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Ceramic: Coverings to put the spotlight on latest trends, education

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Lindsay Baillie


Coverings, touted as the largest tile and stone exhibition in North America, returns to Orlando with new features and a robust education program. Slated for April 4-7 at the Orange County Convention Center, the show promises to deliver something for everyone.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.21.32 AMSome of the main points of interest for attendees include the show’s three pavilions—Spain, Italy and North America—a roster of impressive educational conference sessions, the new Installation Design Showcase and, of course, a bevy of new products on the show floor.

There will be plenty to keep Coverings’ attendees busy, according to industry ambassador Alena Capra. “There are an estimated 1,100 total exhibitors this year, representing over 40 countries across 400,000 square feet of exhibition space.”

Educational opportunities
In keeping with tradition, Coverings 2017 will host an abundance of conference sessions available to professionals serving the stone and tile industry. Over 65 conference sessions will be available during the show, with many offering CEUs.

“We have a robust conference program with sessions for all segments of our audience, including distributors, retailers, architects and designers, builders and remodelers, fabricators, contractors and installers,” said Jennifer Hoffman, president, Taffy Event Strategies. “We have sessions in Spanish for 2017 as well.”

New to the educational program are seminars regarding advanced contractor topics, a business topics track, contractor beginner-intermediate topics and the thin tile mini-track. These classes are open to all attendees.

New thrills
Coverings 2017 is offering three new features to complement its educational programming. “Elements new to Coverings 2017 include guided audio tours, a NASCAR racing experience and a reinvigorated social media lounge that will enhance the show by allowing attendees opportunities to further interact, explore and engage,” Capra said.

This year, Coverings is hosting four guided audio tours: Coverings 101 Overview Tour in English and Spanish, a Trends Tour, and an Installation Materials and Systems tour. These pre-recorded tours will be available via the official Coverings mobile app and provide insight into booths and pavilions.

The NASCAR racing experience provides attendees with the opportunity to find out what it is like to be a professional racecar driver. Drivers with the fastest simulator times each day will win two tickets to the NASCAR events of their choice. NTCA, Schlüter Systems and Laticrete are sponsoring the event.

Coverings Connect, the show’s refreshed social media lounge, allows attendees to relax, charge personal electronic devices or network. Coverings Connect will present a series of educational seminars called “Byte” sessions that have a digital focus. Some of the sessions include “LinkedIn Basics,” “Picture This: Instagram as a Customer Connection Tool” and “6 Cs to Social Media Success.” Additionally, a bar will be located in Coverings Connect from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., offering a happy hour for attendees to enjoy a beverage and make new connections.

Returning features
Many of the elements Coverings attendees have enjoyed from previous years will also be present at this year’s show. The popular Installation Design Showcase returns but with a twist. For 2017, this program will feature three tiny houses on site—a West Michigan house, a Retro Bungalow and the Vitruvian. NTCA Five Star Contractors and leading designers will partner together to showcase the synergy between design and installation. Each tiny house will highlight a different design aesthetic and feature tile and stone in a live installation.

Coverings will also host afternoon happy hours on the show floor from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The bars will be located in the Tile Council of North America and Ceramic Tile Distributor’s Association booth, the Installation Design Showcase booth #458 and Coverings Connect booth #1568.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.23.41 AMAlso returning to the show are the Coverings Appreciation Days, which feature tailored guided tours of the show floor, lunch and focused education sessions, among other attractions. The 2017 Appreciation Day schedule is as follows: Builder & Remodeler Day, April 4; Architect & Designer Day, April 5; Contractor Days, April 5–6; and Fabricator Day, April 7.

The show will also offer both CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) testing, as well as Stone Fabricators Alliance demos. Lastly, the Live Demonstration Stage at booth #3135 and the Coverings Rock Star program will also return this year.

Product showcase
Exhibitors plan to showcase the latest tile and stone trends on the show floor. This includes a wide array of formats. “From a size perspective, we anticipate companies will introduce large slabs reaching up to 126 inches in length in a variety of materials,” said Shelly Halbert, director of product design, Dal-Tile. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, we will see smaller formats in handcrafted looks, including 8 x 8, 12 x 12 and 6 x 12 sizes.”

Donato Pompo, president of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, anticipates seeing a lot of wood plank porcelain tile, gauged porcelain tile/panels (thin tile panels) and ink jet reproductions of various types of stone. He explained that rectangle tiles are still popular as well as large module tiles. He also expects to see various types of decorative wall tiles.

Innovations in porcelain tile will also be on display. Style options run the gamut from marble looks, bright colors with unique textures, wood and metallic looks. “Porcelain tile panels are a significant development for the tile industry because of their size—measured in feet, not inches—and range of potential applications,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “These panels can be used in applications where traditional tile wouldn’t be an option. They can also be installed directly over previous tile or stone, eliminating the cost and labor involved in [demonstration] spaces, all while achieving big style with all the performance of porcelain.”

Emily Holle, director of trend and design, MSI, expects to see more wood looks and various sizes at the show. “This is an exciting trend that’s morphing and evolving quickly, with new styles constantly emerging and all types of edgy wood looks holding their own against the most traditional styles.”

While Emser is not exhibiting this year, Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing, plans to walk the show. She expects to see products that will build on existing trends. “Some of the looks we’re expecting are a continuation of the longer slabs. We’re going to see a lot when it comes to larger format tiles. We’re also expecting to see a lot more decorative tiles.”

