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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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Adhesives: Professional installers express their product preferences

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10
By K.J. Quinn

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-35-51-pmInstallers expect value, quality and innovation from the flooring adhesives they use every day. They want products that are easy to install and won’t delay any finishing work. And they expect these formulations to perform as advertised so there are no callbacks.

“We’re more focused on the builder and commercial [markets], so when we’re doing a large scope of jobs the exposure on potential product failures are pretty high,” noted Curly Kurdell, president, Henges Interiors, St. Louis. “We want a company that has the wherewithal to stand behind us financially as well as provide all the detail and technical support we need so we can perform the job successfully.”

There are many different flooring adhesives, each providing comparable benefits and pricing. Regardless of the brand, the performance of the material depends largely upon its ability to durably and successfully bond floor coverings in a manner that is acceptable to installers. “We like the open time and the way the Laticrete thinset performs,” said Greg Games, president, Premier Tile & Marble, Gardena, Calif. “It gives us plenty of time to work with the product and material as it doesn’t set up fast. Plus the bond strengths are very high.” From high-strength construction epoxy adhesive to thinset or thick bed mortar, Laticrete adhesives are custom-formulated to deliver speed and efficiency.

In the residential market, adhesives are used in a wide range of remodeling and new home construction applications. While there are many kinds of formulative technologies for adhering various surfaces to the subfloor—and pros and cons associated with using each product—materials which are easy to trowel, offer strong bonding and green grab properties are preferred by installers.

“One of the adhesives we like using is the Mapei Ultrabond Eco980,” said Freddy Velez, special services manager, ReSource Arizona, Phoenix. “It gives you a workable time to spread out the adhesive and start a base for your flooring installation. It dries at a good rate; not too fast or too slow.” Eco980 is a 100%-solids, one-component, moisture-cured premium urethane adhesive designed for the installation of domestic and exotic solid and engineered wood flooring.

Value-added products
Determining the type of adhesive to use with flooring materials often depends on the manufacturer’s specification; however, end usage may also be affected by a product’s track record. Adhesive makers claim to offer a strong portfolio of products backed by the strength of their highly respected brands. And, historically, installers prefer tried-and-true products as they enable them to minimize the risk of floor failures.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-36-00-pm“We know what to expect,” Christian E. Drehmann, vice president, Tile & Marble Works, Lake Worth, Fla., said of adhesives made from Custom Building Products (CBP). “They have an adhesive for every use, whether it be Versabond-LFT, for large format tiles, ProLite, our everyday wall and floor adhesive, or MegaLite for heavy duty installations requiring crack suppressive qualities. CBP also offers a complete installation system—floor preparation, adhesive, grouts and sealer—providing a complete warranty from a single entity.”

Depending on the brand, some premium products may enable installers to gain a greater yield per gallon compared to other formulations. While cost per square foot is important, observers say, installers will utilize premium adhesives if they offer excellent value. For example, Henges Interiors’ Kurdell cited TEC’s Power Grout as “a real winner. The trade up grout is not overly expensive and has stain resistance.” Power Grout is marketed as highly stain resistant and provides strong, color consistent joints by resisting efflorescence, cracking and shrinking.

Coleman Floor, Columbia, S.C., uses DriTac 7300 SureBond and 7500 Eco-Urethane urethane wood flooring adhesives extensively, depending on the job site location. “We have used both products successfully,” said Barry Crowder, southeast U.S. market manager, noting the 7500 as a more expensive option. “The 7500 offers higher performance, has a stronger warranty and a little different formula.” DriTac 7300 is easy to spread and clean up when dry, while DriTac 7500 is solvent free with zero VOCs and recommended for all “green” projects.

Premier Tile & Marble prefers Laticrete’s Permacolor Grout for tile installations, unless an epoxy is specified. “It’s a little bit more expensive than normal sanded or non-sanded grouts,” Games said. “But we don’t have any job complaints or failures on the job site.” The high performance, fast setting product provides a grout joint that is dense and hard, plus color consistent.

The latest adhesives are backed by lengthy warranties covering replacement costs for flooring and labor. In the case of ARDEX and Henry, when their installation products are used together the warranties are covered by the same parent company. “You want an adhesive that works with surface preparation products,” said Bob Seman, installation manager, Seman Flooring, Washington, Pa., noting the Henry 356C multipurpose carpet and sheet vinyl adhesive offers a good, fast grab. “ARDEX and Henry products have been tested together and you know they’re compatible.”

