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Tile of Spain unveils new designs at Coverings 2019


Luxor by Aparici

Miami- Tile of Spain, the international brand representing 125 ceramic tile manufacturers belonging to the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer's Association (ASCER), exhibited a wide variety of new product innovations and trends from Spanish tile manufacturers at Coverings 2019. 

During the 4-day tile and stone exhibition, 98 Spanish ceramic and stone manufacturers showcased new lines. Highlights of the Spanish manufactures include:

Luxor by Aparici. Paying homage to glamour of the 20's with a current flair, this exquisite collection exhibits an abundance of veining and color variations within its design.

The Amazonia collection from Colorker. Encompassing the latest trends of graphic prints, geometric shapes and bold color, the Amazonian collection is full of vibrant details.

Dune brings to life a wide variety of decorative tile. Different linear designs and a play on light and shadows, the Deluxe collection modernizes the traditional crackle motif for a perfectly imperfect look. 

Equipe Ceramicas presents Village. Equipe is playing with new sizes in this collection (5 x 5 to 2 1/2 x 5, 2 1/2 x 8). Available in a range of colors from soft pastels to bold Mediterranean hues, Village is a collection of small sizes with big design.

Fanal introduces Heritage, a collection mimicking the look of natural wood, however presented in a glazed porcelain range that translates well to any aesthetic.

Harmony introduces Dash. With its grid-like pattern, ever-changing rectangular compositions can be created to combine different shapes and lengths both vertically or horizontally. This collection comes in a 20x20cm format and available in 6 different colors.

A leader in the arena of large formats is Inalco. Senda features grey brushstrokes on a gentle stone-like relief. Delicate, versatile and designed to appeal to all, Senda is ideal for both commercial and residential use.

Living Ceramics introduces Allure, a collection of ceramic tile that conveys the strength, character and temperament of the stone on which it is inspired. Veins are carefully treated to highlight its personality and a brush hammered finish evokes the texture of the natural stone it replicates. Living Ceramicas was also honored at Coverings 2019 for Best in Show.

Metropol presents the Arc Collection, a reinterpretation of industrial sheet metal with subtle shade variations for a natural effect. Arc is available in both floor and wall tile formats.

Spanish manufacturer Natucer brings back the basics with impactful designs and finishes using subway tiles. The Piastrella collection moves the traditional subway tiles one step further with vibrant colors, irregular borders, mixed finishes, intricate designs and striking reliefs.

Vives also brings charismatic personality to the scene with Hanami. This collection blends a timeless style with modern hues to express a certain joie de vivre through color and design.

Realonda's Donegal series is a fresh take on the classic terracotta look. This new collection combines natural tones with decorative design and is available in a trending hexagonal shape.

Saloni introduces Foundry, a collection that pairs worn metal with delicate detail resulting in an industrial chic look.

Tau extends its wildly successful Ascale collection with Belvedere, a black marble look that is available in two finishes, polished and matte. A Think & Mix color palette flows through entire series for a seamlessly cohesive look.

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Marca Corona: Modern industrial style for ‘Made in Italy’ porcelain tiles

photo1Sassuolo, Italy—Marca Corona, one of the oldest ceramic tile manufacturers in northern Italy, has been producing top-quality ceramic tiles since 1741. The company has consistently been a part of the ceramic industry’s evolution by combining the most advanced techniques and aesthetic designs.

Today, Marca Corona produces top-quality products and distributes mosaics, wall and floor coverings in Italy and across the world. In 2006, Marca Corona USA was established, introducing North America to the elegance of “Made in Italy” porcelain and the new trend of tile fashion.

Marca Corona's Bleeker.
Marca Corona’s Bleecker.

The porcelain tiles of Marca Corona are designed and manufactured to meet the ever-changing market needs. The manufacturer’s new collections, Bleecker and Type, are suitable for both residential and commercial areas. These collections combine industrial style of the last trend with innovative materials, with a touch of exclusive elegance. The products are available in different colors and sizes in order to meet not only the needs of comfortable living but also planning requirements.

Marca Corona's Type.
Marca Corona’s Type.

Bleecker perfectly embodies the metropolitan style: modern, dynamic and pragmatic. It fits with modern industrial designs and recalls recycled wood, particularly the oriented strand board. This collection is appreciated for its natural, matte finish with partial light and shiny application, which make the wood grain even more lively and natural.