Attendees will also be on the lookout for technological advances in design and performance. As Kristin Coleman, marketing representative for Ceramics of Italy, put it: “The capabilities of tile are expanding every year, moving from a flooring material decades ago to a truly versatile, high performance material that can be used to clad buildings, serve as kitchen and bathroom countertops, outdoor pavers and more.”

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Technology: Emser Tile, Chameleon Power test virtual reality tool

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Nicole Murray


Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.22.53 AMLas Vegas—Emser Tile and Chameleon Power gave Surfaces attendees a “virtual” first look at an innovative tool that allows consumers to browse through products using high-tech goggles and sophisticated software. The program essentially lets users design their household in the virtual world to see what the final product will look like prior to purchase and installation.

How it works: While wearing the goggles, attendees can use handheld remote controls to design the demo kitchen on display via a monitor. With the left hand controller, the user is able to scroll back and forth through the available products; with the right-hand controller, she can select the flooring of her choice. Products can be applied to various surfaces throughout the virtual experience so dealers could potentially finish the sale with products for multiple rooms and designs purchased.

“Once the final version is released, consumers will be able to search by product type, design, color or any other logical progression that can classify a product,” Phil Kenyon, vice president, color solutions, at Chameleon Power, explained. “If you can picture what a customer’s final product will look like for her, she will be able to make a decision faster and be that much more confident moving forward.”

The virtual reality tool, developed by Chameleon Power, also contains settings for the home being designed in the virtual world to contain different degrees of sunlight, lighting, and overall ambiance so the consumer can see the virtual final product exactly how it will look in the real world.

For example, different weather and lighting will change the appearance of the product. “It is our job to make sure nothing is inappropriately represented,” Kenyon stated. “We have an innate understanding of color physiology and how to create an environment with the ambience and mood desired.”

Along with a wide array of products, consumers will also be able to see prices associated with the respective products seen through the viewer. The goggles and associated equipment can be used in stores or even on site at the consumer’s home.

Emser estimates the tool will hit the market this quarter. “The goal is for Emser Tile to be on the cutting edge of technology,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing. “We will be able to take this tool wherever we need to because it is digital. Eventually we will be able to have customers design their future kitchen in their current kitchen.”

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Ceramic: Latest designs reflect demand for larger formats

February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18

By Nicole Murray


Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.13.20 AMWhen it comes to emerging trends in tile, the prevailing theme seems to be the larger the format the better. Suppliers say bigger tiles translate into greater design options for the consumer.

“Larger tiles continue to grow in popularity, especially planks sized at 5 x 10,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing at Emser Tile. “People are looking for fewer grout lines; in some cases, a monolithic look can make a room look bigger.”

However, new product formats require educating installers on how to properly lay the larger tiles on site. “A major challenge of larger planks is the installation process because it will now take two people to install as opposed to one,” Haaksma explained. “In the long run, you will need more people to lay fewer pieces so everything will balance itself out.”

Suppliers credit technological advances as the primary driver behind the trend toward larger sizes. So say experts like Lori Kleinert, director of Internet sales for LTL Home Products—parent company to Solid Floor, which assisted with the re-release of Solid Floor’s high-end design flooring set, the Chevron collection.

“The older version of the collection is much smaller,” Kleinert explained. “New techniques and advanced machinery allow us to produce bigger products in larger dimensions from natural materials. The process is very precise, and each day our abilities are getting better.”

Massimo Ballucchi, director of product design, Daltile, also attributes today’s advances to technological leaps. He said suppliers have been able to use tile to develop more comforting looks while still maintaining the material’s durability.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.13.26 AM“Textures provide a simple way to add warmth to surroundings, and many of these offerings are scanned from actual fabric and engineered to be textured when touched,” Ballucchi explained. “From squares to decorative accents, new textured tile is designed for mixing colors and creating an eye-catching design. This is truly the new generation of textured tile.”

But it’s not just floors that are benefitting from these advancements. Larger formats are also finding their way on vertical surfaces. “People are getting tired of painted walls and want the mosaics, accents, subway and porcelain tiles—which is a great way to expand the business,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MS International (MSI). “It is architectural detail that sets you apart from your neighbor, and our Domino collection does just that. The series is indestructible and contains 3 x 6 wall tiles available in black, white or almond colors to give a style neutral kick that everyone is looking for.”

Haaksma agrees, adding wall tiles as architectural accents also allows manufacturers to differentiate themselves in much the same way they do with flooring. In Emser’s case, adding a three-dimensional twist via its Code series is one way to achieve this.

“Code is a collection of tiles that allows you to create your own aesthetics using different shapes, colors, surfaces and dimensions,” she explained. “By simply facing tiles in different directions, you can have a completely different design. It’s simply using material that has been around for a long time, just in a different way.”

Another hot trend when it comes to tile visuals is the replication of wood looks. In tile, these wood visuals can be manipulated so consumers can get the precise look they want—be it traditional or rustic—and still have a floor with the low maintenance and longevity of tile. “Wood continues to gain in popularity,” Haaksma said. “Wood planks can provide a variety of looks but they need a little upkeep and can last for a long time.”

As the development of realistic wood planks continues to improve, observers foresee an even greater variety of products coming down the pike. “Richer colors are going to emerge and new wood species will be included in product offerings,” Ballucchi said. “There is such a strong focus to create a product that looks authentic.”