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-38-35-pmVendors who stand behind their products when an installation fails is critical, installers say, as it avoids lengthy delays on the job site. “One of the great things about Mapei is if there are any issues, they are not quick to point the finger and say you did something wrong,” ReSource Arizona’s Velez said.

When there are issues, “TEC is very responsive and warrant their products, which is very important for us,” Henges Interiors’ Kurdell added. “We can reach out directly to TEC and their technical people, and they will coach us [in developing] a solution.” The benefits of TEC flooring adhesives include excellent grab, good initial tack, strong resiliency, tenacious bond and easy spreading.

Technical Service & Support
Adhesive makers say they are responsive and meet customers’ needs. Several operate educational facilities to work more closely with customers and assist them in their product knowledge and installation training. “The reason I like using Mapei products is because of their service,” Velez said. “They spend a lot of time with people in the field.”

ARDEX, the parent company of Henry, provides on-site product know-how and job site consultation to help installers match the right product with the correct installation methods to minimize time, cost and risk. For example, “we are looking at a job which may have an adhesive compatibility issue, and my first call was to the Henry technical line,” Seman said. “Henry is actually sending out a couple of reps to look at this job so we get on the right path and there is not a problem in the future.”

Tile & Marble Works receives support from local CBP representatives in training its installation crew on the proper use of their adhesives and how they perform on different surfaces, Drehmann said. “This has rewarded us with a failure rate of almost zero.”

DriTac technical reps provide guidance and expertise when called upon, Coleman Floor’s Crowder pointed out. “We can reassure homeowners that they won’t have any ongoing, long-term problems [with their floor],” he said. “DriTac is an excellent company in standing behind their products and offering help along the way.”

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Credit: Financing options help consumers buy more

October 10/17, 2016: Volume 31, Number 9

By K.J. Quinn

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-10-28-52-amRetailers are challenged to increase awareness of opportunities to finance flooring purchases, which plays an important role in the shopping experience. Promoting these programs is a necessity during a time when most customers conduct research, including credit options, before stepping foot inside the store.

“Our retailers continue to tell us that offering consumer financing in today’s retail landscape is a must,” said Susan Hahn, director of new business development at Mohawk, which offers a private-label credit card. “Finance plays a major role in the consumer’s decision-making process and is a determining factor in where they shop and ultimately buy.”

More importantly, the availability of credit programs raises the potential for larger purchases. “On average, a finance transaction is eight times the size of an order paid in cash and four times the size when paid with a credit card,” said Aaron John, director of flooring network and retail programs at Shaw.

The proof is in the pudding, as evidenced by Synchrony Financial’s Fifth Annual Major Purchase Consumer Study. The Synchrony cardholders survey, conducted June to July 2016 by a third party, found 65% of respondents in the flooring category “always” seek promotional financing options when making a major purchase while 72% indicated promotional financing makes large purchases more affordable. “Research snows 32% of flooring shoppers who are not Synchrony Bank cardholders reported awareness of financing options, compared to [58%] last year, indicating retailers need to do better at integrating credit information across multiple channels,” said Glenn Marino, Synchrony executive vice president and CEO, payment solutions. (Both Shaw and Mohawk work with Synchrony Financial to provide credit options to the consumer.)

As consumers become more decisive, they may be influenced by the amount of information found during their research process. “Consumer financing should be part of your consistent messaging in all advertising mediums, whether traditional or digital,” said Keith Spano, president, Flooring America/ Flooring Canada, a Manchester, N.H.-based retail group. “Obviously, the best scenario occurs when—through our advertising—a customer comes onto our site and gets approved online for a Flooring America/Canada credit line.”

The consideration cycle for flooring shoppers is significantly shorter—dropping from 90 days in 2015 to 67 days this year, according to the study. As a result, dealers are encouraged to integrate credit and financing offers early and often, especially on their websites. “[This] makes it easy for flooring shoppers to find the information they are looking for during their search and can help ensure a flooring retailer is part of the customer’s consideration set,” Marino said.

