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All that glitters is glass

NTCA is mounting a large-scale effort involving multiple glass tile manufacturers and artisan glass installers to bring education to the industry about installing glass of all types – mosaics, field tile, and large-format glass panels. 

The first step in this initiative is taking place at Total Solutions Plus (TSP), held at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa in Indian Wells, Calif., November 6-8, 2022. 

TSP panel discussion

On Monday, November 7, NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga will moderate a one-hour panel discussion during the Contractors Forum on Glass Tile Installations and Opportunities. The panel features legendary and award-winning glass pool tile artisan installer Jimmy Reed; Vince Moiso, President of Oceanside Glass & Tile; Curt Rapp of The Tile Doctor/Litokol, and Julio Velez from SICIS. 


The intent of the discussion, Bettiga noted, is “We are trying to create an awareness of the opportunities in the market with glass. This goes with the theme of TSP and Coverings, which is the industry trend of tile being a perfect fit with outdoor living. As we dug into glass into outdoor living, NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein and I started to realize that glass has some unique trends and properties that are also creating opportunities in interior installations – not only outdoor living.”

The discussion will focus on unique new shapes in tile that are being seen in glass such as octagon, hexagon, fish-scale tile and larger format like 6″ x 12″ and larger. “We feel it is important to talk about opportunities to sell glass outside in swimming pools and fire cooking area backsplashes and to revisit best practices for installing these products,” he said.

Bettiga added there are three approved methods for glass tile installation per the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, and ANSI standards. The goal is to make designers, builders, and specifiers aware of the A137.2 standalone product standards. 

Precision installation when working with glass pool tiles is the hallmark of Jimmy Reed’s work.

Reed will discuss skills and opportunities in glass tile, particularly pools and exterior installations. He is joining the NTCA Board of Directors this year, spurred on by his passion for glass and his desire to make standards-based education available to the industry. He looks forward to raising awareness and helping educate all levels of the industry, from “helpers who are just getting into the trade, and hopefully looking at it as a craft – to learn about materials, techniques and preparation, and tools as well – to every place across the spectrum, up to top artisan installers. There’s plenty for everyone to learn in the organization and beyond.” Reed is eager to help give people access who wouldn’t normally know about it and expose what is there. “And hopefully I can learn something myself,” he said. 

This TSP panel is really the launching pad for a more comprehensive educational and training effort for the industry, including a two-hour session scheduled for Coverings. And it is also to get tile setters thinking: “Have you seriously considered glass as a real component of your business?”

Oceanside Glass & Tile’s Moiso said, “This movement is just beginning, first at TSP with the panel with manufacturers and installation companies to have a moderated discussion around why glass tile is important, and the advantages of using glass tile,” he said. “We are bringing awareness. Glass offers so many things other mediums can’t do in terms of color and aesthetics, so we are bringing attention back to glass as a product utilized for so many applications. Drawing attention to artisan installation is even bigger. Anything I can do to bring attention back to artisan installation – I’m in.”

Oceanside Glass & Tile’s Moiso said, “Glass offers so many things other mediums can’t do in terms of color and aesthetics, so we are bringing attention back to glass as a product utilized for so many applications.”

The Tile Doctor and Litokol have been engineering products made to specifically address installation challenges that occur with glass. But Tile Doctor’s Curt Rapp noted that in general, it’s only recently that the tile industry has begun to design installation products specifically for glass tile and the challenges it poses. “Different glass types have differing coefficient of expansion (COE), which presents additional challenges, and larger sizes of glass can be up to 48″ x 96″ and also have unique performance challenges,” he said. “There are glass types with finishes such as precious metals and mirrored coatings that do not hold up to the high pH in cement adhesives.” He stressed it is essential to follow glass manufacturer recommendations regarding their glass products – and that customers want glass in larger sizes, so it’s critical to use installation products engineered specifically for glass to avoid failures. 

Next steps: certifying installers in SICIS Vetrite installations

SICIS’ Corundum Vetrite panel, with luminous depth and color found in the Gem Glass line.

Even as I write this, in the first week of October, NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein along with NTCA Trainers Matt Welner and Hank Boyle are in the Bronx, N.Y., meeting with SICIS’s Julio Velez and his team to develop a training program on SICIS’ larger glass panel Vetrite products. 

“We will start at the big end of the spectrum with SICIS and develop a training program to educate and qualify our members and tile industry professionals to understand, install and specialize in these Vetrite glass panels,” he said. 

He explained that Vetrite panels – nominal 47″ x 110″ slabs that embed an artistic element between two slabs of glass – are extremely precision products. “Each panel is a beautiful work of art, and their installation needs to reflect this,” Heinlein said. For instance, one of the things essential to a quality Vetrite installation is a requirement to polish the glass to factory finish after any cutting or drilling. In addition, training will cover substrate preparation for these panels, layout, special handling criteria, specialized tools and details for cutting and fabricating. 

“While working with Vetrite is similar to working with gauged porcelain tile and panels (GPTP) and large-format tile, there are different requirements for this material,” he said. “Well-experienced tile contractors and installers will discover they have the background and experience that will help them learn the special techniques required for handling and installing Vetrite. Our training program will give installers the ability to confidently handle, fabricate and install this amazing material.” 

Cliff, a gorgeous selection in the Gem Glass collection of Vetrite panels.

Earlier this year, Heinlein was certified by SICIS to do this work – he’s only the 51st certified SICIS installer – this is an elite group. And the NTCA training aims to generate a cadre of highly-qualified SICIS-certified installers to work with these unique glass panels. 

Once everything is in place, the plan is to offer 12 1.5-day trainings in 2023 – one per month. Looking toward the future, NTCA will also offer trainings in SICIS mosaic installations.

SICIS’ Julio Velez, Director of Sales at SICIS The Art Mosaic Factory in Bronx, N.Y., went into greater detail about the aim of elevating glass tile installation in general and Vetrite glass slab projects in particular. 

Galaxy Gem Glass Vetrite panels from SICIS create an out-of-this-world effect in this setting.

“SICIS Vetrite large-format glass slabs are the next step in the evolution of the tile and stone industry,” he said. “Large-format panels have been trending and continue to be a fast-growing choice for residential and commercial markets. Glass slabs are all about light, color, and texture; whether you are looking to mimic the look of fabric in a stain-resistant impervious glass finish, introduce a reflective finish like antique mirror, or set the mood with backlit art panels, Vetrite will elevate the aesthetic value of any project. Combining the technology of the glass industry and highly-decorative fashion sense of the tile industry, Vetrite is a perfect hybrid of the two. This new category provides a highly profitable niche to tile contractors looking to improve their skills and leverage their expertise to grow their business.”

Stay tuned to TileLetter ARTISAN, TileLetter and TileLetter.com to learn more about these programs and initiatives as they unfold.

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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.

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