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Tile: Innovations help category recoup share

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By K.J. Quinn

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 4.16.27 PMTile suppliers are not just applying advanced technologies for the sake of aesthetics. Experts say another goal is to bolster the category to help fend off competition from LVT, which in recent years has done a much better job in replicating tile and stone.

“The more  LVT and other similar lines mimic the real thing, the more customers will start to gravitate toward natural materials, such as ceramic, wood, brick, stone and marble,” said Katie Peralta, owner of Triton Stone Group of New Orleans.

Indeed, visual comparisons between LVT and ceramic are so similar that performance and value may tilt the scale one way or the other. “In this case, it’s an easy switch to tile because the performance, occupant health benefits and overall livability of a tile will outshine both LVT and most natural stones or woods, in most circumstances,” said Ryan Fasan, technical consultant with Tile of Spain.

Some industry members do not necessarily believe tile is the underdog when it comes to comparing styles with other flooring. “I feel, at this point, the LVT market is trying really hard to match what the tile world is doing, not vice versa,” said Sean Cilona, director of marketing and product development, Florida Tile. “The graphic can be similar, but the durability, believability and texture that comes with a porcelain tile is something the LVT producers are going to need to continue to work to match.”

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Surfaces tile coverage: Larger, bolder patterns define latest introductions

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Nicole Murray

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 4.14.00 PMThe bigger the pattern, the better. That pretty much sums up the overarching trend seen in tile introductions unveiled at Surfaces 2017.

Daltile, via its Panoramic collection, introduced a porcelain slab measuring 10½ ft x 51⁄3 feet. The products are available in eight colors in- thicknesses of 6mm and 12mm. According to Kim Albrecht, brand manager, the large slabs are ideal for floors, wall or countertops. “This is a testament to what can be done,” she explained. “We have never done anything this large. It is one thing to hear about it, it is quite another to actually see it. These looks have been popular in Europe and we now see it coming over to the U.S.”

The large-format theme was evident across the show floor, including the Marazzi space. The company’s signature product at Surfaces was Materika, which was displayed in a 16 x 48 wall format.

Materika is offered in four color options available in three styles—Flat, Linear and Wave. “Our focus is on high-end residential bold designs with a very fashion forward look,” said Micah Hand, brand manager. “As long as we are being innovative and think outside the box we can continue to create extraordinary products.”

Manufacturers attributed the move toward bigger formats and larger overall sizes to changing consumer tastes and preferences. “Everything is getting wider and longer, and people are loving it,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MS International (MSI). “As tile sizes expand, it is important to have every single size, style and width visibly available in your showrooms so consumers can visualize what they are going to end up with.”

In illustration, Llerena cited the company’s new porcelain wood plank waterfall display that showcases the various options for the consumer.

Beyond larger formats, suppliers also demonstrated their ability to develop a wide array of colors and styles. Take MSI’s Domino collection, which plays off black and white to give consumers flexibility when designing. The collection contains 3 x 6 wall tiles available in white, gray or almond paired with a glossy, flat or beveled design, which may be accented with black and white floor tiles measuring 12 x 24 or 24 x 24.

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 4.14.08 PM“These colored tiles have been around forever because they are very style neutral,” said Emily Holle, creative director. MS International. “These colors can be applied to a traditional house as well as a modern house depending on how one’s style may adapt over time.”

Suppliers are also developing products and programs that give consumers and designers the ability to mix and match. Case in point is Emser Tile’s new CODE series, which features a variety of shapes, colors, dimensions and finishes.

“CODE lets consumers create their own aesthetics for endless looks and design flexibility,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing. “It is as if the consumer is using a set of puzzle pieces to get exactly what she wants. For example, she can use hexagons and trapezoids faced in multiple directions for different looking patterns. The customer can even add a three-dimensional effect as an accent line along the wall.”

Other suppliers focused on out-of-the-ordinary products. K Stone, for example, displayed a variety of onyx and marble tiles available in a wide array of colors and designs. “We specialize in products that your neighbor doesn’t have,” said Adam Anderson, president. “Depending on the customer’s preferences, we have an onyx or marble design that is for her. We have whites, golds and grays—just about everything.”

—Ken Ryan also contributed to this story.

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Ceramic: Domestic production fueled by burgeoning demand

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By K.J. Quinn


Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.30.27 PMOnce upon a time, the U.S. ceramic business was dominated by foreign competition, which had a leg up on their local counterparts in production technology, styling and distribution channels. But that is no longer the case, as domestic companies bolster capacity and open more factories in their efforts to strengthen market share and take advantage of a fast-growing market.

“U.S.-based production has definitely been increasing the last few years because of a few factors,” said Rick Church, executive director, Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA). “One is increased demand. Two, and more significantly, is because of new plants being developed and coming online. Most of those new plants are owned by non-U.S.-based companies.”

For the seventh consecutive year, U.S. tile consumption was 9% to 10% growth, according to industry estimates. 2016 ceramic sales were expected to reach approximately $2.9 billion and 2.4 billion square feet. Domestic producers played a big part in category growth, accounting for approximately one-third of U.S. tile sales.

“In recent years, there has been more attention on products that are made in the USA, largely due to the newfound interest that consumers want to know where their products are coming from and are embracing products that are made in the U.S.,” observed Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile. “We’re seeing a resurgence in style among domestic manufacturers, which is helping promote ‘made in the USA’ and provides a talking point during the sales process.”

