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        CTDA offers one industry opportunity after another!
        September 2nd, 2008

        September- October 2008
        Call me Chairman

        To say that the Chinese hosts of our CTDA trade mission this summer were gracious and attentive would be a huge understatement. If you saw the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics you know what kind of a show the Chinese can put on. The pageantry of the CTDA Trade Mission to China was on a different scale but no less grand. I lost track of how many times, as president of CTDA, I was called on to give a speech, sometimes with five minutes warning. What I did begin to enjoy was the way they introduced me as “Chairman, Rob Henry.”

        In September 2007 I had the privilege of representing CTDA at the first US China Trade Mission. As CTDA president this year, I certainly had fun officiating at June’s CTDA China trip, the “Second US China Trade Mission.” I’m now tempted to declare myself “Chairman for Life of the US China Trade Mission.”

        Seriously, the Chinese organizers of these events seem very excited about having more of these gatherings. With the completion of the huge, new China Ceramic Industry Headquarters, conferences of American tile distributors in China can move to a whole new level. I truly believe that we have been a part of a historic event in the ceramic tile industry.

        2008 Management Conference

        No sooner do we finish with one industry effort, like CTDA’s trade mission to China, than we throw ourselves into another—the 2008 CTDA Management Conference, November 5-8 at the Wyndham Rio Mar Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. I sincerely hope you are making plans to join us for this important industry event.

        Those of you who have attended Management Conferences in the past know there is no comparable opportunity for networking and industry education. The 2008 educational program has been especially designed to help you meet your business and professional needs in today’s marketplace.

        Although the educational program alone warrants your attendance, I also encourage you to consider the personal and business advantages you gain from the informal networking opportunities presented by the Management Conference. Although I am never disappointed by CTDA educational programs, I find I always learn just as much by meeting informally with industry peers.

        See you in November!

        Rob Henry

        CTDA President

        How I spent my summer vacation…
        September 2nd, 2008

        By Janet Arden, Editor

        September-October 2008

        I went to China with CTDA! As I write this, many of us are poised in front of TV sets, enjoying the Beijing Olympics. And, like many other members of the CTDA trade mission to China, I am taking additional pleasure in re-viewing the many sights and sounds of China that we enjoyed during our time there. Taking part in the recent trade mission was certainly an education in Chinese culture, history and business. It was also an education in the important role CTDA plays in the lives of its distributor members and in the ceramic tile industry. Let me explain.

        We talk a lot about the value of industry networking. CTDA members are “plugged in” to a cross-country network of peers who face the same business challenges on a daily basis. They ask questions, suggest strategies and share experience in a way that helps grow everyone’s company as well as the industry. This is, of course, nothing new. I’ve heard snatches of these exchanges at association events and industry trade shows. In June, however, I heard the same networking conversations as we walked through the Forbidden City in Beijing, shared a banquet in Yunfu, and toured the Temple of Heaven (to name a few).

        This is not meant to imply that the trip was all business or that the participants were not awed by all we saw, but it does point to the camaraderie of like-minded people (in this case, tile distributors). We just can’t seem to escape the common denominator. The participants included new CTDA members and others who have been active in the organization for literally dozens of years. My point is simply this: industry networking—which is impossible to hang a tangible dollar value on—travels with CTDA members wherever they go. If you are not part of CTDA, or if you are a member who is less than active, you are missing a wealth of expertise by not taking part in CTDA events.

        And that industry experience is especially invaluable in today’s economy.

        Making the most of a bad economy

        What are you doing about the sagging economy? Forget hand-wringing, which doesn’t do much except dampen our spirits further. Instead, think about how you can leverage this time.

        Start with sales. There has never been a better time to leverage the advantage of CTDA’s Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program. CCTS encourages companies to gain prestige, professional recognition, expanded knowledge and increased customer satisfaction through documented sales competence. The self-study program is easily incorporated without the addition of training or other human resource personnel. See page 15 or the CTDA website (www.ctdahome.org) for details.

        Take advantage of industry education. CTDA’s online education and newly launched webinar series offer opportunities to learn and take your company to the next level without leaving home:

        The Basics of Ceramic Tile teaches your employees the History, Types and Uses of Ceramic Tile, the Manufacturing Process, Installation and Maintenance, How to Select the Right Ceramic Tile, and How to Avoid Problems and False Expectations. All students need is a computer and access to the Internet.

        CTDA webinars offer low-cost training and information on topics as varied as profitability, greenbuilding and sales. Webinars are led by industry leaders with expertise in the topic.

        These are challenging times. Some distributors—who have been in business much longer than the rest of us—have weathered similar economies and understand the drill. For others this is new territory. But the opportunity to leverage the tangible and intangible benefits of CTDA membership is good news for everyone.

        Janet Arden

        Commercial Tile Installation: Looking at a stylish and stable marketplace
        September 2nd, 2008

        September-October 2008

        By William & Patti Feldman

        Because of the many advantages tile has over non-tile alternatives and because manufacturers respond with new products to meet customer interest and evolving trends, commercial tile installations, which represent one-third of the overall tile marketplace, are alive and well in the United States.

        Indeed, the commercial market is sizeable, responsible for about 2.66 billion dollars worth of wholesale product (based on wholesale costs of $2 a square foot). While that cannot compensate for the slump in the residential market, (accounting for about 5.34 billion dollars annually wholesale) which has collapsed by about 20% during the current housing slump, the continued health of the commercial market has lessened that blow for dealers who sell in both markets.

        In fact, says Paul Young, general manager, Mediterranea, a manufacturer of through-body porcelain and glazed porcelain tiles for the North American market, “Certain areas within the commercial market—restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets—are, in fact, flourishing.”