Communicating the availability of financing consistently across all marketing channels is important and helps build greater awareness among flooring shoppers. “Using Facebook, websites, radio, mailers, banners, TV and newspaper advertising to promote our branding shows our customers we are consistent with our ability to finance effectively,” said Tom Garvey, president and CEO, Garvey’s Flooring America, with locations in Northumberland and Bloomsburg, Pa. These marketing efforts are successful, he said, noting approximately 30% of business from purchases financed over 12 to 24 months.

Jim Jensen, owner of Carpet Mill Outlet Flooring Stores, Denver, cites the importance of promoting credit opportunities through a variety of media. “We have found success with web and social promotions along with salespeople and POP materials. When you add mentions in the mass media like broadcast TV, cable and radio, we find the blanket coverage of all available media the most effective approach.”

The vehicles retailers employ to promote financing options are ever changing. “Much of the traditional ways of advertising, like newspapers and inserts, do not work as well as they did years ago,” reports Tom Urban, general manager, Great Lakes Carpet & Tile, with three locations in central Florida. “Finding ways through social media and in-store events can be challenging.”

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-10-31-19-amThe survey reports roughly two-thirds of flooring shoppers conduct research through search engines, the retailer’s website and manufacturer sites. Another 34% also leverage third -party online review sites. “Integrated campaigns across email communication and retail site advertising also reinforce dealer participation and broader brand messages to help build incremental awareness among consumers,” Marino said.

All of which makes it important for credit options to be readily visible with all product specials, sales and promotions. Approximately two-thirds of flooring shoppers decide on their payment method before entering the store to buy, an indication salespeople must be prepared to address queries on financing options. “Sales associates are always asking for payments or deposits from consumers and need to make sure financing options are offered right from the beginning,” Urban said.

While prime lending offers help lure customers inside the store, educating consumers about how financing options can increase their buying power is an integral part of the selling process. “Proper training of your staff, coupled with ensuring they offer financing at every customer touch, is crucial to any credit program’s success,” said Michael Fredricks, senior vice president of business development at Fortiva Retail Credit.

Lending plans range from private-label credit cards, deferred payments and same-as-cash, which provide consumers with low monthly payments and extended financing. “We have seen retailers creating a buzz to drive traffic in the door via extended deferred interest periods—no payments for ‘X’ amount of years, product discounts [such as] ‘buy one room, get another room free,’ seasonal messaging, etc.,” Fredricks said.

It’s not uncommon for shoppers to leverage credit to upgrade to better quality products or purchase additional flooring. The study found cardholders spend an average of $416 more than non-cardholders. “The fact remains, when a customer engages with our consumer financing, she’ll buy better product than she anticipated, or will purchase more product for more areas of the house than she originally planned,” Canada’s Spano said.

Financing plans make it easier for most consumers to spread out payments for their flooring purchase over a number of months while helping dealers create a platform for building their business. For example: Great Lakes’ Urban recalled a situation involving a couple who initially chose a one-year, no-interest financing option to purchase carpet for their master bedroom. “I also mentioned to them that I had the measurements for the other rooms to see if they were interested, at that time, to do more flooring. They said no, but they would keep it in mind for possibly later next year.”

Fast forward 45 days later, Urban said the couple called after receiving their paperwork from Synchrony and decided to purchase the rest of the flooring that was measured. “My original order was for $1,138, but the last invoice was $2897.30,” he noted.

While there is no one-size- fits-all credit program, lenders can recommend an approach that fits a retailer’s sales model and provide assistance for optimizing results. “Synchrony Financial’s marketing teams understand flooring shoppers’ path to purchase and work with flooring retailers to help build customer awareness across multiple channels, including integrating financing options with online advertising, retailer site finance landing pages, print advertising, retailer POP materials, and any radio or television advertising,” Marino said.

Fortiva’s retail credit program allows participants to close one out of three customers they are losing today. “[This] equates to a 10% to 20% increase in financed revenues to your bottom line,” Fredricks explained. “This simultaneously promotes employee retention with higher sales commissions and increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

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Latest grouts help facilitate faster application for professional mechanics

September 12/19, 2016: Volume 31, Number 7

By K.J. Quinn

Choosing the right grout is a critical element of any ceramic tile and stone installation, experts say. Technological advances are triggering the development of products that last longer, enable faster installation and help ensure easy maintenance over the lifetime of the surface.