The irony behind the explosive growth in domestic production is that foreign tile producers, led by Italian companies, are reportedly investing millions of dollars to bolster production on U.S. soil. Italy, along with China, Mexico, Spain and Turkey, are considered the top exporters of tile to the U.S. “Certainly, the non-U.S.-based manufacturers see the opportunity to produce in the U.S. and serve, or partially serve, this market without having to export from Europe, etc.,” CTDA’s Church said. “Clearly, this makes it more efficient to bring the product to market.”

Maintaining a local presence provides easier access to raw materials, distribution channels and insight into trends influencing design preferences of American consumers. “Over the past few years, we have been making record investments on the domestic front, including the addition of our Dickson, Tenn., facility,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said. “By investing in our facilities, we are able to ensure we have the broadest, most accomplished manufacturing operations in the North American ceramic tile industry.”

Indeed, Tennessee is being transformed into the tile industry’s version of Dalton, as an influx of local and foreign manufacturers have opened up shop in a state that provides numerous benefits for doing business there. “Certainly, U.S.-based manufacturers are investing in new technologies during this upswing,” Church said. “However, the greatest investment is coming from non-U.S.-based manufacturers building plants in the U.S. Several have been built and come online over the last few years and others are in progress—mostly in the Tennessee area.”

The U.S. represents a last frontier of sorts for the ceramic industry as the market is only scratching the surface in per-capita use. Tile’s share of total U.S. flooring sales hovers around 15%, according to industry estimates, so there is plenty of room to grow. “Our ceramic tile selections have grown significantly in popularity over the past three to five years, and we don’t expect interest to wane in the coming year,” said Vance Hunsucker, national sales manager, ceramic tile/stone, Shaw Floors.

There is cause for optimism as economic trends used to gauge the health of the industry—such as the new housing market, consumer confidence, lending and unemployment rates—are favorable. Among the biggest is new single-family homes, which rose 11% in October from the previous month, reaching a nine-year high with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 869,000 units, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau. Tile as a percentage of total flooring in new homes continues to rise, as it finds more applications in spaces such as patios, garages and basements.

“We have certainly seen a positive impact to sales throughout this past year,” Hunsucker said. “Forecasts indicate the segment is expected to grow.”

Key drivers
Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.30.22 PMWhile smooth sailing lies ahead, there are emerging issues which have the potential to throw this fast-moving catamaran off course. For instance, a stronger U.S. dollar is reportedly reducing the costs of imported products, observers say, which directly impacts pricing and competition with domestic suppliers. Meanwhile, some tile producers may have jumped the gun in expanding their domestic manufacturing footprints.

“You have companies thatcame here with all new manufacturing technology,” said Donato Grosser, president and chief consultant, D. Grosser & Associates. “These companies are betting the market will keep expanding and consumption of ceramic tile will go up. But if you’re increasing manufacturing capacity around 20% and you only have a 5% increase in consumption some companies are going to suffer.”

Some industry members believe the potential rewards outweigh the risks. For example, U.S.-based tile producers are less exposed to uncontrollable risks such as exchange rate fluctuations and ocean freight price increases due to capacity shortages. Faster turnaround times on orders and possibly less expensive access to products are cited as two key benefits. “Domestic facilities offer manufacturers a number of key advantages, including the quality of the local workforce, access to raw materials and an ideal location from which we can ship to a majority of the U.S. population quickly and efficiently,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said.

Historically, style and sophistication in tile was limited to European markets. Not anymore, observers say, as advances in digital printing technology and increased investments in American manufacturing capabilities have helped elevate the cache of tile products made right here in the U.S.

“We are now able to produce products that are as visually appealing as the products being imported from Europe,” Mattioli pointed out. “At Mohawk and Dal-Tile, we are leading the advancement of design and manufacturing technologies domestically, so we can continue to deliver on our promise of providing our customers the best value through these innovative products and exceptional service.”

Indeed, technology is making it possible for vendors to produce higher end visuals that aim to mimic stone, marble and hardwood. “Additionally, the average sales price is increasing as customers embrace higher end looks, including decorative accents and large-format styles,” Hunsucker said. “All of this demand has an impact on the growth of this category.”

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Ceramic: Digital printing advances boost realism in visuals

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15

By K.J. Quinn

Groundbreaking production technology is one of the greatest factors impacting the evolution of ceramic and porcelain floor designs. Vendors are pushing the envelope to reach new aesthetic heights and still satisfy consumer demands for in-style products.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.58.14 AM“Through digital printing, we are able to scan in virtually any image and reproduce that image on tile, just like scanning and printing a picture,” said Massimo Ballucchi, Dal-Tile’s director of product design. “We can develop ceramic tile that looks exactly like the natural surfaces but still features the benefits of tile such as durability, cleanability and high performance.”

Digital printing capabilities have grown by leaps and bounds the past three years as tile producers discover new mediums to apply to ceramic and porcelain surfaces. “Advances in the style and number of print heads [allow] for a more defined graphic and provides more channels and opportunities to combine different colors and glazes to create different textures,” said Sean Cilona, director of marketing and product development, Florida Tile. “Advancements are now allowing cleaning and maintenance to be done more easily and efficiently.”