        Though the commercial market for tile goes through cycles like any other marketplace, the peaks and valleys are much less extreme than those in the residential sector, suggests Jorge Torres, marketing and sales manager, Laufen International Inc., American operation for the Roca Tile Group. “It doesn’t boom as much in good times and doesn’t wane as much when the market retrenches.”

        (However, Torres notes, because of the current economy, just about every commercial job is bid very competitively these days.)

        The trends in today’s commercial tiles reflect growing end-user interest in finishes that replicate the look of natural materials such as wood and stone without the maintenance of those materials, as well as an interest in products that are “green” regardless of color or finish.

        In step with demand, manufacturers are providing products that meet end-user expectations in a wide range of desirable textures and colors, as well as in a broad range of sizes and shapes.

        Tile is a “green” product because it is primarily made from natural materials—clay and other minerals—a very good selling point these days given the continually growing percentage of environmentally aware customers. Furthermore, tile does not give off any VOCs, which are considered health risks.

        Tile is an easy sell to specifiers and contractors looking for durability and low maintenance. According to a document published by The Tile Council of North America, Inc. comparing long term cost and durability of numerous flooring surfaces including natural hardwood, travertine, marble, laminate, mad-made hardwood, terrazzo, stained concrete, carpet, sheet vinyl, poured epoxy, and VCT, against quarry, glazed ceramic, mosaic, and glazed and unglazed porcelain, tile is the best option. With an expected life of 50 years, tile will last the longest, dramatically longer than carpet (six years) and vinyl (ten years), about twice as long as laminate, man-made hardwood, and stained concrete.

        Maintenance does not require heavy-duty cleaners or aggressive sealing products, says Joy Klein, Director of National Accounts for Trans Ceramica, the state side operation of Italian manufacturer GranitiFiandre that is primarily focused on commercial tile.

        Tile that replicates the look of other natural materials, such as wood or stone but has the benefit of longevity and less maintenance are increasingly popular, several manufacturers note.

        Tile looks abound, enabling specifiers to select a precise finish look. For example, a through-body, porcelain, wood-look tile would be suitable for installation in a mall, restaurant or airport, says Young.

        Tiles that look like concrete, or even stained concrete with bold colors and geometric designs, but carry a lower initial cost, lower life-cycle cost and about twice the expected life as the products they resemble, are also popular, providing durability without worry about wear and tear to the surface.

        Also gaining market share are tiles with glass or metal incorporated in the surface. Other new contemporary finishes available in porcelain include suede look and leather look tiles.

        For all types of commercial installations, rectangular tiles are back in vogue, with larger sizes such as 12″ by 24″ particularly popular. Larger format tiles require fewer grout joints, giving an installation the illusion of a bigger space, Klein points out. Mixing different sizes of the same tile continues to be an easy way to distinguish an application.

        In terms of color, neutral shades of beige that rely on accents to add flair continues to capture fair market share. However, many of today’s tiles go far beyond the bland beiges, with manufacturers offering not only the “natural” tiles in organic colors but also more blues, greens, blacks, and warm-hued browns.

        Many designers and architects currently favor the clean lines of sleek, monochromatic or tone-on-tone tiles, points out Klein. She also sees an upswing in tile that features patterns incorporating geometric designs and shapes in the material itself and in mosaics that accent the material or that incorporate glass or other elements to convey a warm or “green” feeling to a space.

        Commercial Installation

        “The qualities that make a good commercial tile depend upon the particulars of the installation—first of all whether the installation is for the wall or the floor and how busy the location or traffic will be,” notes Torres.

        The most durable commercial tiles are through-body porcelain. Because they wear exceptionally well, they are suitable for most commercial floor installations, including airports, malls and other very high traffic areas.

        Glazed tiles, with their top baked-on glass-wear layer, offer virtually unlimited choices in color and design. While they are very popular for walls in the 4 ?” by 4 ?” size (though there is increased use of larger sizes) and are just about stain-proof, they show wear and tear from foot traffic far more easily and, for floor use, are usually reserved for medium-low traffic applications such as hotels and restaurants.

        That said, some manufacturers are offering glazed tiles that are manufactured using improved technology resulting in harder and more durable glazes than in the past, enabling selection of glazed tile for a wider swath of applications.

        From a design standpoint, porcelain tile offers a wide range of selection, sizing and physical characteristics. And, unlike with stone where there are variations in strength and in shading from piece to piece, with porcelain tile there is controlled consistency, with each tile as strong as the next, points out Joy Klein.

        Through-body porcelain tile has very low absorption, even lower than granite, and clean-up from spills is usually very quick and simple. In addition, it has the advantage of being flat.

        Through-body unglazed porcelain tiles that undergo rectification—squaring the material to true square and micro-beveling the edge—enable a tight grout joint while also reducing the potential for chipping on the edges. This is an asset for installations where there will be heavy rolling over the tile. (Straight edges also make grouting an easier task.)

        “If installed properly, through-body porcelain tiles will last indefinitely,” points out Young. “It’s not too often you see a commercial tile installation replaced because of worn tile. Usually, any replacement is in response to the desire for a different look.”

        On commercial tile jobs with glazed or unglazed tile, correct selection of tile from a reliable source, proper floor preparation and use of proper setting materials are key factors in limiting tile failure.

        On commercial projects, tile failure sometimes occurs when there are voids in the setting material, points out Joy Klein. The voids cause cracking when there is pressure on the tile from above. One way to help eliminate voids is to push down the tile sufficiently to avoid any air pockets and to achieve a solid bond with the substrate, Klein suggests. Another option, which is time-consuming, is to back butter the tile.