The collection is available in six different shades—white, beige, gray, sage, maple and dark—and five sizes ranging from 12 x 24 to 48 x 96. The combinations of colors, formats and finishes are endless to inspire great and unique ideas from designers.

Type highlights three simply colors—rust, gray and dark—along with a natural finish. This sheet metal-look collection proposes the perfect balance between industrial strength and elegance, suitable for both residential and commercial areas. The collection is available in various sizes from 24 x 24 to 48 x 96. In addition, Type has original three-dimensional walls tiles (31.5 x 45) with linear reliefs on the surface, making the sheet metal effect even more touchable and sophisticated.

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Iris Ceramica, Diesel Living partner for new Italian tile collections

ir_dsb_shade_pink_grunge_concrete_scratch_black_amb1_livingChicago—Iris Ceramica, a Fiandre Group brand, teamed up with the lifestyle fashion brand Diesel Living to present their collaboration of new floor and wall solutions, inspired by industrial and modern urban design trends.

Debuting for the first time in the U.S., the seven new eclectic ceramic and porcelain collections are Fence, Ribbed, Ribbed Oxide, Arizona Concrete, Grunge Concrete, Combustion Crackle and Shades of Blinds. Along with Diesel’s global fashion savvy and innovation, the final product was achieved together with Iris Ceramica’s technical expertise and manufacturing capabilities to produce unique, high-tech, fashion-forward architectural surfaces.

The new Diesel Living collections are now available for the U.S. market through the Fiandre Group’s distributor, Transceramica, as well as its nationwide network of distributors. The collection will also soon be on display in Fiandre’s Chicago showroom.

“We’re very excited about our collaboration with Diesel Living since it represents our shared values of creativity, technological innovation and tradition of Italian craftsmanship,” said Eugenio Megna, director of sales and marketing at Transceramica. “Iris Ceramica’s tile collection with Diesel Living is a winning combination offering unique finishes and surface solutions for both residential and commercial interiors.”

The new tile collections respond to trends that show an increasing correlation between industrial, vintage fashion and interior design trends for a raw, metropolitan cutting-edge look. The sleek styles and surface solutions are engineered for both commercial and contemporary residential projects.

While this is Diesel Living’s first foray into porcelain and ceramic surface solutions, the Diesel Living interiors collection also includes brand collaborations for furniture, lighting, kitchens, wooden floors and home accessories.

For more information on the new Iris Ceramica Diesel Living collection, please visit

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Ceramic: Domestic expansion continues to pick up steam

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Ken Ryan


Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.38.56 PMU.S.-based ceramic tile manufacturers—as well as several foreign entities—continue to ramp up domestic production with new builds or plant expansions. This latest trend began earlier this decade and has been picking up steam ever since.

Market leader Dal-Tile Corp. has been making the most noise lately. In July the company announced plans to build a second plant in Dickson, Tenn., just down the block from a now completed 1.8-million-square-foot facility that produces large-format 12 x 24 glazed porcelain tiles. Since operations started in March 2016, the original Dickson tile plant has produced approximately 100 million square feet of tile products, according to John Turner Jr., president. The new facility is scheduled to begin operations in late 2018.

Industry observers see many benefits to domestic production. For one, by producing stateside manufacturers are less exposed to uncontrollable factors 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 other advantages.

“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,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile. “We are now able to produce products that are as visually appealing as the products being imported from Europe. 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.”

While Tennessee has become a hotbed for tile manufacturing, it should be noted that other companies have been producing tile in this region for decades. Crossville has been manufacturing tile in Tennessee since the 1980s. Located in the hills of the Cumberland Plateau, Crossville, Tenn., was chosen as home because of its central location to all primary raw materials. To this day, Crossville is no further than 400 miles from the sourcing sites of its porcelain and natural stone raw materials.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.39.02 PMLikewise, the vast majority of Florida Tile’s flooring products are manufactured in Lawrenceburg, Ky., which is within 500 miles of the raw materials it uses from surrounding states. Florida Tile is one company that plays up the Made in America story. It is part of the “We Build American” initiative, a partnership with 84 Lumber that recognizes and encourages the use of domestic materials in home construction.

Tennessee is one of six states where Dal-Tile makes products. The company manufactures glazed wall tile in Dallas and El Paso, Texas; porcelain floor tile in Muskogee, Okla.; unglazed quarry tile in Lewisport, Ky., and Fayette, Ala.; and unglazed mosaic tile in Gettysburg, Pa.