The digital decoration process can be controlled by a sophisticated robotic eye system that can “read” the molded face of the tile to automatically apply specific decorations and finishes, so the visual matches the texture. “Pairing these new embellishment capabilities with powerful laser scanners in the production line allows for some of the most sophisticated collections of tile ever seen,” said Ryan Fasan, technical consultant, Tile of Spain. “Read: ‘When there is a cleft in the structure, we can print a shadow there to enhance it.’ The same is true for the luster and metallic effects.”

The end result is the creation of visuals that mirror the look and feel of many natural materials. “As the technology is improving, the tiles are able to take on the look of the natural stone or wood they are trying to emulate,” said Katie Peralta, owner, Triton Stone Group of New Orleans, Harahan, La. “The inkjet technology allows porcelain and ceramic to appear as if it was real marble.”

Vendors such as Dal-Tile report making record investments, which allow the company to efficiently produce tile that meets the aesthetic demands of its customers while further differentiating its products. “We are now able to produce such high- definition visuals that capture the exact look of whatever we are trying to achieve that even industry professionals cannot discern what is tile and what is the natural surface we are imitating,” Ballucchi explained.

While digital printing techniques are unique to each collection and technology, the dominant factor in this type of production is speed to market. “From development to launch, the speed to market of a new product has been greatly reduced while at the same time providing a more realistic and varied product than we have ever seen before,” Cilona said.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.58.20 AMAll of this adds up to enhanced aesthetics at lower production costs, savings that can be passed along to consumers and end users. “The advancements have come a long way, and I really love some of the new introductions that have been presented to me recently,” said Heather Elko McCanna, IIDA, LEED AP, Lambert Architecture + Interiors, Winston-Salem, N.C.

The porcelain tile panel category is an excellent example of how the category is enhancing its value to residential customers. “It’s taking us to new levels in terms of aesthetics and possibilities for creative applications in residences, as well as installation efficiencies,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “Porcelain tile panels are generously proportioned—upwards of 1 x 3 meters, which means they cover lots of surface area with minimal grout lines for sleek, sophisticated looks.”

New trends emerge

Many advancements in color, pattern and texture were displayed last September at Cersaie in Bologna, Italy. “The trends we discovered were consistent in their emphasis on texture and a continued focus on brilliantly conceived high profile designer collaborations,” said Kristin Coleman, marketing representative, Ceramics of Italy.

Tiles that mimic the look of natural stone, cement, marble, slate and wood are trending. “I see the continuation of stone-like looks moving from more classic calm marbles to more complicated stones that can be a hybrid of a slate and quartz, or even mixes with cements and plasters,” Cilona added.

Encaustic cements are expected to remain in vogue for smaller format floor tile, as patterns allow for both repeating designs that read as macro graphics, or are frequently used in a mix of decorative patterns. “Ceramic trend combinations in design have also been successful,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer/vice president sales support at Emser Tile. “Mixing trends such as a wood look with a concrete look in a contemporary color palette and collections of sizes would be an example of this.”

In addition to stone, wood looks were prevalent at Cersaie, as tile makers added their own twist and utilized production methods to create a new typology of floor and wall coverings. “Some are inspired by exotic woods, offering a beautiful, sustainable alternative to rare hardwoods such as Kauri,” Coleman said, “while others recreate the warmth and imperfections of wood in 2cm outdoor pavers, large thin slabs, kaleidoscopic patterns and three-dimensional tiles that are virtually impossible to achieve with real timber.”

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Executive Forecast: Tile—Technology, pent-up demand to fuel consumption in 2017

December 5/12, 2016; Volume 31, Number 13         

By K.J. Quinn

The outlook for ceramic tile has never been better, as new production technologies are enabling producers to introduce game-changing formats and designs. Fresh off a year where sales and volume approached 10% spikes, marketers are bullish about growth prospects for 2017, as key economic indicators such as the new housing market and a rebounding economy are trending in the right direction.

Bob Baldocchi, CMO, VP, sales support, Emser Tile
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-14-55-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We believe the flooring industry will see solid growth next year that will range between 8% -12%. The growth will come from new home construction and commercial activity.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
The continued increase in the ceramic, wall and decorative categories. Consumers continue to expand their use of tile in the remodel plans that extend beyond just new floors. Walls, decorative accents have all contributed to growth.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Our plans are to outpace the industry’s flooring growth. This will be driven primarily by our consistent market expansion. We opened up 10 new design and distribution facilities in 2016 with plans for additional locations in 2017.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
2017 will see many of the same “X factors” that were present in 2016. Labor continues to put a regulator on growth opportunities, but is also contributing to a sustained housing boom as supplies still seem to lag behind demand.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
We are excited to see our aggressive expansion plans of the last three to four years continue to show positive returns and high year over year growth. The biggest challenge is staying in front of all the amazing growth opportunities.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We are excited about our expansion plans. Our new East Coast distribution center opening in Q1 will provide our national footprint with enhanced service capabilities in the region.

Donato Grosser, president and chief consultant, D. Grosser & Associates
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-00-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
The housing market is recovering quite nicely and is the main driver for sales of ceramic tile in this country. The remodeling market is relatively stable. We thought we would see an increase of 8%-10%, but it looks like it won’t be more than 5%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Large tiles and slabs are being used more and more. Sizes like 3 x 10 are very common in the commercial market. Large tiles are 16 x 16, 20 x 20 and 24 x 24 in the residential market.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
There is always the danger that a new product will come into the market and compete with ceramic tile. Someone may invent a product that will drive ceramic out of business.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
There are a lot of unknown factors. We just had a Presidential election in this country and no one knows what is going to happen in the future. If the value of the U.S. dollar stays this way, it will be good for imports from Europe.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?