        “It is important for installers to learn to install tile based on the type of tile used,” points out Trecy Bleich, Marketing Specialist, VitrA, USA, a leading manufacturer of professional and premium wall and floor tiles. “Knowing the technical specifications—the thickness, fragility resistance to certain temperature extremes and water exposure—can help ensure a proper installation.”

        For example, some commercial installations of floor tile require high wear and tear resistance of the surface (measured by the PEI abrasion test and the Mohs rating of mineral hardness, which is a relative scale that addresses resistance to scratching) and, sometimes, high breaking strength of the tile. The PEI wear rating system evaluates tiles on a scale from 1, which is the lowest (suitable for interior walls), to 5, the highest (suitable for interior heavy traffic residential and commercial uses).

        Mohs testing uses a harder mineral (one of ten different readily available minerals) to scratch a softer one. A diamond is the hardest to scratch and cannot be scratched by another mineral. It is rated with a 10 in hardness and is given an absolute hardness of 1500. The softest mineral used in testing is talc, rated 1 in hardness and also 1 in absolute hardness. The higher Mohs ratings correlate with better ability to withstand abuse or heavy wear.

        And for wall installations, proper installation can rely on availability of trim shapes that enable the contractor to finish the job properly with all the parts and pieces needed, notes Torres.

        While the Americans with Disabilities Act does not set a stated coefficient of friction for floor tile, the industry standard in a public area, including any accessible commercial area, is at least 0.60 COF or higher when wet, and 0.80 for ramps.

        Despite these differences in installation requirements, commercial tile projects offer significant opportunities for dealers in today’s marketplace.


        Jorge Torres

        Marketing and sales manager

        Laufen Int’l Inc.

        American Operation for the Roca Tile Group



        Paul Young




        Joy Klein

        Director of National Accounts

        Trans Ceramica

        A GranitiFiandre Company



        Trecy Bleich

        Marketing Specialist

        VitrA Tiles



        September 2nd, 2008

        September-October 2008

        Metropolitan Ceramics announces a new ceramic quarry tile product, ENVIROQUARRY™ with an excess of 60% pre-consumer recycled content. Centrally located in Canton, Ohio, Metropolitan Ceramics is a product line of Ironrock. Color changes in the manufacturing process of the Metropolitan Ceramics product lines creates an unfired scrap waste-product that cannot be added in large quantities to Metropolitan normal production runs. This, in combination with fired scrap and glaze waste from other operations, constitutes a large amount of material that was previously part of the waste by-product of the production process. By special blending material with a lesser amount of virgin raw material, Metropolitan is now able to manufacture a ceramic tile, ENVIROQUARRY™ with a large pre-consumer recycled content, diverting hundreds of tons of material from the waste stream. ENVIROQUARRY™ is ½ inch thick and is available in 6"x6", nominal 4"x8", and nominal 8"x8" sizes and contains in excess of 60% recycled material. The random shade variations produced in Metropolitan’s kilns give ENVIROQUARRY™ a classic traditional look that is very appealing for both residential and commercial installations. Because ENVIROQUARRY™ is hard fired, the tiles are durable enough for the most demanding/heavy traffic installations and are suitable for outdoor use in any climate. ENVIROQUARRY™ produces no off-gassing of VOC’s, can be installed and maintained with inert products, and can be recycled at end of use as road bed material or safely returned to the earth. ENVIROQUARRY™ also has a life cycle of over 50 years.

        USG’s LEVELROCK® brand CSD™ EARLY EXPOSURE™ floor underlayment can be poured up to 60 days before the building’s permanent windows and doors are installed in geographic areas not subject to freezing conditions (only up to 30 days in areas subject to freezing conditions). Specific requirements must be followed in conjunction with early exposure underlayment pours. Designed for use in buildings with light-gauge steel frame construction, this innovative underlayment product can be applied over corrugated steel decks, giving architects an economical means of designing midrise buildings up to 10 stories high. “USG set an industry benchmark by pioneering the first poured floor underlayment for use in buildings with light-gauge steel framing and a corrugated steel deck,” said Dennis Socha, LEVELROCK business development manager. “With its robust formulation, CSD EARLY EXPOSURE underlayment can be poured much earlier in the construction process, speeding and streamlining trade scheduling.” This revolutionary underlayment features compressive strengths from 3,500 to 5,000 psi for incredible durability in the most demanding applications. It also can withstand the rigors of trade traffic throughout the construction cycle, eliminating the need for any floor patching before the finished floor is installed. In addition, its smooth, monolithic surface enhances worker safety and efficiency. LEVELROCK CSD EARLY EXPOSURE underlayment can be applied at a much lower thickness than poured-in-place concrete, reducing dead load and allowing a greater number of floors for increased rentable/sellable square footage. Its self-sealing technology typically eliminates the need to seal the underlayment prior to floor-covering installation. Other key product benefits include: Up to 55 percent lighter than 3 inches of concrete; Typical pour thickness is just 1-9/16 inches with a standard 9/16-inch deck; UL-rated assembly provides one- and two-hour fire ratings for safety and insurability; and Systems available to meet stringent IBC (International Building Code) sound control requirements for IIC (Impact Insulation Class) and STC (Sound Transmission Class). A licensed structural engineer should evaluate building loads and the framing system to determine whether a corrugated steel deck flooring system is appropriate. If so, the product is then applied by a USG-authorized LEVELROCK applicator.

