Crest Tile and Mosaic, Inc., pursues artisan training, CTI certification and participation in the Emerging Leaders Forum
Incorporated in late 2021, I do primarily residential (direct-to-homeowners) in the Rochester, N.Y. market. After being a commercial tile setter for almost six years, I value the small, intricate jobs rather than the large commercial ones. I felt as though my skills were better suited for quality residential jobs, rather than quantity commercial jobs.
My clients have always commented on how I am detail-oriented, and appreciate my attention to detail. I pride myself on installing to TCNA standards, and make sure my clients understand the importance of the steps taken in the process. Characteristics that my clients have valued are cleanliness, professionalism, responsiveness (returning calls, quick consultation schedules, etc.), and the care that I put into my work. They appreciate the time taken at a consultation to go over all of the steps, and lay everything out so there are no surprises. I treat every home as if it were my parents’ home. I believe that a contractor is a guest in someone’s home.
I joined the NTCA in early 2022 after hearing about it in the online Facebook groups – it seemed like a great resource for me and a chance to stand out within my market. The NTCA has been a tremendous asset for me, both personally and professionally. The technical department is outstanding – they have always been prompt in their responses and provided quality answers to my questions. One technical representative even called on a Sunday to address my time-sensitive issue.
The A.R.T. (Artisans Revolution in Tile) Tile Artisan Training last June was a transformative experience; it was by far the best training I have ever participated in. I was provided with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to be able to create custom mosaic inlays. It also provided me with a network of amazing artisans, lots of whom I keep in contact with regularly. It was great to see that there are so many other tile setters that are as passionate and motivated as I am. I am currently working on a large custom-mosaic inlay in a backsplash – the A.R.T. training helped me sell, draft, and consult with my clients on this project. Once this project is complete, I am confident that clients in my market will catch on.
The NTCA has also shown me the value of networking. After the A.R.T. training, I found how powerful it is to connect with people in similar situations as myself, who care about the industry just as much as I do. So when the Emerging Leaders Forum opened for enrollment, I knew I had to be a part of it. I am excited to see how it transforms me and my business.
I also recently became the NTCA Ambassador for my area, which is exciting. I hope to help the industry in my area “level up” by demonstrating the importance of performing quality installations.
As a journeyman tile setter, I did not give the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) credential much consideration since the levels of certification are similar. But I decided to sign up for the CTI at TISE in January. If I pass, it will make me one of two CTI-certified installers in my market, and the only one that is a journeyman, CTI, and NTCA member. That should really boost my place in my market.
The biggest struggle in my business was getting into the market; I did not have a network of suppliers, general contractors, or client referrals to get started. I had to start at the beginning–making connections with stores, distributors, etc. Most of my work has come from referrals, but I have recently extended my network to general contractors and home builders to have a more diversified client base. Joining local networking groups has been great for my business. I also signed up for a booth at my local home builders show, and look forward to showcasing my talents to thousands of potential clients in my market. By extending my network, I am confident that 2024 will be a breakthrough year that will cement my business in the market.
My home-life balance has been more of a challenge than I expected. I thought that by working for myself, I would have more time home with my family, yet I find myself spending more time in my office preparing estimates, schedules, and drawings. Through the development of systems, I continue to become more efficient with these, and will find a proper balance with time.
My greatest joy of being a tile setter is seeing my clients’ faces when they see the finished product. Although they are there throughout the process, they really are impressed when they step back and see it complete. Although there are days when I ask myself “Why am I even doing this for a living?” or “Why did I sign myself up for this?” it always works out in the end.
The client wanted a herringbone subway tile, with a blue accent. I drew up three different designs, and this is what she chose. The wall was far from flat, and I used a fast-setting patch material to flatten the walls to TCNA specifications. In this kitchen, none of the cabinets (upper or lower) were in level, in plane, or parallel. Creating a level line for the pattern from the countertops ensured that I stayed level. Going up and around a window, with herringbone, is always a challenge, but constantly ensuring my tile was plumb and level made it go smoothly. Using a quality non-sag mortar made positioning and adjusting the tiles easier, allowing me to work faster and be more productive.
I held a drawing contest over the summer of 2023. Children submitted their artwork and the winner received a mosaic of their artwork. This piece was a lot of fun. Although it took a lot of time, I learned a lot about mosaics. Working with small pieces (most of them fit on my thumbnail) requires patience. I let the smalti dictate the flow of the background–they are all different shapes, and like natural stone, I try to find the perfect piece for each spot. It was a nice change from setting tile as we know it, and I look forward to making more mosaics out of stone, tile, and smalti to be sold as wall art.
Stone Veneer Fireplace
This was one of two stone-veneer fireplaces installed in a home. It is installed over cement board, with a premium stone-veneer mortar. The challenges with this fireplace were the corners and the fact that everything was out of level. The floor, ceiling, and fireplace unit itself were all out of level. I managed to get a full-stone layout at all of the critical layout points, while keeping it aesthetically pleasing. The corners are a challenge as well, but I really enjoyed working with the material. Laying out the entire fireplace on the floor ensured that there was a good color blend and that I would not run out of (or have too many) sizes.