Other market leaders are putting their stakes down as well. MS International has been accelerating its efforts in the U.S. with a new innovation center in Georgia. The 20,000-square-foot space within a 150,000-square-foot warehouse supplements its 200,000-square-foot showroom and nearby warehouse. MSI has also updated and doubled the size of its Bay Area showroom and distribution center. Today, the company features more than 500 surfacing products displayed and inventoried throughout 5,600 square feet of showroom space and approximately 160,000 square feet of total warehousing space.

Expanding capabilities
Thanks to technology advancements, particularly in digital printing, companies now have the manufacturing wherewithal to produce higher-end visuals that replicate hardwood, marble and stone looks that rival Europe’s manufacturing prowess, proponents say. “Ten years ago it seemed like new technologies or techniques for ceramics and porcelain product started in places like Italy and were more exclusively found there for a longer period of time,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer/vice president business development and sales support, Emser Tile. “Today the advancement, regardless of the country of origin, seems to go global very quickly.”

While U.S.-based manufacturers are investing in new technologies at a feverish pace, there is significant investment coming from non-U.S.-based manufacturers. Several companies have built new plants that are now online while others are in progress—mostly in the Tennessee area. “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.,” said Rick Church, executive director, Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA). “Clearly, this makes it more efficient to bring the product to market.”

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U.S. Congressman Duncan visits TCNA

TCNA_logoAnderson, S.C.U.S. Representative Jeff Duncan, SC-3, spent time meeting with the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) staff and touring TCNA’s facilities on Aug. 9.

Eric Astrachan, executive director, provided the Congressman with a brief current state of the ceramic tile industry and discussed issues in Washington most relevant to the tile industry including U.S. trade agreements, EPA regulations and increasing problems with fake ceramic tile products and false advertisements. The Congressman’s visit ended with a tour of TCNA’s state-of-the-art performance testing laboratories, led by lab manager Katelyn Simpson.

“We are honored Congressman Duncan took time out of his busy schedule to stop by the Clemson Research Park for a visit with TCNA,” said Bill Griese, director of standards development & sustainability initiatives, TCNA. “With our association headquarters right here in the Congressman’s backyard we wanted him to see firsthand the relevance of the ceramic tile industry and our organization’s involvement in research, testing and the development of standards.”

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Ceramic: Next-gen digital printing technologies unlock tile’s potential

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Lindsay Baillie


Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.15 PMDigital printing has helped to change the tile industry by providing manufacturers with limitless designs that mimic what is trending amongst consumers. Whether it’s natural stone, cement, marble, slate or wood looks, digital printing offers consumers the looks they want, the ability to put it where they want and at a desirable price range—all of which ultimately benefits the specialty retailer.

Case in point is Confindustria Ceramica, which finds digital printing to be one of the key technologies used in Italian ceramic tile production. “When it was first introduced, it could only guarantee satisfactory results for certain materials, but it can now be used successfully for any kind of product,” said Vittorio Borelli, chairman. “Its role has been further strengthened by the emergence of the second major innovation in ceramics, that of large-format panels and slabs, given that digital technology is essential for decorating these products.”

As technologies continue to advance, manufacturers from all over the globe are developing newer visuals and textures. Some of the newer design trends Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing Emser Tile, has noticed include Moroccan and Spanish looks, as well as antique visuals that mimic handmade tile. The main development she sees focuses on the manufacturer’s ability to customize products. “Another trend we’re seeing is the ability to create art on tile. Artists are now doing renderings and it’s being reproduced on tile. All of that is great to do now that the technology allows for it. I think in general we’re seeing a lot of customization.”

Haaksma explained that the new customizable features of tile are a bonus for specialty retailers, especially those who have designers or customers who want to create their own images. This trend lets tile take on higher-end looks with greater nuances, not only among tiles but customers as well.

Other tile manufacturers, such as Dal-Tile—the parent company of Marazzi, Daltile, American Olean and Ragno—are also creating more sophisticated products with the help of next-generation digital printing. “The evolution of printing technology has led to manufacturers being able to create unique patterns and designs on individual tiles, similar to the natural materials, like wood or stone, which we are replicating with high degrees of authenticity,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing.