        Mandala™, a new collection of luxury tile from around the world and sister brand to Oceanside Glasstile, recently unveiled Presidio. Presidio is an exquisite collection of handcrafted porcelain mosaics made exclusively for Mandala in Italy. Presidio porcelain mosaics are created using a proprietary process in which pigmented porcelain is extruded resulting in naturalistic mosaics featuring subtle variations in color, texture, and dimension. Presidio’s color palette is soft and naturalistic, with a blended striation of values, giving the look of brush strokes within each color. Presidio offers eight colors and eight blends. Presidio also features “Tribal” decorative accent tiles swirled with metallic glazes in silver or bronze tones. Clients may also design their own custom blends. Further complementing its emphasis on texture, Presidio is available in seven patterns. Virtually maintenance-free, Presidio requires no sealant and is mesh-mounted for ease of installation. “The name Presidio evokes the rich coloring of California’s early Spanish architecture, the mission period in particular. The textures and designs also reflect the rich natural history of the environments in which this new world classical architecture was established,” said Feras Irikat, Design Director. Presidio is available in seven patterns: Mosaic, Brick, Narrow Brick, Straight Set, Basket Weave, Mission (random linear), and Eclectic (a mix of sizes). Colors are Cirrus, Earth, Smoke, Bonsai, Arena, Solare, Sienna, and Mist. Blends, named for California missions, are San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Ynez, Buena Ventura, Carmel, Soledad, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz.

        Sakrete® has added B-1 Trowel Grade Leveler and Underlayment to its wide range of building and repair products. B-1 is a high performance leveler used for interior applications to level and prepare areas for final flooring installations. Sakrete B-1 Trowel Grade Leveler is polymer-modified and cement-based, and designed for a wide variety of surfaces including concrete, cementitious backer board, exterior grade plywood, and embossed vinyl tile. Once applied, B-1 may be covered with asphalt, tile, vinyl flooring, carpet and/or wood flooring. Sakrete B-1 Trowel Grade Leveler is fast setting and has non-shrink and feather edge qualities that make it convenient and versatile for many applications. Its high tensile and compressive strengths also add reliability. Sakrete B-1 Trowel Grade Leveler is available in 25 lb. bags at leading building material retailers.

        Chicago-based Trans Ceramica, a GranitiFiandre company, is introducing a comprehensive collection of mosaic tile products under their eclectic TCL brand of products. Designed to complement existing GranitiFiandre and TCL brand collections, the mosaics offer metal, pebble, glass, stone, and iridescent elements. “It’s been a goal of ours for some time to expand our product offering to include a complementary collection of mosaics,” said Jeanne Nichols, vice president-sales and marketing for GranitiFiandre in the United States. “This beautiful collection coordinates wonderfully with our existing products and provides limitless opportunities to create custom design installation.” Pottery, stone, glass and marble have been used in mosaic art since ancient times and are the inspiration for the TCL collection, which is offered in a variety of materials and in a full spectrum of natural colors, including: Metal—Copper Free Form, Grey Free Form, and Black Freeform; Pebbles—Serenity, Tranquility, and Repose; Glass—Lemongrass, Peppercorn, Lavender, Cinnamon, Chicory, Ginger, Peony, Dahlia, Hibiscus, Yuca, Sagebrush, and Cactus; Glass and Stone—Mandarin Sticks, Mandarin 1’’, Mandarin ½”, Camellia, Fern, Tulip, Red Clover, Black Orchard, and Snapdragon; and Iridescent– Goldenrod, Aster, Meteor, Eclipse, Zodiac, and Comet. Each mosaic is premounted on either a 12"x 12", 13"x 13", or 14"x 12½" format with varying thicknesses, depending upon material selection. They are designed to coordinate with GranitiFiandre’s Nihon, NewMarmi, and NewStone Collections and TCL’s Earth Naturals, Native Stone, and Gallery Collections.

        Eliane introduces ColorSense, a dynamically colored large format wall and floor tile collection. Offered also in an undulating relief for walls, ColorSense is a complete inspired collection with numerous decorative pieces to choose from and coordinating floor tiles. The large format 17" x 34" wall tiles and the strong colors are main attractions of ColorSense, which only add to the collection’s compelling and stylish aura. The collection’s Purple, Graphite, Chocolate and Carmine shades create the perfect combination of deep and saturated colors for sophisticated residential and commercial spaces. Decorate your walls with the 17" x 34" large tiles, complement with arrays of 4", 6" or 9" x 34" vibrant decorative pieces or choose from the variety of mosaic pieces available. The 17" x 17" floor tiles, available in the same color shades as the wall tiles, finish up any elegant room. “Coming along with the latest trends on ceramic tiles, focusing on modern style surfaces and elongated rectangle shapes, we introduce the ColorSense collection, a pioneer in format in the Brazilian market,” said Marcio Muller, general manager of Eliane. “Already a success in Brazil, we believe the international market will also appreciate the large sized 17" x 34" wall tiles as well as the bold contemporary colors that make the ColorSense collection striking to the eyes.”

        NAC Lifetime System Performance Warranty
        National Applied Construction (NAC) Products announces a performance warranty to assure compatibility between approved thinset and medium bed mortars and its ECB Anti-Fracture Membrane for the life of the floor installation. This is the first warranty of its kind in the tile industry. In making the announcement, Tom Duvé, president and CEO of NAC Products, noted the benefit of the industry’s first combined membrane/applied mortar system performance warranty. “This is solid assurance to specifying architects, professional tile installers and building owners that newly installed floors are protected against reflective cracking and delamination between the substrate and floor surface for the life of the installation. Considering the cost of a failed installation, it’s a fantastic insurance policy.” Transferable to new building owners, the system warranty is issued on a project-by-project basis and is supported by all major manufacturers of A118.2 or better latex mortar, in partnership with NAC Products. The system warranty requires that floors must have full ECB membrane coverage for protection against 3/8-in. lateral substrate movement. A list of supporting thin-set and medium bed tile mortar manufacturers is available at the NAC Products’ web site, www.nacproducts.com. ECB Anti-Fracture Membrane is designed for use under floor surfaces that require protection from structural movement and for protection against Moisture Vapor Transmission (MVT) 10#/1000SF/24 HRS. Suitable installations include ceramic, porcelain, stone, marble, slate and granite tile, pavers and brick. Suitable substrates include poured, pre-stressed and pre-cast concrete, concrete backer board, mud beds, gypsum and lightweight concrete. NAC’s ECB Membrane is the original crack isolation membrane and the first to meet all ten ANSI A118.12 standard performance tests for crack isolation membranes: National Applied Construction Products, Inc. pioneered anti-fracture membranes in the United States and invented self-adhering, sheet-applied crack isolation technology.

