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Tile: Innovation provides inspiration behind stone designs

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By K.J. Quinn


Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.20.40 AMStone flooring flourished as a premium upgrade over ceramic tile, high-end faux stones and even certain hardwoods the past several years, industry experts say. And while the green movement continues to influence consumer preferences toward materials made of or replicating natural materials, the category is experiencing some bumps in the road that threaten to slow down sales growth into 2018.

“We haven’t seen major growth this year in this segment,” said Marc Bergeron, natural stone manager, Cosentino. “We detected a decrease in natural stone demand for flooring.”

The U.S. natural quartz and manufactured stone products market is a $10 billion-plus industry, according to the Catalina Research Natural and Manufactured Stone Product Industry Report released in December 2015 from Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) and Catalina Research. While U.S. stone product sales increased an estimated 7.4% during 2016 to $10.2 billion in manufacturers’ dollars, the market is expected to grow more moderately this year. “Volume in 2016 was estimated to be 120 million square feet and is also expected to continue to grow more moderately in 2018,” stated Donato Pompo, CTaSC founder.

Market conditions have softened in the past year due to a variety of reasons. The low end has been impacted by an oversaturation of commodity stones and improved aesthetics in competitive floors such as LVT and ceramic tile. The housing market hasn’t helped, as private owned housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.12 million in September, which is 4.7% below the revised August estimate, the Commerce Department reports.

Top issues
The stone business faces a host of competitive issues.  For example, the nature-inspired styles and appearances of stone are among the most knocked off in the flooring industry. “You can go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and buy porcelain tiles that look like natural stone for a lot less than you would pay for the natural stone,” Pompo said.

New inkjet technologies are creating porcelain and ceramic tiles to replicate the natural variations typical of stone, making it increasingly difficult for the naked eye to discern the differences between products. Where stone is being hit hardest by these Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.20.44 AMinnovations is in the low end as competitors aim to capture more share from customers who are shopping for stone but may be more attracted to the performance benefits of ceramic tile.  “The technological advancements in porcelain tile technology have impacted stones sales, both commercially and residentially,” said Bart Bettiga, executive director, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).

A bugaboo hampering stone sales is the perception it is a high-end product with limited clientele. For years, industry stakeholders and trade associations have touted the benefits of natural stone and dispelled false perceptions to consumers and the A&D community. And while stone remains among the most expensive flooring options, prices have come down so it’s more affordable.

Life cycle costing can provide consumers with insight into the value of stone compared to other flooring. Natural stone can be refinished to look like new after years of wear, unlike porcelain tiles which can get damaged and need to be replaced. And when installed prices are amortized over the life of the floor, experts say the costs look even more reasonable.

“No matter what, the search for low-cost, high-performing products is there and, at the same time, making sure the quality is right for customer expectations,” said Roy Viana, director of natural stone at Dal-Tile. “There is always a demand for that entry-level, low-cost price point.”

An increasing number of retail channels sell stone, making it more available to consumers, architects and designers. At the same time, it is also contributing to more competitive pricing. “Home Depot, Lowe’s, the Tile Shop—what we consider retail distributors—are bringing in more affordable stones that are more accessible to the retail customer,” Viana observed.

Like ceramic tile, the stone industry is plagued by a shortage of qualified installers, making it difficult for retailers to keep up with demand. “If stone tile is not installed properly, it can be quite expensive to fix,” Bettiga said. “Suppliers who sell stone tile and refer or subcontract the installation should make sure the installers have a proven track record of success in stone tile installation.”

What’s trending
Stone tiles are timeless, having been used inside residential spaces for thousands of years.

Among the most popular options for use in the home are granite, limestone, sandstone, slate and flagstone. Each piece maintains its own veining, coloring and natural imperfections, depending on the type of stone and location of the quarry.

“I continue to see limestone and honed materials used regularly,” Bettiga said. “Slate is also popular in many geographic regions, both indoors and in exterior applications.”

What’s trending are dark gray, soft red and medium green colors available in geometric and irregular sizes. Hard, sense stones that are non-porous are being used more frequently in high-traffic areas. Classic styles, such as white marbles, are also growing in popularity and available in many variations.

“Natural stone slabs seem like an innovation,” Bergeron said. “Certain factories are now using [them] to provide more options in large format tiles that previously were only available in a 2-cm thickness.”

In the past year, Nemo Tile introduced Think Thin 1.2, which offers large format, natural stone tiles in a 1.2-cm thickness. “This product is the result of innovation in block processing, slab finishing, material handling and special crates,” said Dan Gorecki, director, stone division. “Designers, contractors and clients are able to have large, slab-sized panels at a fraction of the cost for a custom slab fabrication project.” The lighter weighing materials translate into savings on local shipping, waste and jobsite handling.

Bigger is better when it comes to size, experts say. Variations from tile to tile are more evident, plus it meets pent-up demand for larger formats in residential and commercial spaces. “Recent trends seem to be toward larger format tiles,” Bergeron noted.

Specialized natural stone formats are also gaining traction. For example, “We’ve been seeing a lot of varied, hexagon-like shapes, which is due to design flexibility,” Viana said. “You can create a lot of different, unique installations, even vertical vs. horizontal.”