“Today’s tiles are larger, grout joints are smaller and end users expect higher grout performance,” said Tony Pasquarelli, director of marketing, Custom Building Products. “Stain-proof, color-consistent grouts that are easy to install and require no sealing are quickly becoming the new standard.”

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-3-35-59-pmAs tile sizes get larger and joints become narrower, grouts need to be more fluid in consistency for ease of installation and deeper penetration to avoid shrinkage. “Ardex grouts have a different type of polymer technology than what has been typically available in North America containing very fine aggregate but still deliver outstanding strength,” noted Russ Gaetano, marketing manager, tile and stone installation systems. “Stain resistance and color consistency are very important components, and they have self-contained sealers that don’t require a grout sealer.”

Finding tile grout that withstands the test of time is an ongoing challenge for installers. While the basic functionality of the product remains largely unchanged—filling in joints between floor and wall tiles, preventing the edges from chipping or cracking, and maximizing the beauty of tile—suppliers continue tinkering with formulations to keep up with ever changing tile formats. New polymers and chemistries are allowing manufacturers to design rapid-setting grouts with enhanced performance characteristics while maintaining ease of installation.

“Premium grouts are more color consistent than ever before allowing a more worry-free installation,” said Michelle Swiniarski, market manager, ceramic installation systems, Bostik. “They offer enhanced stain, crack and chemical resistance making them easier to maintain and more aesthetically pleasing during the life of the installation.”

Ease and speed of installation are critical components for any tile contractor, especially in markets with high labor rates. This has helped accelerate introductions of more single-component grouts, where grouting and cleanup are measurably faster, industry members say.

“These materials have greater performance and colorfastness than their traditional cementitious counterparts and offer a kind of half-step between cement and epoxy grouts,” said Ryan Fasan, technical consultant, Tile of Spain.

Custom’s Fusion Pro Single Component Grout is warrantied to be stain proof and color perfect, making it ready to use from the get-go. “The single component grout is factory mixed, so there is no need to add water, mix on site or allow for slake time,” Pasquarelli said, adding it is easy to spread and does not require sealing. “Plus, you install then clean immediately, which is a huge benefit on typical jobs.” Fusion Pro comes in 40 standard colors, and eight Fusion Pro Designer Series options offer reflective color accents.

High performance, pre-mixed grouts reportedly combine the strength, durability and suitability attributes of cement-based and epoxy grouts for use in commercial spaces. “Premium, fast curing pre-mixed and cement-based grouts are the largest growing trend,” Bostik’s Swiniarski said. “End users are looking for premium performance characteristics, and contractors are looking for speed and ease of installation.”

These products are easy to use and attractive to the growing influx of installers new to the tile trade. “All pre-mixed grouts are polymer resin-based or urethane-based,” said Tom Plaskota, technical support manager, TEC. “Pre-mixed grout tends to be resistant to stains, cracks and shrinking.” TEC InColor Advanced Performance Tile Grout, available in 17 colors, is a high-performance, pre-mixed product applicable for residential or commercial usage, inside or outdoors.

Dimension RapidCure, a glass-based, pre-mixed grout, conveys a reflective appearance.
Dimension RapidCure, a glass-based, pre-mixed grout, conveys a reflective appearance.

Grout comes in various colors, and specification often is determined by the width of the tile joints. For example, unsanded grout—made from a blend of Portland cement and powdered pigments mixed with water—is recommended for floor and wall tiling projects with joints spacing from 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 inch. Sanded grout is typically used for larger joints and consists of a cement-based mortar with small sand grains added to it to help when setting.

“There are even grouts that offer atomized glass beads of different colors, and even metallic, specifically for glass mosaic installations,” Fasan pointed out. “Some of the finer aggregate grouts are even safe for glossy finishes, depending on the hardness rating of the glaze. [This] helps alleviate the necessity of using non-sanded varieties that can be much more difficult in cleanup and frequently have shrinkage issues if too much wash water is used.”