Gianni Mattioli, executive VP, product & marketing, Dal-Tile
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-06-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We have seen positive growth in the tile segment, a trend we expect to continue in 2017. Right now we predict that the category will grow by 4%-6%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
The housing market, specifically new residential, continues to positively impact the tile sector. Many of the trends in the residential segment are positive signs for the ceramic tile industry, as they will lead to increases in sales.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Dal-Tile sales continue to exceed expectations, and we anticipate overall strong growth. We’ll do this primarily by continuing to introduce new products that match trends, improving our product portfolio.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
In 2016 we made key investments in our manufacturing capabilities, specifically with our Dickson facility. Dal-Tile is leading the advancement of design and manufacturing technologies so we can continue to provide great service.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Through new innovations we are able to develop tile lines that meet consumer demands. We are going to continue to explore new tools to ensure we are providing the most cutting-edge products on the market.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We will continue to focus on the key areas that are vital to our success: brand identity, product innovation and availability, exceptional service, value to our customers and unmatched logistics.


Raj Shah, president, MSI
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-11-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
I predict the category will grown 6%-8%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Tile continues to take market share. Also, significant growth in wall tile is occurring. We should see a lot of growth as Americans install more tile on the walls.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Our expectation continues to be to significantly outpace industry growth.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
There are numerous “X factors,” including the political climate. This is especially true as it relates to tax and immigration reforms.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
We are looking at each channel, including builders, retailers/dealers and architects and designers to grow the business. Ultimately, we need to keep making tile more affordable and accessible, and the consumer is responding.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
The biggest initiatives would be to increase growth in our newer channels, including builders and A&D, and continued product introductions with the proper marketing support.


Lindsey Waldrep, VP of marketing, Crossville
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-15-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
The tile market is growing both commercially and residentially at a pace exceeding that of America’s new build growth. Clearly, the preference for tile is strong now and poised to continue this strength into the coming year.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
With both commercial and residential markets consuming more tile, we’ve seen an increase in international and domestic production. This has resulted in the availability of more designs offered in a broader range of price points.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
It’s essential that manufacturers focus on educating the market about the differences between products. This includes specifiers in both the interior design and consumer communities, as well as installers.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
Crossville is focused on highlighting the way our products bring creative solutions to challenging scenarios. We’re working with our distributors to reach specifiers with innovative ideas and alternatives.

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Ceramic: Solutions to not-so-common tile problems

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By Donato Pampo

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-3-44-42-pmEditor’s note: The following Q&As were reprinted with permission from the Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, CTaSC, which provides expert witness and forensic failure investigation services. In addition, CTaSC provides quality control services for products and installation methods, testing services, online and classroom training, market research and outsourcing services.

Excessive lippage on wood plank tiles

I recently had porcelain tile installed on a concrete slab by my GC. I am concerned with how the job came out. The installer did not do anything to level the floor. He told me he would use more or less thin set to make sure all the tiles were level, but I feel there is a lot of lippage.
Your floor tile appears to be a porcelain wood plank floor tile. With the ink-jet technology being used today in the production of ceramic tiles they can produce very realistic wood floor looks and natural stone looks. Installing the long, narrow-width tile planks is a difficult installation because these tiles do tend to have warpage and the shapes of the tiles being offset from each other with narrow grout joints is challenging.  You have to properly prepare the substrate and be a good and patient tile installer to avoid excessive lippage.

There are industry standards on what is acceptable warpage in a porcelain tile as stated in ANSI A137.1. Approximately they are allowed to have up to about 1/16 warpage.  How that warpage is distributed on the tile can be problematic if it is concentrated at any one portion of the tile. Acceptable lippage per ANSI A108.02 says that the tile lippage can’t be more than the inherent lippage of the tile being installed, assuming it isn’t more than the allowable lippage in ANSI A137.1, plus 1/32 for grout joints less than 1/4 wide, or plus 1/16 for grout joints 1/4 wide or wider.  So potentially you could have 3/32 lippage or up to an 1/8 lippage, respectively, if the tile has the maximum allowable warpage.

From a standard of care point of view for professional tile installers, assuming this particular type of tile meets the standards, I would expect the lippage should not exceed 1/16. There are always exceptions depending on the type of tile being used.

Although, if the tile installer did not properly prepare the substrate so it did not vary out of plane more than 1/8 in 10 feet or 1/16 in 24, or if he did not properly adjust the tiles during the installation—or if the grout joint is too narrow—then you can get excessive lippage beyond what is acceptable.


Mold damage on Saltillo tiles

We have had two slab leaks and continue to be told there is no damage to the floor. Can concrete slab leaks cause mold damage on Saltillo tiles?
Assuming the Saltillo tiles are properly installed over the concrete slab that had the two leaks, and it was clean category 1 water and not unsanitary water, the tiles should not be harmed.

Mold is a microbial growth that is ubiquitous, and as long as there isn’t a food source or an environment that promotes mold growth then it will not perpetuate.  Concrete has a high pH which does not allow mold to grow unless there is some other superficial organic food source. Sometimes if the tile is not installed correctly with the correct type of installation products, a water leak could result in some damages.