Part of Dal-Tile’s digital printing technology includes what the company calls “Reveal Imaging.” As Mattioli explained: “[It] is our state-of-the-art digital printing process that produces realistic color, detail and veining that is unique on every single tile for a look that’s virtually indistinguishable from natural stone. Digital printing technology is giving us—as well as other tile manufacturers—a competitive advantage over other flooring categories.”

Beyond the ability to recreate various designs and patterns is the ability of the new technologies to apply different materials to the tile. For example, the innovations at Crossville allow its digital printer to manufacture gloss, matte and luster glaze effects on its tiles, according to Craig Miller, R&D director.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.40 PMMS International (MSI) is also incorporating newer printing technology that enables a quicker production process. “Digital printer manufacturing companies, such as Kerajet from Spain, recently developed an inkjet printer that will be able to apply both glaze and ink in one step,” said Paulo Pereira Jr., senior merchant porcelain. “Since these cutting-edge digital printers can apply both enamels and solids simultaneously—besides the basic graphic effect—products can also incorporate other effects such as metallic, shiny or anti-slip effects in the same, one-step application.”

In that same vein, advanced technologies employed at Emser Tile are allowing the manufacturer to incorporate ink-jet printing deeper into the surface. “It’s not just a print sitting on top of the surface, but it actually becomes ingrained into the bisque,” Haaksma said. “So then the patterns and the colors are now infused into the tile itself.”

Overall, newer printing technologies are allowing manufacturers to innovate throughout the entire production process. For Borelli, this includes “image acquisition techniques that allow for ever higher levels of definition; increasingly powerful graphic design software capable of processing the images; more precise and high-performance print heads; and the development of suitable ceramic glazes.”

Retailer benefits
While next-generation digital printing provides manufacturers with benefits, it ultimately helps specialty retailers sell tile product at higher margins, according to tile executives.

These new technologies are enabling the consolidation of flooring products including wood, laminates, natural stones, etc. “For specialty retailers the requirement for training their sales team goes down as product lines are consolidated,” MSI’s Pereira said. “In addition, it enables more individualism for customers in the design process as the amount of choice significantly increases.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.09 PMWith the help of digital printing, consumers can also get high-end looks and high-performance flooring—both of which are available through porcelain tile at a much more affordable price. One example of this is found in tile that resembles natural stone. “[Natural stone] continues to gain strength in the market, but it is not suitable for all applications,” Emser Tile’s Haaksma said. “So you can get the realistic stone look with the performance, durability and affordability of porcelain. This way you can put it in a kitchen countertop, or wet space where you wouldn’t usually want to put a stone.”

Higher margins are available to retailers courtesy of the attractive characteristics made possible through digitally printed tile. “These types of products are letting retailers expand their margin dollars by drawing more consumers to their showrooms to buy products that were once unimaginable for a typical homeowner,” Mattioli explained.

Homeowners, industry expert say, are often inspired by botique hotels, spas and hospitality spaces they encounter through traveling. “In the past, the durability concerns and price points of rare stones and marbles prevented many consumers from bringing these gorgeous high-end looks in their own homes,” Mattioli explained. “However, through Dal-Tile’s Reveal Imaging technology, our brands are able to offer the visuals of rare stones and marbles in a tile product. This lets consumers have the look they love with the performance that real-life activity and real life budgets demand.”

For Confindustria Ceramica’s Borelli, higher margins are attainable by comparing past and present products. “All you have to do is compare these products with those that were available just five years ago to appreciate the progress that has been made. But it is crucial for retailers to communicate this value to their customers so that they are prepared to pay a premium for ceramic products that stand out in terms of innovation, technology and technical characteristics.”

Digitally differentiating
Most digital printing technologies are not proprietary—meaning manufacturers are often using similar machinery to produce hundreds of different products. When it comes to differentiating digitally printed tile, most manufacturers keep a close eye on developing trends to extract key details that will be unique to their product lines.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.04 PM“While digital decoration technology is capable of creating products with superior technical characteristics, it does mean the same plant solutions are being adopted across the entire Italian ceramic industry,” Borelli said. “What really sets companies apart is their stylistic choices, their use of graphic designs, colors and surface textures.”

Crossville aims to differentiate itself from other tile manufacturers by blending traditional printing technology and ceramic material effects with digitally printed images. “We call it a ‘digital-plus’ approach that allows us to create looks that are unique to Crossville products and are not replicable,” Miller explained.