        Industry Insights
        September 2nd, 2008

        September-October 2008

        MID-AMERICA TILE? Joins New Home of Chicago Tile Institute

        Mid-America Tile? is pleased to announce their move into the new home of the Chicago Tile Institute in Chicago’s renowned Merchandise Mart. This new showroom is part of LuxeHome, the world’s largest collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation, with over 100,000 square feet of merchandise. Since 1961, Mid-America Tile? has been a local industry leader in quality, service and customer satisfaction, specializing in floor and wall products of all sizes, textures, colors and designs selected specially to give even the most discriminating homeowner the unique, luxurious results they desire at prices to fit any budget. Besides residential applications, you will also find Mid-America Tile’s products in corporate, retail, institutional, health care and hospitality venues. Between the world-class quality products and the commitment to excellence in service, architects, designers, contractors and builders recommend Mid-America Tile? with confidence. The Chicago Tile Institute is open 6 days a week to the public as well as interior designers, architects and custom builders.



        Tile of Spain branded manufacturer TAU Ceràmica opened their second corporate showroom and retail space in Park Long Court located in Chantilly, VA. This is a prime spot in the Dulles Corridor, close to the international airport and major roadways leading into Washington, D.C. Strengthening TAU’s commitment to the U.S. market, this second retail outlet is in line with its business strategy focusing on a close, direct and professional relationship with consumers, offering them the full range of products from one of the largest selections available in the market today. The new space is over 2,000 square feet and offers a completely new concept. The display area (or showroom portion) is over 1,200 square feet most of which is used to showcase product and the other part of the area is designed as a working space for industry professionals that houses information and technical solutions (both written and audiovisual) specifically tailored to their needs and to assist them with the projects they are working on. The idea is to make the products shine as true stars of the show, highlighting the technical and aesthetic properties of these tiles.



        Noble Company spends a great deal of time and resources to identify and recruit the best sales representatives available. Each year the company recognizes the best performing agencies with Outstanding Performance Awards. The award is based on sales growth, professionalism and implementation of sales and marketing plans. Two agencies were recently recognized during a sales training meeting at Noble Company’s Michigan Headquarters. Keenon & Associates received the award for the Western Region. Bryan Keenon and Dan McNeill accepted the award from Dean Moilanen, Noble’s Western Regional Sales Manager. Construction Specialties Group received the award for the Eastern Region. Robert Mentzinger accepted the award from Eric Edelmayer, Noble’s Eastern Regional Sales Manager.



        LATICRETE has announced that its Senior Architectural Specialist for the South Central, USA, territory, Kirby Davis, CSI, CCTS, CDT, has been certified by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). Professional LEED accreditation distinguishes Davis as having a thorough understanding of the LEED rating system including credit requirements, submittals and strategies. LEED AP’s are highly knowledgeable about the green built environment and are familiar with LEED resources and processes. LATICRETE is an environmentally responsible manufacturer and the first setting materials firm to obtain independent, third party verification for a complete product line by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute. With Davis’s certification, LATICRETE has a valuable resource both internally and externally for the rapidly developing green building industry. Davis works in the South Central US with architects, specifiers and designers to help craft specifications for large-scale commercial projects around the globe. She is a member of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) Green Building Committee, and actively involved with several programs and chapters of the USGBC. In other news,LATICRETE, has appointed industry veteran Robert Smith to the position of Regional Sales Manager, North Carolina. Smith will oversee the LATICRETE sales efforts in the entire state of North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, working to build and maintain distribution partnerships and increase LATICRETE sales in his territory. Smith is a third generation tile contractor and has over 10 years of combined experience in tile distribution and sales.



        Tile Redi, manufacturer and marketer of pre-formed, one-piece shower pans, has appointed Matthew Murphy to regional sales manager for the United States coastal market, where he will work to build partnerships and distribution channels for Tile Redi’s unique line of shower pans for water intrusion solutions. Murphy, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from the University of North Alabama, has invested more than 15 years in the national sales industrial market. In his new position, Murphy will be responsible for regional sales and marketing initiatives to increase the awareness of the company’s easy-to-install shower pans that allow ceramic or stone tiles to be adhered directly to the surface.


        Q.E.P. NAMES COX VP of SALES

        Q.E.P. CO., INC. announced that Vernon Cox has joined the company as Vice President of Sales, Commerical Division. Cox comes to QEP from Laticrete International where he spent the past six years and held the position of North American Sales Manager for the last two years. Prior experience also includes three years as a Territory Manager with H.B. Fuller. Commenting on Cox’s arrival, Jamie Clingan, Q.E.P.’s Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing stated: “Vernon’s familiarity with our industry, knowledge of the products and services needed, and his professional approach to the marketplace make him the ideal candidate for this position.” Cox has spent the past 10 years in the flooring industry with a concentration on ceramic tile and stone distributors and contractors. His in-depth knowledge of project specifications and distribution will be paramount as we look to grow our Commercial Division. Cox has been an active member of many trade organizations such as CSI, NTCA and the CTDA where he recently held a position on the Board of Directors.



