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Albuquerque tile contractors find pot of education gold

There was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow the third week of March here in Albuquerque, N.M. But it wasn’t the luck-o-the Irish or a gift from a benevolent leprechaun. Instead, it was the result of a week of training and education that descended upon Albuquerque courtesy of LATICRETE, and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).

LATICRETE New Mexico Road Show

LATICRETE Contractor Sales Reps Tim Evans, who is based in Albuquerque, and Denver-based Rep Mike Hogan, presented a New Mexico Road Show at four locations throughout the week, starting with Arizona Tile on Monday, March 14. The free events ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and were hosted by Emser Tile on March 15, Choices Wholesale on March 16, and Floor & Decor on March 17, and offered product demonstrations, snacks, beverages and prizes. Between all the events, about 100 people attended.

Questions from contractors focused on self-leveling products and shower assemblies.

Evans explained the benefits of HYDRO BAN XP Interior & Exterior Waterproofing Membrane – which is rated for steam showers and eliminates use of a separate vapor barrier, as well as 2″ HYDRO BAN Board, which can be used for shelves, or a weight-bearing bench when combined with bracing or support every 16″. Hogan demonstrated NXT Level Flow Self-Leveling Underlayment, priming the surface first with NXT Primer, allowing it to set up, then applying the leveler to a depth of 1.25″. He also demonstrated the use of NXT Patch Fast Drying Underlayment Patch, which can be used outdoors and offers 4350 psi compressive strength.

Among the contractors who flocked to the event at Arizona Tile, Rafael and Maria Nieto of USA Tile and Stone, LLC – a local contractor that does residential and commercial projects – came for the discussion and the demos. Journeyman Rafael noted that he was there to learn more and supplement his knowledge as he is helping people improve their homes post-pandemic, with 12″x24″ and larger tiles. 

LATICRETE’s Mike Hogan demonstrating the NXT PATCH product.

Evans reported that most questions from the contractors focused on self-leveling products and shower assemblies. “These obviously are the biggest issues that the industry faces these days,” Evans explained. “There are so many wrong ways out there – like wet shimming –  that some people just have not taken the time to become educated, and there are so many new products coming out it is hard to keep up.”

Full-day training events are planned at some Denver distributors. Click the Training & Education tab at laticrete.com for more information. 

NTCA Workshop: Avoiding failures

PaulRay Velasquez of Raven Tile & Flooring called the NTCA Workshop “an opportunity to gain more knowledge and share the experience with my son… My son and I walked out of Floor & Decor ready to conquer our project.”

On March 17, NTCA Trainer Robb Roderick brought the free NTCA Workshop “Failures! Could It Be Me?” to Floor & Decor in Albuquerque. Over 30 tile contractors attended and four signed up to be NTCA members right on the spot. 

Vendors such as LATICRETE, MAPEI, Schluter, Rubi, and FILA were on hand to network with contractors, answer questions and provide giveaways. There was also some time for contractors to chat with each other and NTCA personnel. In fact, before the workshop even began, Isaac Santos of IKON Builders ABQ made the decision to invest in his business by joining NTCA. 

The workshop addressed:

  • Understanding failures that can occur with tile installations
  • Learning about why these failures occurred
  • Understanding what needs to change with the installation so that the failure does not occur
  • Knowing the reference materials that should be followed for every tile installation

Roderick talked about the chief causes of failures and how to avoid them.  These included:

  • Lippage
  • Substrate Inspection
  • Substrate Flatness
  • Large-Format Tile
  • Coverage
  • Expansion Joints
  • Showers

He also discussed industry publications that support successful installations: The TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation and the American National Standard Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile Material and Installations Standards Manual, as well as the NTCA Reference Manual. Together, these books form a triumvirate of knowledge that contributes to enduring, well-performing tile installations. 

The crowd was intent during the backer rod demo; some contractors tried their hands at applying sealant in the test modules Roderick provided.

Installers and contractors were engaged and attentive as Roderick guided them on a journey to avoid major issues like leaking showers, exploding tile that results from lack of expansion joints and the importance of the EJ171 movement joint guidelines found in the TCNA Handbook, the percent of coverage needed in dry and wet settings, and how improperly-used spot bonding practically guarantees failure. Along the way, live videos and hands-on demonstrations illustrated the concepts Roderick was presenting, and he handed out membrane thickness gauges to some attendees. 

After a dinner break, Roderick broke out some small modules that allowed contractors to try their hands at installing backer rods and silicone sealant. 

Floor & Decor personnel who supported the NTCA Workshop (l to r): Myranda Mares; Todd Nichols and Mike Abernathy flashing the “one new pro” symbol, championing Floor & Decor’s mission of meeting and supporting new pros at their shops.

“I am a student in this tile industry and any opportunities that present themselves I take full advantage of,” said PaulRay Velasquez of Albuquerque’s Raven Tile & Flooring. “The workshop at Floor & Decor was an opportunity to gain more knowledge and share the experience with my son. The workshop was very helpful, from the hands-on exercises to the slideshow presentation. [There was] a lot of insight on how to properly install tile, prep and repair. My son and I walked out of Floor & Decor ready to conquer our project.”

Roderick and Floor & Decor Pro Services Manager Todd Nichols handed out prizes – from a Rubi Mixer to setting materials, Google Echo and a 32″ flat screen television. 

A group of happy attendees walked away with awesome giveaways after the workshop.

“Training from the NTCA is extremely important for any tile setter that wants to not only grow their business, but their knowledge and skill,” remarked Nichols. “The industry is always changing and we must stay up to date on proper techniques to set current – and future – styles and sizes of tile. The education from the NTCA is top tier, and every tile setter from the beginner apprentice to the seasoned pro will benefit immensely.” 

As the evening was winding down, three more contractors joined NTCA: Jerome Sanchez, Surface Tile & Wood in Santa Fe, N.M., Philip Donnachie of L.I.P. Construction, Rio Rancho, N.M., and Destin Woelfel (yes, related to the famous Woelfel tile family of Arizona!) of Applied Tile, Inc., of Edgewood, N.M. 

These tile contractors joined NTCA during the Albuquerque workshop: (l. to r.) Jerome Sanchez, Surface Tile & Wood; Philip Donnachie of L.I.P. Construction; Isaac Santos of IKON Builders ABQ; Destin Woelfel of Applied Tile, Inc.(standing); with NTCA’s Robb Roderick giving the thumbs up!

Donnachie spoke of the value of the session, saying it “reinforced the importance of soft joints” in an installation. 

“I have been continually impressed with Floor & Decor’s commitment to education, and their ability to provide an audience for training,” Roderick said. “I’ve also been impressed with the type of individuals who show up at their events. Many are true tile professionals who install tile daily, and the majority – if not all – of their work revolves around tile installation. This is what we train for day-in and day-out. This, in my opinion, has been a great collaboration thus far of high-end tile technical training to those who desire it. I’m looking forward to more of these trainings that involve tile professionals, which increase our effectiveness, and in turn positively affect the industry as a whole.”  

Editorial Director and Senior Writer at TileLetter | [email protected] | + posts

Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor. Other interests include the soft, purring marvels known as cats, labyrinth walking, drumming and percussion, and a range of spiritual, musical and artistic pursuits.

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