A newer process enabling highly styled and intricate patterns is water-jet mosaics. “You can program in designs and there is no limit to what it can look like,” Viana explained. “You can program in a flower and get petals cut.”

The latest styles and colors in stone provide end users with more flooring choices than ever before, fueling the trend toward mixing and matching different materials. As Gorecki explained, “Design trends are constantly in flux with colors, tile sizes and details changing by market and application.”


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Al's Column: Top 10 tips for tile, stone maintenance

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Rod Sigman


Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMIn the nearly three decades that I have been in this industry, there have been tremendous advancements in technology, techniques and craftsmanship. Yet with all the progress that has been made, many problems still exist, including issues and failures directly related to the lack of knowledge and understanding of how critical a role proper care and maintenance play in both insuring a successful installation and maintaining a products function and beauty for the long term.

To this point, ASTM C1528 –02 does a great job of framing this issue as it relates to natural stone. However, many of the same challenges and issues also apply to tile. As the standard states: “In a high proportion of the cases, failure of a natural stone in service is a result of improper application, rather than the inherent properties of the stone. Placing stones in unsuitable environments, faulty fabrication, installation or construction practices and incompatible associated materials are frequent causes of stone system failures…”

This means it is not typically the stone’s (or tile’s) fault but rather our lack of understanding and knowledge about the material; what it will do; how to install or fabricate it; etc., that is leading to failures and problems. Therefore, if we take the time to educate ourselves, employees, customers, etc., then we stand a much greater chance of success.

While there are ANSI and TCNA standards, guidelines and best practices for virtually all aspects of installation from surface prep to grouting techniques, none exist for sealers, maintenance, problem solving and prevention. That being said, it is critical to attend educational sessions—such as those available at TISE—to become aware of the potential pitfalls and challenges and how to avoid them. Topics that will be discussed at TISE include: when to pre-seal tile or stone vs. using a grout release; how hot/cold and or wet surfaces affect the use and performance of sealers; what the function of a sealer is; how using, selling or specifying proper maintenance products and programs can prolong the sealer, the function and performance of the installation itself; and knowing which tile, stone and grout should be sealed.

While this is very understandable up front, most find problems on the back end of the removing grout haze and staining, sealer residue, stains from other trades, hiring restoration contractors to refinish the stone and in some cases ripping out the installation only to have it reinstalled properly the second time. What is seldom planned are the direct and indirect costs (both time and money) associated with not discussing or implementing a good care and maintenance program. Countless meetings, finger pointing and potential lawsuits are all real consequences. The damage to yourself and or your company’s reputation and referral business is never monetized and factored in.

The International Surface Event offers a multitude of classes and opportunities to improve your knowledge, understanding and bottom line. This class is a must for those who are looking to give themselves and or their company an edge over their competition and increase customer satisfaction. We look forward seeing you Jan. 29, at 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., session code MN02. Register today at to review a complete list of programs and activities.


Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 3.05.38 PMRod Sigman is business development manager at Custom Building Products, based in Huntington Beach, Calif. The company specializes in floor preparation products and tile and stone installation systems for residential and commercial projects.





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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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Kent Klaser joins CTaSC

20170607PoloSan Diego, Calif.—Kent Klaser has joined Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) as a project manager. He will work alongside founder Donato Pompo. In this position, Klaser will work as a forensic investigator, expert witness and will oversee tile and stone investigations.

Klaser will also work on developing new specifications for new construction and projects that are remediating failures. In addition, he will develop quality control and quality assurance plans to help make sure new tile and stone installations are installed correctly. Furthermore, Klaser will develop training programs for tile installation companies through the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone, a division of CTaSC.

Klaser brings over 20 years of tile, stone and management experience to CTaSC. He grew up in a family tile and stone installation company, Klaser Tile of San Diego, Calif., and started working full time as an installer for the company in 1996. Later he worked as a project foreman and then as a senior project manager. In 2006 Klaser became vice president of operations for Klaser Tile—a position he held until he started working full time for CTaSC. In these various positions he did take-offs and bidding. He also oversaw and managed commercial projects and managed a labor force that at times had over 100 workers on various projects.

Klaser is a licensed ceramic tile and stone installer and a mason installer; he also has a Bachelor of Science degree.

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MSI finds ‘window of opportunity’ with recycled glass

By Nicole Murray

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 5.00.54 PMOver the years, floor covering manufacturers have incorporated recycled materials into their products—the most common examples including used tires repurposed for rubber flooring; old wood panels recovered from dilapidated barns or railroad ties re-milled for rustic-plank flooring; and sawdust captured from woodworking operations that is then converted into MDF fiberboard for laminate flooring planks.

MS International (MSI) continues in that tradition with the launch of Urban Cool, a new line of wall and flooring tiles made from recycled glass with various textile prints and marble looks available in beige, light gray, dark gray, white and brown.

“Urban Cool now has 12 stunning items made from crushed glass powder that is mixed with a binding agent and then printed with ink-jet technology,” said Emily Holle, director of trend & design national marketing, MSI. “The collection features 2-inch hexagon, interlocking patterns and 2 x 4 subway tiles.”