        The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) presented the Fifth Annual TileLetter Awards on Thursday, May 1st during a Coverings 2008 special ceremony at the Orange County Convention Center. The NTCA presented national contracting professionals with three Commercial Awards and four Residential Awards, and also presented the Yarborough family with the prestigious Joe Tarver Cornerstone Award. Recipients included Commercial winner—Paragon Prairie Tower, Urbandale, IA; Contractor—Des Moines Marble & Mantel Co., Des Moines, IA; and Residential Grand Prize Winners—Jalnos Residence, San Antonio, Texas; Contractor—Cox Tile, San Antonio, Texas; and Pratt Residences Master Bathroom, McLean, Va.; Contractor—Holland Tile Premier Installers, Rockville, MD. NTCA also awarded the Joe A. Tarver Cornerstone Award for Service to the Industry to the Yarborough family—a driving force in the tile industry with D&B Tile Distributors. The company, headquartered in Sawgrass, Florida, purchases more than 2,000 containers of tile each year and maintains more than $5 million in inventory in the Sunrise, Florida, operation. “We are proud of our role in helping establish tile as the most durable, cost-effective and attractive floor covering for the Florida lifestyle,” said Harold Yarborough. “We will continually strive to maintain our market share and assist our customers with new products and services in this exciting industry.”



        Florida Tile, Inc. announced the appointment of two new distributors for the US market, Viking Distributors and Kaiser Tile. Viking Distributors is based in Baton Rouge, LA with locations in Lafayette, LA, and Jackson, MS. Viking Distributors will be responsible for sales of Florida Tile’s porcelain, ceramic and stone products into Mississippi and Louisiana. Kaiser Tile has also been appointed a Florida Tile distributor based in Tempe, AZ. Kaiser will be responsible for sales of Florida Tile’s porcelain, ceramic and stone products into the Arizona market.


        One-on-One…with Kermit Baker
        September 2nd, 2008

        “Once we come out of this recession, we see a lot of growth of households in the coming decade.”

        September-October 2008

        By Jeffrey Steele

        When Kermit Baker speaks, tile dealers, distributors, contractors and installers would do well to listen. As director of the Remodeling Futures Program for Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies in Cambridge, Mass., Baker aggressively pursues his mandate to track the leading indicators for remodeling activity.

        In the process, he and his staff gain valuable insight into the direction in which the remodeling industry is headed, and share that insight with industry leaders, the press and the public at large on a quarterly basis. Baker graciously agreed to a recent interview with TileDealer about the work of the Remodeling Futures Program.

        In this wide-ranging and candid One-on-One exchange, he discusses how the remodeling index evolved and what information is utilized in its formulation, what the most recent numbers say about the coming months, and what other demographic and design trends mean for the future of the remodeling industry.

        TileDealer: Please give us a little of the history, both the Joint Center’s and your own.

        Baker: I came back here in 1995 to run this remodeling program. I had been affiliated with the Joint Center back in the early 1980s while working on my doctorate. The Joint Center dates back to the late 1950s, when it was established through a large grant from the Ford Foundation just as urban issues were coming to the forefront.

        It’s a policy center that began by looking at urban issues and subsequently narrowed its focus from urban issues to housing issues in the 1970s. We look at regional trends, housing finance, industry structure and composition issues, and mortgage markets and the home improvement market as well.

        TileDealer: What factors go into the remodeling index?

        Baker: When we started our remodeling program back in the mid 1990s, one of the big issues the industry faced was getting a good reading on the size and composition and trends of remodeling activity. The government collects some data, which was often late and not terribly accurate. We asked companies participating in the program—building product manufacturers, contractors—to provide their own data, believing if we had a sense where their companies were going, we’d have a sense of where the industry was going.

        After a year, we started looking around at government data sources released on a more reliable and timely basis, and used that to get a sense of where the industry was headed. Our first remodeling indicator was released in 1998.

        A couple of years ago, private companies in the industry involved in the Remodeling Futures Program asked for a sense of where the industry was headed. We went back and did more analysis, and expanded our indicator into a leading indicator, looking at events that typically precede remodeling in the business cycle.

        These are things like sales of existing homes, mortgage interest rates for those who finance their remodeling projects, housing starts and remodeling contractor expectations of future trends and conditions. Those are the kinds of things we use when we develop our leading indicator.

        TileDealer: When was it first released?

        Baker: We came out with our first indicator of current market conditions in 1998 and switched to our leading indicator in 2005.

        TileDealer: What can readers of TileDealer learn from the index in making their own corporate plans?

        Baker: The purpose of our leading indicator is to give a sense of future directions in the industry, and what kind of growth we are likely to see over the next two to three quarters—as well as a sense of when we will see turning points in the industry.

        Our leading indicator is pointing to slower growth through the first quarter of 2009, and we’re going to monitor those trends pretty closely to see where we will see some kind of a turning point in industry activity.

        TileDealer: How accurate have the numbers been on an historical basis?

        Baker: They’ve been quite accurate. We have a correlation between our leading indicator and remodeling spending of .7 to .75. If it went as high as 1.0 that would mean you would have a perfect relationship between the two.

        But one of our goals is to provide a steady measure of trends in the industry. We tried to develop a leading indicator that smoothes out the bumps you get in government data, and shows the true underlying trends of industry activity.

        TileDealer: Is there a way tile dealers and distributors can leverage the index to grow business?

        Baker: By getting a sense of where trends are headed, they can, for example, scale back inventories and other expenses when the market is headed down, and scale up spending when indicators point to coming growth.

        TileDealer: Are there any other numbers that are important to follow as well, numbers that may or may not be part of the Leading Indicator for Remodeling Activity (LIRA?)

        Baker: I would say any industry indicator we’ve identified related to remodeling we have used in computing our leading indicators. So I can’t really think of any others I would encourage folks to consider.