For manufacturers such as Dal-Tile and its associate brands, differentiation comes from not only creating differing designs, but also from developing multiple products. “The vast array of tile offered by our brands provides every customer with a solution for every challenge they may face,” Mattioli explained.


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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.


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Crossville sponsors Southern Style Now Showhouse

SouthernStyleNow1Crossville, Tenn.— Crossville will be the exclusive tile sponsor for the first-ever Southern Style Now Showhouse, presented by Traditional Home Magazine. The 15-room house, a Queen Anne Victorian built in 1896 and located on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ Uptown District, has received an extensive renovation led by some of the nation’s top interior designers.

The remodeled home will debut during a gala event on May 18 benefiting New Orleans’ Preservation Resource Center. It will then be open for public tours May 19-June 12. The showhouse is occurring in tandem with the first Southern Style Now Design Festival that runs May 19-22 as a celebration of the unique and distinct aesthetic and culture of our nation’s southern states.

In addition to providing tile for the showhouse, Crossville is supporting the festival by leading two unique events.

“The Fifth Wall” panel discussion 
Lindsey Waldrep, VP of marketing for Crossville, will moderate a panel discussion on “The Fifth Wall” featuring several notable Southern designers sharing insights on “the secret to stylish slab, mosaic how-to’s, and more.” This event takes place on  May 21 from 9 to 10:15 a.m. at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.

CEU presentation: Thin Tile 
Crossville’s Doug Ingham will lead a Lunch & Lecture CEU event focusing on the burgeoning porcelain tile panel (aka thin tile) category. The event takes place on May 20 from noon to 2 p.m. at Stafford Tile & Stone, 5234 Magazine St., in New Orleans.

“It’s great to see our tile collections so beautifully used by a line-up of phenomenal interior designers,” Waldrep said. “Even more importantly, it’s an honor to be part of an event that will make great strides in the ongoing renaissance of New Orleans’ design community. The festival is bringing in the best of the best, and we’re thrilled to be in the mix.”

For tickets to tour the showhouse, visit For details and ticket purchases for the Southern Style Now Festival, visit the event website by clicking here.

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Coverings 2016: Manufacturers focus on design, new technologies

April 25/May 2, 2016; Volume 30, Number 22

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.17.49 PMChicago—Coverings 2016, the largest tile and stone exhibition in North America, experienced yet another successful year, delivering new trends, styles and designs. Exhibitors at the expo, held April 18-21 here, embraced the vibrant host city and noted a few differences as compared to last year’s show in Orlando.

“I like Chicago because it’s in the middle of the U.S.,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville. “You get your West Coast people, you get your East Coast people and you get your international people. With Midway and O’Hare [airports] it’s an easy place to get in and out of.”

Donato Grosser, president, consultant to Ceramic Tiles of Italy, observed a different dynamic of attendees. “In Orlando there are a lot of people in the business of tile including builders, contractors and dealers. At this venue we see more architects and designers.”

Waldrep also noted the days of the show may have been the cause of some sporadic traffic at the start. Because the exhibit hall opened on a Monday, travel plans may have delayed the crowd, she said. “I think the days make a difference; the show doesn’t start until Tuesday next year and I think a lot of people don’t want to fly in on a Sunday, so [Monday] was slower and [Tuesday was] crazy busy. In addition, when it’s in Orlando people come in early or stay later to visit theme parks with family so you don’t have any dead zones at the beginning or end of the week.”

With more than 443,000 square feet of show floor space, numerous trends were illustrated from booth to booth with a few taking prominence. Hexagons, for example, are being incorporated into collections in both small and large formats. “I think the hexagon look is still ramping up,” said Alena Capra, Coverings industry ambassador. “It’s classic—if you go to Barcelona it’s on the streets there in a large scale from long ago. We’re seeing more individual sizes and it’s a look that adds spice; clients like it. It creates interest and gives us another shape to work with in design that is fun.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.07 PMBrick is another look that is here to stay. “As you walk the floor you’ll see there’s a lot of traditional brick with a reworked look,” Capra continued. “Some of them are more elongated looks or larger scale while some have that rustic or industrial feel. It’s traditional brick but with a new take on it.”

