the gypsum backer unit .

Full thickness brick veneer is much too heavy to direct bond to a gypsum backing unit using this method.

Limitations are listed in the method, such as environmental temperatures not to exceed 125 degrees F and stud spacing not to exceed 16” on center.

Gerald Sloan, NTCA trainer

Our second dialogue concerns a question of replacing grout or the entire floor that was damaged as a result of a flooding situation. Expert response by industry consultant David Gobis helped this homeowner settle the matter with her insurance company.

QUESTION

My kitchen floor is tile that is about 10 years old. We recently had new countertops installed along with a backsplash. We kept the tile floors because they were in beautiful condition. On January 8th, 2014, a second-floor bathroom pipe froze and burst onto our kitchen tile floor. That water sat in an area for about 6-8 hours. Now we have tile that clicks and grout that is coming up in the area where the water sat. The insurance company wants to just re-grout the area and not do anything with the loose tiles. My husband and I have had tile experts to the house who would not recommend just patching the grout since the tile is no longer attached to the board underneath. Please email me your thoughts.

ANSWER

Grout will not fix a floor that clicks, which is likely the wooden panel riding up and down a nail. With a flood, the water works its way through the grout and becomes trapped in the supporting wood structure under the tile. With most tile having a glazed (glass-like surface) it takes a long time to dry out. That causes the wood to change dimension by swelling, often breaking the tile or cracking the grout. While it is possible a regrout will help  the problem, it is not likely. I would let them try their grout fix offer with the caveat that if it does not work  they will look at replacement – and I would ask for it in writing.

David M. Gobis CTC CSI, Ceramic Tile Consultant

RESPONSE

Since your last email I just wanted you to know that the insurance company did come to our home along with a tile expert. And what you said is the same thing that the tile expert said. So we have had a new tile floor installed in the kitchen to replace the damaged one.

BONUS QUESTION:

You answer it!

We received this technical question – what is YOUR opinion about who is the responsible party for this job – the licensed contractor? The first unlicensed contractor to grout the floor – or the last? Send responses to lesley@tile-assn.com.

If an installer installs a tile floor and a second installer grouts the floor but then a third installer removes that grout and re-grouts the floor who is responsible for the floor? The original floor was installed (no grout) by a licensed contractor, grout was done by an unlicensed individual hired by the homeowner, and then a third individual was hired by homeowner to remove the grout and re- grout.  The individuals doing the grouting were independent and not working for the original company.

BRAZIL HOSTS 39th INTERNATIONAL MARBLE AND GRANITE SHOW, VITORIA STONE FAIR

Vitória Stone Fair – Marmomacc Latin America 2015 has announced the dates for one of the largest Marble and Granite Fairs in the world; February 3 – 6, 2015.  Ornamental and raw stone buyers from all over the world will fly to Espírito Santo in the southeast region of Brazil to negotiate products and services. In 2014, this fair closed over $200 million in businesses. There will be 420 exhibiting companies, 120 foreign companies and over 25,000 visitors from 66 countries.

The exhibition will be held in Vitória, the capital of Espírito Santo, a state with one of the biggest marble and granite reserves in the country, with a great variety of colors and textures. The host state of Vitória Stone Fair has been significantly contributing to the Brazilian trade balance. The stone production in the state represents about 5 million tons a year. The event attracts visitors from Brazil and Latin America, such as stone importers and exporters, contractors, decorators, architects and professionals from the sector; companies dedicated to extraction, processing and commercialization of ornamental stones; suppliers of abrasives, consumables, machines, equipment, tools and services.

Brazil is the third largest granite exporter of the world. The state of Espírito Santo accounts for 50% of the national production of ornamental stones and for more than 70% of the Brazilian export operations. Today, the country is the main supplier of stones to the North-American market, responsible for 30% of the volume imported by the USA. In 2014, the stone exports to the North-American market totaled $790 million.

From 12th place in the consumption ranking in 2001, Brazil now occupies the 4th place (source XXIV Report Marble and Stone in the World) and is already being seen as one of the largest players in the ornamental stone and finishing sector in the world, only after China, India, and the United States. The position was conquered in just a decade by offering a big range of extremely differentiated natural stones and investments made in the industrial parks with acquisitions of more modern machines for the stone extraction and processing operations.

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Vitória Stone Fair / Marmomacc Latin America 2015 is promoted by the Trade Union of the Industry of Ornamental Stones, Lime and Limestone in Espírito Santo (SINDIROCHAS) and the Technological Marble and Granite Center (CETEMAG). It is organized by Milanez & Milaneze, in cooperation with the VeronaFiere Group and counts on the support of the Brazilian Center of Ornamental Stones Exporters (CENTROROCHAS), the Brazilian Association of the Ornamental Stone Industry (ABIROCHAS) and Marble Institute of America (MIA) in the United States.

Show hours

February 3 to 6, 2015     From 01:00 p.m. to 08:00 p.m. with access until 07:00 p.m.

Floriano Varejão Exhibition Park – Rodovia do Contorno
BR 101 Norte – Carapina – Serra – ES – Brazil
CEP 29161-064
Online Credentials:
http://credenciamento.vitoriastonefair.com.br/Processos/Inscricao/InscricaoApresentacaoForm.aspx