By using recycled glass as a source material, MSI is able to repurpose components that would otherwise go to waste. Beyond the environmental benefits, this newly launched product has limitless capabilities to accommodate any style because of the surface’s recycled glass texture, according to the company.

“The printing technology applied to the surface offers a unique look not found elsewhere in the marketplace,” Holle said, citing potential applications in kitchens and bathrooms. “These items will make calming back splashes, gorgeous shower floors and great accent details when paired with shower tile.”

MSI expects Urban Cool will retail between $14.99 and $19.99 per sheet. Merchandising aids are also available for stocking dealers. These include grouted boards, materials and instructions. “Most retailers will choose to sample these new mosaics in a 12 x 12 grouted board mounted on a wall or an ‘A’ frame—all of which are available to ship now,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MSI.

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Bostik video chronicles 2017 DNG mosaic mural campaign

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 10.16.09 AMWauwatosa, Wis.—Lisa Darroh-Pouls of Pouls Hospitality Design based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, won the grand prize at Design ‘N Gather 2017 (DNG), the international mosaic design competition co-sponsored by Bostik and Artaic Innovative Mosaic. Bostik created a state-of-the-art video to showcase the competition and winner.

Darroh-Pouls’ masterpiece, “Champaign Wishes” was unveiled in front of over 600 hospitality architects and designers as a backlit, mosaic mural permanently installed at Hyde Bellagio, overlooking the iconic Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.

“The submissions this year nearly doubled from our premiere campaign in 2016,” said Chris Eichman, Bostik’s marketing communications manager. “The judges had to narrow down to the top 10 finalists—which were prominently displayed during HDExpo—and finally selected the top design, which, truly captured the essence of Las Vegas. Our latest video captures the excitement of this one-of-a-kind marketing program, which was another integral part of our global thrust to build Bostik brand recognition.”

Watch the video here:

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American Olean expands natural stone, outdoor tile offerings

AO_Merit_COMDallas—American Olean recently introduced four new collections, expanding its broad selection of product offerings to include varieties of wall tile, natural stone and exterior tile.

The new product offerings include: Candora, a natural stone collection offered in unique mosaic patterns, including mini arabesque, mini chevron, linear leaf and linear hex; Vellagio, a travertine-look perfect for achieving a rustic chic living space; Merit, a slip-resistant interior and exterior tile ideal for open-concept environments; and Perspecta, a unique wall tile offered in large format sizing and nine different colors.

“This summer, we are elevating our tile and stone collections to provide more versatile and on-trend offerings to residential and commercial customers,” said Christy Lee, brand marketing manager, American Olean. “With more commercial hospitality builders seeking open concepts, Merit offers seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. By offering natural stone in trending patterns, such as Candora linear leaf and hex mosaics, designers can achieve sophisticated spaces without sacrificing quality and durability.”

The latest collections from American Olean are inspired and designed with both residential and commercial customers’ needs and style demands in mind. To view the full line of offerings from American Olean, visit

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Crossville collections installed in smart home for wounded veteran

lucas-cifka-1Crossville, Tenn.—As the tile supplier for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program in 2017, Crossville recently contributed the tile for a specially adapted smart home for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lucas David Cifka (Ret.) and his family. The house was dedicated in a ceremony on June 15, in Canyon Lake, Texas.

More than 1,000 square feet of Crossville tile was installed in the master bath, the guest bath, the mudroom and kitchen covering the floors and walls. Brandi Hines, interior designer, worked with the Cifka family to specify tile with the desired look and performance needed throughout the home.

The master bath features Crossville’s Buenos Aires Mood collection and Yin + Yang collection. Crossville’s Ready-to-Wear in the color Smarty Pants was specified for the guest bathroom; while the Color By Numbers collection in the Nine Lives hues was used to accent the guest bath, as well as the family’s mud room. For the walls in the kitchen, Crossville’s Savoy collection in white was installed.

“It’s exciting to know a deserving wounded warrior and his family are enjoying the comforts of a brand new, specially adapted smart home—and that our tile is a part of their everyday surroundings,” said Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing. “The tile options specified for Staff Sgt. Cifka’s home are not only beautiful but also practical for a busy family.”

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Emser Tile opens new branch in Houston

Emser LogoLos Angeles—Emser Tile has opened its 72nd branch in North America. The new location marks its fourth branch in Houston and 10th in Texas.

Emser has experienced exponential growth in the Houston market throughout the last 14 years. The company adds a fourth location to strategically position itself in all four quadrants of the metropolitan area as well as contribute new jobs to the southeast Houston economy.

“We are honored to be able to further service our growing customer base in southeast Houston,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing for Emser Tile. “This fourth location allows us to expand our unparalleled customer service and provide robust support for the thriving Houston community.”

Headquartered in Los Angeles, Emser celebrates its 50th anniversary of providing tile and natural stone products next year. The company continues to grow its presence throughout North America, expanding its footprint and customer service efforts across the West, Midwest and East Coast regions.