Marazzi’s Urban District, for example, encapsulates both brick and hexagons in addition to wood looks with an industrial theme. The company’s new Spotlight display showcases its BRX, STX and HEX lines in a way that shows dealers and customers how the products work together in a room and “pulls the story up front and center,” according to Micah Hand, brand marketing manager, Marazzi. “It’s versatile enough to hold different shapes and sizes. We’ve got [hexagons] in here, we’ve got planks and we’ve got bricks in all different sizes. The nice thing about this display is it has longevity because the graphics can be switched.”


From floors to walls

While there aren’t any official statistics available on the percentage of overall usage of wall tile in relation to flooring, Grosser predicts general consumption will grow this year from about 25% to 30%. This is due, in part, to trending large-format thin tile that can be installed over existing tile and is popular in wall applications. “Whenever you have new product in the market the growth has to be slow in the beginning because people do not know the product. Now they are coming out with a national standard for thin tile so that will help increase its usage.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.14 PMTo cater to this trend, Crossville is launching Laminam Satori porcelain tile panels available in 1 x 3 meters and 1 x 1 meters at 5.6mm in thickness for installation on floors, walls, countertops and beyond. In keeping with the Japanese meaning of the word “satori”—enlightenment—the company has been doing its part to educate installers in the industry from hands-on training in the field to online videos.

Florida Tile’s Sean Cilona, marketing director, said the appeal of Glamour—a large format metallic wall tile—includes its ease of installation and cutting, lighter weight, increased durability and slight reduction in cost.

Accent walls have become an important design feature in residential applications and Sicis North America is known for providing the perfect wow factor for such projects. “At the end of the day we are creating pieces of art,” said Lorenzo Canella, U.S. regional sales manager. “It’s not just a wall for a bathroom.” The company utilizes three design variations to achieve its works of art: “pixelated” for using one color for every point on an image; “artistic” for reproducing the image in an artistic way similar to a painter with a paintbrush; and “blending” uses a combination of colors.


Wood remains strong

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.21 PMWood visuals remain a significant trend in tile’s heightened style and design. “Wood looks are continuing to be hot, of course, but larger formats specifically are really taking the stage,” said Scott Appel, co-CEO of Floors & More. “With wood it’s really expanding and you’re seeing it go in many different directions. You see urban designs, rustic and there is a lot of gray.”

Marazzi’s new Cathedral Heights is one collection inspired by old wood beams from mansions and doors from churches in Europe. With whites, grays and browns, this natural, reclaimed look offers significant variation.

Ragno’s Woodcraft is available in 4 x 28 planks with a worn and distressed surface for a sanded down look. The company’s Woodplace features oak visuals on exaggerated 8 x 48 elongated planks.

Landmark Ceramics’ Natural Design can be used in both floor and wall applications. Inspired by American walnut, the planks are crisscrossed by delicate design traces such as planing, veining and saw cutting. “Every detail enriches the product, giving identity, expression and strength to the four different shades in the range,” said Francesco Mezzanotte, head of marketing.

MS International introduced a new collection of wood plank series including a 9 x 48 large format. The company also made some additions to existing lines based on trends it observed. “We took the white marble look and built a display to make it easier to shop,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing. “With our porcelain bricks we added colors like whitewash. We incorporated mixed finishes into natural stone subways.”


New technology, options

With the advancements in digital printing technology, many industry members believe the game for tile has completely changed.” We can recreate stone that isn’t even in existence anymore or create new variations,” said Lori Dolnick, marketing, Tile of Spain. “We’ve moved beyond looking like wood or looking like stone to completely new things people have never seen before. There is so much opportunity for designers to customize flooring. And everything you expect from tile such as durability and environmental friendliness is still there.”

Mediterranea is one such company creating out-of-the-box designs with its launch of Quantum. “In this industry in the past, manufacturers have tried to replicate natural stone such as calacatta or travertine,” said Don Mariutto, vice president, marketing. “Our Quantum is taking a different approach. It’s not found in nature—it’s an original creation.” The Quantum collection includes Quantum Stone and White Wood, offered in honed and polished finishes.

Wonder Porcelain introduced a fabric look that plays off of mixed materials—another route to take with the help of new technology. “Fabric Folio is a great example of that trend,” said Laurie Lyza, director of marketing. “It’s all about the texture. It gives the appearance of cement with a tweed overlay. A lot of fabric looks are delicate but this is more industrial.” The company’s Orvieto is another line that combines materials to create a unique look. It is a marble collection that features light linear veining and a subtle wood graining.