In the cement grout category, new, higher performing cement grouts are growing rapidly in popularity. “They are rapid curing and more color consistent and efflorescence resistant than a standard cement grout while remaining easy to clean during the installation process,” Swiniarski said. “They also offer enhanced stain resistance. Their drying speed allows the installation to be opened up to traffic much sooner than a standard grout and are easier to maintain.” Bostik’s Hydroment Vivid, a rapid curing, premium-grade and cement-based grout, offers consistent color technology with enhanced stain and efflorescence protection for demanding commercial and residential projects.

Epoxy grout, considered a premium product and available in sanded and non-sanded formulations, offers water-resistant properties and can be utilized for virtually any tile application. Ardex WA is marketed as the easiest to apply and clean epoxy grout available.

“It has a very creamy consistency unlike any other epoxies and cleans off with only water, leaving minimal or no haze for the final cleaning,” Gaetano explained. “Ardex WA can also be used as tile adhesive for use in pools and other difficult environments.”

Indeed, grout is becoming much more specialized. Vendors are making them lighter in weight and easier to handle. And in the case of cementitious grouts, advances have been made to all but eliminate color inconsistencies. “With our new Permacolor Select, we can now offer thousands of custom colors within two weeks at a very small minimum, allowing designers no limit to their creative juices,” said Ryan Blair, product manager, grouts and sealants, Laticrete. Sealing of the cementitious grout is not required, thanks to new sealer technology incorporated into the base material, which saves on installation time and labor costs.

In reformulating their products, producers are mindful about the impact grouts have on the environment and meeting sustainable building design requirements. Manufacturers publish a list of low-VOC setting materials to aid in occupant health and safety concerns. “More and more grouts are exhibiting zero or low VOCs,” Plaskota said. “In addition, ready-to-use grouts allow grout to be resealed and used for future jobs, which reduces product waste.”

There are grouts that incorporate partially recycled content, if that is a consideration for a project. “We are currently looking into renewable resources as a large basis of our raw materials for many of our products,” Laticrete’s Blair said. “This change will happen in the near future.”

The use of recycled content adds a green component to these traditional products. For instance, Custom’s Prism Grout contains up to 15% post-consumer recycled content by weight. Prism is part of Custom Building Products’ Build Green and Emerald programs, which promote sustainability.

“To an installer, this lightweight component makes Prism easy to work [with],” Pasquarelli said. “Design professionals and end users find it ideal when they are seeking environmentally conscious installation solutions.”




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Ceramic: Technology enables suppliers to render more realistic designs

September 5, 2016; Volume 31, Number 6

By K.J. Quinn

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-10-06-20-amIt’s hard to believe a category representing one of the world’s oldest forms of floor covering can undergo a makeover. But that is exactly what is transpiring with ceramic tile, as new digital printing technologies are enabling producers to introduce game-changing formats and designs not seen since inkjet technology was introduced about 16 years ago.

“Digital printing– especially when combined with more traditional decorating techniques–has provided a level of depth not seen before in tile,” observed Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “With porcelain tile panels, we’re creating very convincing and unique styles that look exceptional on formats that are measured in feet, not inches.” Crossville’s new Altered State porcelain tile collection offers the look of antiqued metals, oxidized and aged from the passing of time.

The advent of digital printing and creation of panels and pavers are innovations that stem from equipment developments achieved by tile producers. For example, the 2-cm-thick pavers created by manufacturers within the past three years are getting slicker with the addition of plank formats and sophisticated inkjet decorations, including glazes and metallic, industry watchers say. “These pavers are allowing for seamless transitions to exterior rooms and landscapes, with traditional thicknesses being used indoors,” said Ryan Fasan, technical consultant for Tile of Spain. “Traditional trades such as masons and landscapers are embracing these new formats wholeheartedly as the porcelain versions are lighter and easier to work with than their concrete counterparts.”

The trend towards extra-large tile thicknesses such as 3.7 and 12 mm are opening up new applications for tile. “Extra-thick tiles are now becoming widely used on residential driveways, sidewalks, outdoor walkways and plazas,” said Vittorio Borelli, president of Confindustria Ceramica.

Digital printing continues to be an innovation allowing manufacturers to develop tile lines that meet consumer demands for wood, stone, marble and even brick looks. “The digital printing technology is definitely helping bring ceramic products to market faster, providing true natural looks and graphics,” said Sean Cilona, director of marketing and product development, Florida Tile.