        TileDealer: How does LIRA relate to other economic figures?

        Baker: It’s akin to other leading indicators. The purpose of a leading indicator is to identify those economic activities that precede the activity you’re focused upon. For example, the government puts out something called the index of leading indicators, a compilation of interest rates, housing permits, and the money supply in our economy. And it’s intended to provide a sense of future direction for our broader economy. Our indicator identifies those activities that tend to precede remodeling activity, and we integrate those into a composite measure of where the industry is headed.

        TileDealer: Can you break out the most recent LIRA—July 17—for readers?

        Baker: It’s pretty self-evident. It shows the market is weakening and is projected to continue weakening for the next three quarters. There are no signs of the industry turning around during those three quarters.

        TileDealer: How can readers continue to follow these numbers going forward?

        Baker: Again, visit our home page. Every press release will indicate the date of the upcoming release so readers can anticipate it. It will be available on our website on a quarterly basis. [Editor’s Note: Go to www.jchs.harvard.edu and follow the link to the leading indicator.]

        TileDealer: The Joint Center looks at a lot of trends beyond remodeling. What design and demographic trends do you see that will impact the tile industry? How can our readers leverage these trends?

        Baker: Demographic trends are something we follow at the Joint Center. Once we come out of this recession, we see a lot of growth of households in the coming decade, based on demographic projections we develop internally that examine population trends and how they lead to household formation. About two-thirds of the increase in households over the next decade will be minority and immigrant households, so the composition of households coming into the market will look a lot different than it has in recent decades.

        As far as design goes, I do some work with the American Institute of Architects, which produces a quarterly survey of emerging home design trends. One big trend is greater accessibility in the home. But there are others that are going on. Homes appear to be getting smaller for the first time since World War II. Homes got overly formulaic, with rigid floor plans governing how homes were designed. People found once they began living in those homes, that they weren’t using a lot of the space. Now households are looking for space customized to their own lifestyles, and in doing so finding that they just don’t need the gross square footage they once had.

        There’s a lot of interest in outdoor living, in decks and patios and the outdoor room. The concept of the outdoor room started with cooking facilities and has now moved to outdoor living rooms. Virtually anything you see inside the house you’re now seeing outside the house.

        There’s also an emerging trend toward more informal space and more flexible space. This is sort of a reaction to the formal dining room and formal living room, which were very contained spaces. Now households are looking for more flexibility in how they use their homes.

        TileDealer: What’s ahead for the Joint Center for Housing Studies?

        Baker: We’re just launching a big round of research on remodeling. We’re trying to work with industry and government agencies to increase the amount of information we have to track the evolution of this industry.


        Kermit Baker is Director of the Futures Remodeling Program

        Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Kermit_baker@harvard.edu

        Tile Tour 2008: China
        September 2nd, 2008

        September-October 2008

        Options from Eleganza Tiles include Travertine, for a traditional stone look floor tile with the benefits of porcelain ceramic. Manhattan offers an edgier, urban look in a variety of coordinated designs. Available as a porcelain wall tile. Both are available in a variety of sizes with appropriate trim pieces. Eleganza tiles are manufactured in China, with sales and service based in Fullerton, California. The company also has a distribution center in Texas.

        Glazed porcelain tiles from Gemart offer one of the most uniquely new looks in the industry. Serene Nobility, shown here, and others offer dramatic color and pattern variations within a consistently elegant framework suitable for commercial and residential installations.

        US/China Ceramic Summit
        September 2nd, 2008

        September-October 2008

        Sorting out the differences in two diverse business models

        How much can you learn abut the Chinese ceramic and stone business in five days? A lot, say the participants in CTDA’s recent trade mission to China. In a schedule worthy of any business Olympics, forty-plus participants traveled via plane and bus from Beijing to Yunfu where they spent two days visiting stone factories and showrooms, before moving on to tour New China Ceramics in Gao Yao and then to Foshan for the 2nd U.S. China Ceramic Tile Summit.

        In addition to being royally welcomed at each stop, the trade mission participants got the close look they had hoped for at both products and manufacturing processes. When they sat down with their Chinese counterparts at the summit on June 26th in Foshan, China, the conversation was polite, lively, and also frank. U.S. distributors, who already import substantially from Europe, South America, and Mexico, are used to a business model far different from that in China. The opportunity for both sides to discuss these differences is key to building a better business relationship.

        Indeed, Mr. Li, China City Ceramics, began by saying that he believes the ceramics gap between China and the west is diminishing. China exports 80% of its products to Europe, but, he says, after three trips to the US, he still cannot “crack that market.”

        What’s different about the US marketplace? CTDA distributors ticked off a list of concerns, some large and some small, but all of them contributing to the caution American distributors are employing in doing business with Chinese manufacturers.

        Tom Carr, Pan American Ceramics, explained that US Distributors are able to import small quantities from Italian manufacturers, giving the distributors the opportunity to test their marketplace here for a new design. Chinese manufacturers want to ship much larger quantities, more than US distributors can realistically accept.

        Carr went on to point out that expectations regarding payment terms are also significantly different. European manufacturers require no deposit or cash up front, yet Chinese manufacturers want products paid in full before shipping.

        US distributors pointed out that yet another difference in the business models is the custom of exclusive geographic distribution. Distributors in this country often look to become partners with the manufacturers supplying them, developing a long-term relationship, and enjoying some product line exclusivity in their geographic area. “Who else do you sell to?” is a question they want to ask, because US distributors don’t want their nearby competitors to sell the same products.

        Harold Yarborough, D&B Tile, said he qualifies all suppliers the same way: do you have product for my marketplace? The ability to effectively communicate is important, Yarborough said, in order to build a long-term relationship. He agreed that quantity is a concern. He cannot absorb the quantity that Chinese manufacturers would like to ship.