Cleaning a sealed tile floor

I have a ceramic tile that someone sealed with dirt on the tile. It may have been done over five years ago. I used a generic stripper, but it only improved the floor by 10%. What should I do to get this tile clean?
If the tile floor was sealed when it was dirty, then the only way to clean it is to remove the sealer.

To determine which stripper to use to remove a sealer you need to know what sealer was used.

If you don’t know which sealer was used then you have to experiment with different strippers. Aqua Mix and Miracle Sealants have strippers as well as other manufacturers of cleaners and strippers.

There are generic strippers like Goof-Off and some paint strippers that will remove some sealers. If it were practical you could have a testing laboratory test the coating that was scrapped from the tile to determine what it is and what solvent will remove it.


Porcelain tile debonding issues

We’re having a problem with porcelain tile debonding. (We have polished porcelain tile, 300 x 600 mm and 600 x 600 mm bent, four corner sides concave.) We have done testing on water absorption, moisture expansion and thermal shock—all passed ISO 10545 standard. What’s causing the shrinkage?
Considering it is a porcelain tile, I would think that the warped corners were that way when they were installed. Porcelain tiles are not moisture sensitive and they would not be expected to warp after they are installed. Having all four corners of the tile concave would be considered excessive warpage by U.S. standards.

A 2-3 mm grout joint is normally reasonable for a rectified porcelain tile installed in a soldier course pattern. (Tiles are not off-set from each other.)

The debonding of the tile should not be due to the tile unless the tile had some sort of contaminant on its back side that prevented the tile from achieving an adequate attachment to its substrate. Generally speaking, the reason tiles debond is because they are not bonded as well as they should be to their substrates and due to the tiles being subjected to some stress that is greater than they can resist. If the tile had a contaminant on its back side that acts as a bond breaker, or if the substrate to which it is attached has a contaminate that acts as a bond breaker, or if the adhesive is not suitable for bonding the tile can all be a possibility of why the tile was not better bonded to the substrate.

Tiles inherently are subjected to movement and resultant stresses caused by moisture or temperature or dynamic structural movement within the floor assembly. That is why it is required to have movement joints filled with a resilient sealant at all perimeters and transitions. Per Canadian standards, movement joints should be installed within the field of tile every 4800 mm to 6100 mm in each direction for interior applications; and every 2440 mm to 3600 mm for exterior applications and interior applications exposed to moisture and direct sunlight.

If there was new concrete installed that hadn’t cured for at least 28 days at reasonable temperatures, then it can have shrinkage that could subject the tile to more stress than it can resist. If the cementitious adhesive was excessively thick it can have excessive shrinkage that can contribute to the problem.


Fixing a terrazzo floor after a flood

My house flooded twice in less than 12 months. I have travertine tile on top of vapor barrier and below that terrazzo subfloor followed by another vapor barrier and then slab on grade throughout the foyer, family room and kitchen. Should the terrazzo be removed?
If the terrazzo floor was originally installed correctly, it should not have been harmed by the flood. If you had a vapor barrier on top of the terrazzo then it may not have been saturated with water during the flooding. But even if it had, it should be able to dry out and it should not be necessary to replace it.

When you replace the travertine floor, remove the vapor barrier under it and let the terrazzo floor dry for a few days with fans and dehumidifiers. You then can put down another vapor barrier over the terrazzo. Use a grade “D” breathable vapor barrier cleavage membrane if you are going to install a wire reinforced mortar bed over it. If you are going to bond directly to the terrazzo, I would first scarify it to open up the pores and then apply a liquid applied waterproof membrane that meets ANSI A118.10 and A118.12. This type of membrane is breathable and it is both a waterproof membrane and a crack isolation membrane. Make sure you run the membrane up the walls at least as high as the water gets. This way you can contain the water from future floods and limit the collateral damages.

If you are going to install a mortar bed over the terrazzo, then apply the waterproof membrane on top of the mortar bed and up the walls fto prevent future damage from flooding.


Donato Pampo, CTC, CMR, CSI, CDT MBA, is the founder and CTaSC and a leading tile and stone forensic expert and consultant in North America.

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Ceramic: State of the Industry—Housing strength, buying trends boost consumption

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By K.J. Quinn

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-11-02-48-amWhile much excitement in the U.S. flooring industry surrounds innovations in LVT, the irony is most of these faux designs resemble a product requiring no introduction: ceramic tile. The category is making some noise of its own, as new digital printing technologies and larger formats are driving pent-up demand in the residential market.

“Speaking with various manufacturers and tile distributors at TSP, everyone seems busy and their sales are up,” said Donato Pompo, president, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants. “Everyone seems to be looking forward to continued growth in 2017.”

While industry sales and consumption projections vary widely due to fragmentation, the category is on pace to post 10% growth in sales and volume in 2016 and similar results are expected next year, according to industry estimates. Tile is also more accessible to consumers than ever before, as nearly all flooring retail channels sell it.

“We have seen positive growth in the domestic residential ceramic tile market, particularly in the new residential segment,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile.

Tile of Spain is bullish about category growth, noting U.S. residential and commercial tile sales have been strong the past 36 months. Year-to-date U.S. ceramic imports from Spain increased 35.5% in value and 46% in volume. “Tile of Spain feels it is going to be a great year for Spanish ceramic tile manufacturers, consolidating a growth that started in 2011,” said Rocamador Rubio Gomez, director of Tile of Spain U.S.