Dal-Tile Corp. reports utilizing digital technology to produce high definition (HD) visuals, which capture the exact look of whatever design it is replicating. “We can create marble-look tile that features the variations and veining found in real marble,” said Massimo Ballucchi, director of product design. “For wood looks, we can create tile that incorporates the texture, color variations and knotting of natural wood.” Daltile’s new Brickwork uses random shade variation and distressed edges to emulate brick found in historic metropolitan architecture.

Decorative trends driven by technology

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-10-06-30-amThe decorative trends are as exciting as the technological ones in floor and wall tile today, experts say. Many advancements being made in color, pattern and texture will be on display this month at Cersaie in Bologna, Italy. “I expect to see products such as wood and stone effect floor tiles, while the wall tile segment will see a strong focus on textured surfaces and three-dimensional effects alongside elegant, sophisticated colors,” Confindustria Ceramica’s Borelli said.

Trending styles include matte black finishes, distressed wood planks, vintage patterns and geometric designs, including hexagons and metallics with mirrored effects. Some of the latest products feature glazes and lusters, which can be applied digitally, as well as metallic and specialty finishes. “This is allowing for the most realistic and nuanced finishes we have ever seen in tile,” Tile of Spain’s Fasan said. “The latest stone looks can actually have the mixed gloss level patina of a stone that’s been installed for centuries by using drop-on-demand glazes in specific spots on each piece.”

The digital printing process has become so sophisticated that manufacturers can create tile that varies from piece to piece, much like the real products. Size does matter as vendors continue churning out larger formats and shapes to accommodate pent up demand. “Trends continue to show the category moving to larger sizes, shapes and expanded applications such as walls,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer/vice president sales support, Emser Tile. “The last year saw an influx of hexagon shaped product, longer wood planks and linear formats of 20 x 40 inches and larger.”

“12 x 12-inch and 18 x 18-inch are no longer the best-selling sizes,” Florida Tile’s Cilona added. “Now you’re looking at 24 x 24, 6 x 24 and 8 x 35 inches. Plank and rectangular sizes are really popular with commercial [applications] and are now even going into the residential market.”

In terms of colors, gray is still the champion, while creams, blues and greens are finding their way into the spectrum. “In the U.S. market, we’re seeing a warming of metallic finishes and colors that is now being incorporated into tile design,” Crossville’s Waldrep said. “Brass is back. Gray hues are shifting from cool to warm.”

Expanded tile usage in the home

Ceramic tile and stone are valued for their hygienic properties, toughness, natural looks and durability. These are among the many attributes driving these products as popular choices for floors, walls, counters and backsplashes, in both wet and dry applications. One of the fastest growing residential applications is the master bedroom.

“With ensuites becoming an oasis that often spills out into the room and curbless shower systems becoming the norm, the entire master suite is often treated as a wet room,” Tile of Spain’s Fasan said. “Where the flooring was frequently broadloom in the past, we are now seeing the same tile flooring spill into the master bedroom with under floor radiant heat throughout.”

Wet areas are at the center of most tile installations in the home, such as kitchens, bathrooms and mud rooms. That’s because of the need for products that resist water and are easy to clean. “With that, you solve two major problems in those areas,” Crossville’s Waldrep said. “Tile is practically impervious to water, and when the right coefficient of friction is selected, it provides a safe and timeless solution to the space’s needs.”

Tile vendors see big growth opportunities in other residential areas. “Tile is going into kitchens and baths, entryways, hallways and even on accent walls and stairways,” Florida Tile’s Cilona said. “Ten years ago, no one thought about making an accent wall in the hallway, using stone and tile, and [consumers] are becoming savvier with that.”

As lifestyles shift to more natural and organic environments, more homeowners are reportedly moving their lives outdoors. “To address this shift, we are developing several tile collections that feature outdoor and indoor versions of the tile to allow homeowners to create a continuous flow from space to space,” Ballucchi said.

Looking ahead, tile trends are expected to continue evolving, benefiting from HD technologies that are now more common than ever in manufacturing. “It is giving tile designers unlimited options in what gets created, which in turn is giving consumers expanded, creative choices in how and where to use tile and natural stone in their projects,” Emser Tile’s Baldocchi said. “This creativity and flexibility has made tile a true focus of the design process vs. it simply being a functional element.”