        More than one distributor pointed out the importance of having testing data available for the tiles they sell. Not only is this a requirement for commercial installations, but its availability on competing products is an advantage to those materials.

        Some differences are more practical than philosophical, but just as important for a distributor running a business. Packaging is important. First, tiles need to be stacked vertically rather than horizontally for safe shipping. The packages themselves need to be consistent in size and appearance from one shipment to another, or the product won’t be identified as new stock for an existing line.

        US distributors are accustomed to marketing tools—in English—including technical data and photos their customers can relate to. Other overseas manufacturers regularly provide this.

        Chinese manufacturers seemed to relish the frankness with which the US distributors spoke. They responded that value in China is achieved by the economies of scale and warned that they may not be able to meet every request. However, they emphasize that the dialogue initiated by the summit is very important to future growth.

        Among distributors there is also a wide range of opinions and requirements for doing business with China. Some have established relationships with Chinese manufacturers and are working closely with them to meet product line needs. Other distributors are relying on an agent in China to help them overcome some of these obstacles. Both scenarios, however, require time and money to facilitate.

        CTDA’s Executive Director, Rick Church, added a few closing comments about the growing importance in the US marketplace of greenbuilding, a topic that the summit participants did not get to discuss. Sustainable products may offer the Chinese manufacturers an opportunity to enter the US market.

        Five hours after it began, summit participants realized they had more to discuss but had run out of time. In the end they agreed this was an excellent beginning to a conversation that will continue for some time as participants on both sides of the Pacific learn more about each other’s businesses and products and develop the trust necessary for a successful, prosperous working relationship.

        TPFH Announces: Annual Fundraising Campaign
        September 2nd, 2008

        September-October 2008

        Tile Partners for Humanity, the partnership between Habitat for Humanity International and the ceramic tile industry, will begin its first annual fundraising campaign on August 1st . In its first five years, the organization coordinated donations of tile, installation materials, labor and installation training totaling more than $7 million. The donations benefited Habitat affiliates and other nonprofit partners in more than 20 states. TPFH Industry Director Bob Daniels will chair the campaign to raise $125,000. “I truly believe in TPFH and want to do whatever I can to raise money for the organization,” Daniels said. “Our industry is generous with materials and labor, but we can’t survive without financial support. More partners than ever are requesting materials and we can only help them if we have operational funding.” Daniels also said that TPFH has directed a minimum of 85% of all donations to projects since its formation. In 2006 and 2007, 94% went to projects and TPFH used only 6% for operational expenses. TPFH pledged a total of $1,250,000 worth of materials and labor to Habitat affiliates and projects over a five-year period. TPFH partners donated enough to surpass that goal – and TPFH signed another five-year pledge in the same amount beginning in early 2008. The organization is guided by representatives of the seven leading industry organizations: Rick Church of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, Scott Carothers of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, Gray LaFortune of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America, Bart Bettiga of the National Tile Contractors Association, Eric Astrachan of the Tile Council of North America, Curt Rapp of TheTileDoctor.com, and Sheila Menzies of Tile Heritage Foundation. bdaniels@tpfh.com

        Getting Ahead with Certification
        September 2nd, 2008

        September-October 2008

        CCTS demonstrates to customers and competitors that you and your employees have the most current ceramic tile industry expertise available

        CTDA’s Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program demonstrates the knowledge those tile professionals have of the ceramic tile industry, of estimating, installation, and related issues. For certified individuals, it delivers professional recognition for their knowledge and technical competence. For employers, certification distinguishes sales professionals in one company from those in another. It promotes your company’s industry expertise, and demonstrates your ability to answer questions, solve problems, and identify the right tile to meet the customer’s needs.

        In today’s competitive marketplace, knowledge is power, and certification demonstrates your knowledge.

        CTDA has made it easy to put CCTS to work in your company. Because it’s designed as a self-study program, you can incorporate CCTS without the additional expense of training or other human resource personnel. Applicants must be currently employed full time and have been for at least the past two years in the ceramic tile industry. Applicants for certification are sent a CD-ROM Study Guide and sample tests. The Study Guide prepares applicants for the certification exam by leading them, step-by-step, through tasks, outcomes and review questions on a representative sample of the technical information addressed by the certification exam itself. Applicants may work through the Study Guide individually, at their own pace, or in a group setting with a study leader. In each case, review questions at the end of each outcome help the applicants chart their progress.

        Three pretests help applicants determine when they are ready to take the final test. Applicants take one pretest before they begin the program to measure their strengths and weaknesses. Applicants take a second pretest after completing the guide to see what they have learned from their study. The third pretest serves as a means of review before taking the final certification test.

        Applicants register for the final test in advance, after they have completed the CCTS Study Guide. Testing is offered regularly at major industry events, including Surfaces, Coverings, and the CTDA Management Conference. In-house testing is also available at your location.

        Certification offers the in-house benefits of an outstanding industry-specific training path to meet human resource needs for company advancement and professional promotion. The CCTS program can help your company meet or even establish corporate training requirements without the additional cost of developing a program. Successful certification can be an appropriate incentive for promotion within your corporate ranks and/or a salary increase.

        CTDA’s CCTS is affordable, accessible, and increasingly the distinction among ceramic tile professionals. To learn more about CCTS, go to www.ctdahome.org, or call (630) 545-9415


        November 4
        Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) test at the CTDA Management Conference
        Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa
        Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

        February 2
        Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) test at SURFACES 2009
        Sands Expo & Convention Center
        Las Vegas, Nevada

        April 20
        Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) test at Coverings 2009
        McCormick Place Convention Center
        Chicago, Illinois

        Contact the CTDA office, (630) 545-9415 for registration information.

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