Traditional metrics used to gauge the state of ceramic—such as strength of the U.S. economy, lending and unemployment rates—are pointing in the right direction. But what really has industry members excited regarding prospects for next year is good news from the home front. New single-family housing, the single-largest economic indicator for the residential market, rose 3.1% in September to a seasonally adjusted rate of 593,000 units and is up nearly 30% over last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau. “In recent years, single-family homes have continued to grow larger in size, which is positive for the ceramic tile market, since the category represents a greater percentage of the flooring used,” Mattioli said.

While the builder business remains on solid ground, it still lags behind growth rates prior to the 2008 recession. “The market is fairly good, even if residential housing is still stuck below the normal [annual] level of 1.5 million housing starts,” observed Donato Grosser, president and chief consultant, D. Grosser & Associates. “If housing starts were up to 1.5 million, you’d see a lot more tile sold.”

Indeed, there remains plenty of room for growth, as the U.S. market has only scratched the surface in per-capita use of ceramic. Tile as a percentage of total flooring in new homes continues to rise as it finds more applications in spaces such as patios, garages and basements. “We are also seeing an increase in overall dollars per home sales, so that means more premium finishes—which benefits tile,” noted Sean Cilona, director of marketing and product development, Florida Tile.

Issues impacting growth
screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-11-03-11-amWhile the builder market is the biggest driver of U.S. residential tile consumption, there are other issues emerging which stand to impact sales and volume in 2017. For example, the stronger U.S. dollar is reportedly reducing the cost of imported products. “The increase of lower-priced imports is affecting overall price and competition with domestic suppliers,” Cilona stated.

Ceramic, like all floor coverings, is losing an untold number of opportunities to LVT. Nonetheless, suppliers are convinced tile’s position as a premium, natural product will win out, as there are products for all shopping budgets. “Tile is better than any other floor and can last longer,” Grosser said. “If someone is buying for the short term, they may buy a cheaper product which may have to be replaced in five years.”

Another issue is the perennial shortage of qualified installers. “Tile installers typically don’t have a formal education in how to properly install tile and they don’t know the industry standards,” Pompo explained. “Standards are created by a consensus group of tile installers, manufacturers, distributors, scientists and consultants in order to prevent reoccurring problems.”

To that end, the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) offers an online course, “Tile Installers Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification,” to teach floor layers the industry standards. “Installers who are ITS verified are more likely to provide quality workmanship and tile installations,” Pompo said. “This course is offered through CTDA, NTCA, TTMAC and Fuse Alliance.”

Cultivating and recruiting qualified labor is an issue vendors take very seriously—and for good reason. “It’s essential that there are plenty of experienced contractors to meet growing demand for tile installation,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “It’s also essential for those installers to invest in training and education to successfully work with new products, particularly the increasingly popular porcelain tiles.”

Crossville has been proactive in helping to address this issue by participating in, hosting and leading training sessions for installers. “Whether holding training at our plant in Tennessee or providing hands on support for workshops at the regional level in partnership with our distributors, we are committed to helping installers achieve success with our creative solutions,” Waldrep said.

Continuing education among installers is important when you consider the plethora of new tile products hitting the market each year. “New technologies and new products may [not] impact the supply chain, if all agents involved do not have proper knowledge about applications, installation and many other factors,” Gomez pointed out. “That is why, for Tile of Spain, education has always been so important. We place a priority on informing the tile community of new technologies to the U.S. market as soon as the manufacturers put them into the supply chain.”

Innovation improves value
screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-11-03-04-am2016 saw investments made in digital printing technologies which enabled producers to introduce game-changing formats and designs. These innovations have completely transformed the category, allowing manufacturers to supply consumers with high-quality floor tiles that resemble concrete, wood planks, stone and marble.

“Cersaie 2016 demonstrated many of the new technologies in tile which illustrated the versatility of porcelain/ceramic in applications,” said Raj Shah, president, MSI. “This includes not only porcelain/ceramic flooring in differing but realistic looks, but also in numerous shapes and sizes that were never available before.”

The digital printing process has become so sophisticated that manufacturers are creating tile that varies from piece to piece, much like the real products. Size does matter as vendors continue churning out larger formats such as 16 x 16 and 24 x 24 inches and shapes to accommodate demand. “New sizes and shapes are opening new markets,” Shah pointed out. “Large-format tile, hexagons, planks, etc., are all available in tile today.”

The latest porcelain tile panels are opening up possibilities for creative applications in residences as well as installation efficiencies, observers say. These products are generously proportioned—available in sizes as large as 72 x 120—so they cover lots of surface area with minimal grout lines for a sleek, sophisticated look. “These large tiles require a whole set of new tools and methods for installing, transporting and storing,” Pompo said. “They can be installed over existing tile surfaces or over properly prepared wall or floor substrates.” UofCTS offers online courses on Thin Gauged Porcelain tile so architects, installers, distributors and industry members can stay updated on these new products.

In order to meet future market demands, suppliers are closely following shifts in the segment to ensure they are providing products that meet customer demands. “Many of the trends in the residential segment are positive signs for the ceramic tile industry, as they will lead to increases in sales,” Mattioli said.

Meanwhile, suppliers continue investing in manufacturing to bolster production efficiency and speed to market. “We have added a new rectification line to our manufacturing facility that allows us to offer this new style of product manufactured inside our facility without sending it out for a third-party application or purchasing it from our companies overseas—both of which add to the final cost,” Cilona said.