Jason McDaniel, owner of Stoneman Construction in Portland, Ore., was 21 years old and collecting unemployment when asked by a friend if he needed a job. The job was fabricating stone and quartz surfaces. After about five years on the job, Jason – a self-starter who exudes confidence – started his own business, which eventually led to home remodeling and ceramic tile work.
Like many tile installers in our trade, Jason was not trained or educated to follow industry best practices or standards. Refreshingly honest about his experiences, Jason admits to accepting and doing tile work he was not qualified to do. It wasn’t until he needed help with product recommendations on a particularly questionable substrate that he started to see the importance of the tile industry standards. One of the first people to support him was William White of Ardex, and they have formed a friendship over the years.
Jason also started to seek knowledge on social media, and joined many of these online groups. Frustrated with certain behaviors in these platforms, he decided to form the Global Tile Posse (GTP). Today, the group has over 13,000 members, and Jason is proud of the friendships that have emerged, as well as the mentoring that’s developed between those seeking advice and support and the more experienced members of the group.
One of the main things you preach in your Global Tile Posse Group is positivity. Tell us why this is so important to you.
I just saw some things on other groups that didn’t sit well with me. The way people would get treated if they posted something that wasn’t being done right. I was no better or different than any of these guys. I did things wrong. I had failures. I felt that by controlling the content on the Global Tile Posse forum I could help create a space where people felt comfortable communicating their questions and comments without the fear of being embarrassed. I think we have been able to do that successfully.
One of the things you promote passionately is the importance of certification through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. Why is this so important to you?
Like a lot of people out there, I had no idea the CTI (Certified Tile Installer) test even existed. At the Total Solutions Plus conference in Palm Springs, I heard about the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and the CTI test from a good friend of mine, Dirk Sullivan of Hawthorne Tile (an NTCA Five-Star Contractor). He sat me down and said that if I was going to lead a social media platform and talk about doing things the right way I needed to become a CTI. I was actually a little scared to take the test at first. And then, right before it was scheduled, I cut my hand and got 19 stitches, but still decided to go ahead and do it. I am a competitive person and one thing I know is that I am a good tile setter. I saw some people take the test and I said I am going to smash this thing. And I passed.
Let me say something about the CTI because there are a lot of opinions on whether you need this certification as a tile installer. It is a personal decision to take the test or not. But our industry needs something for consumers to feel confident in relating to minimum qualifications that should be expected if they bring you into their home to do your tile work. Certification in the CTI does not mean you are a master craftsperson, and it doesn’t make you any better than someone who hasn’t taken the test. It is a minimum standard and not an elite qualification. The truth is that you shouldn’t be in someone’s house setting tile if you can’t pass this test.
Speaking of being in someone’s house, a recent situation took place that went viral on social media where a tile contractor was caught damaging their customer’s bathroom because they felt they weren’t being paid for their work. The video was featured on the news, was posted all over YouTube, and was being shared on the forums. You are now involved in this. Tell us what happened and why you felt compelled to jump in even though the incident was not in your area.
When I saw what happened, I just had to try to do something about it. The homeowner, Amber Trucke of Colorado Springs, was being slandered on many social media sites for being one of those people who was not willing to pay for the work being done in her home. When I dug into the situation, it was clear to me this was not the case. Amber is a good person and did not deserve what happened to her, and she certainly didn’t deserve to be criticized and treated the way she was being depicted on social media.
I volunteered to get involved and travel to Colorado Springs to make the whole thing right. I had immediate support and interest from many companies who would help me by covering my expenses and donating materials (Ed note: Companies include, at this writing: The Tile Shop, Ardex, FloorHeat, Rubi, iQ Power Tools, PRS Flooring, Helix, Rapid Recess, Quick Drain and Angie Halford Ré, who is making a mosaic of Columbine, the Colorado State Flower, which will be scribed into the back of the niche. NTCA is also paying for Jason’s labor costs while he is on site in Colorado Springs, and GoBoard will cover the fees for the local members of the tile setting team to take the CTI exam later this year).
Amber also wanted to use local installers in Colorado Springs so I will have help as well. GTP members Jeremy Johnson (Colorado Home Revival) and Matt Coppo (Set in Stone Tiling) are working with me on this. We are going to document the whole process and show how to reconstruct the shower and do it correctly.
The goal is not to embarrass the contractor who did this work. The fact is, though, that the work was not done right and the installer should not have been in Amber’s home in the first place doing this type of tile installation.
We are going to pull out all the stops to do this thing right. We will install a curbless shower and linear drain. We are going to use a floor heat system in the bathroom and of course will properly waterproof all areas. We will document all of this and we will even expose ourselves to some new products and methods during this process. We will share this information on social media and with TileLetter and we can turn this negative situation into an educational and learning experience for our industry. And Amber can get the bathroom she deserved in the first place.
Bart Bettiga is the Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association and Publisher of TileLetter. Bettiga is a member of the Board of Governors of Coverings, one the largest tradeshows in North America. He has over 30 years of experience in the tile and stone industry and has served as the NTCA Executive Director since 2002. He is a well known speaker and author on ceramic tile and natural stone distribution and installation. He oversees the financial operations of the NTCA, TileLetter and the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation.