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Coverings preview: New products, programs on tap for attendees

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Mara Bollettieri

Coverings 2018, one of the largest international tile and stone events, is expected to deliver fresh, new features and programs when it kicks off May 8-11 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. More than 1,100 exhibitors representing over 40 countries will showcase their wares.

“Coverings aims to not only highlight the inherent value of tile and stone materials—their adaptability, durability, low environmental impact and beauty—but also foster connections between industry professionals in order to grow business and build lasting professional relationships,” said Alena Capra, Coverings industry ambassador.

With displays of the latest products and hottest trends, live demonstrations, networking opportunities, educational seminars and more, attendees will have more than enough activities from which to choose during the event. Some highlights:

New and notable

This year, Coverings will host several first-time events, starting with the “Tile Installation Experience,” a hands-on learning experience consisting of a discussion with tile installers. Installers are expected to share best practices for tile installations through live demos. “This is the first time they are doing this at the show,” Capra said.

Also new for this year is extended hours offered on the first day of the show, Tuesday, May 8, which will allow for attendees to spend extra time on the floor. Along with the addition of longer hours comes a networking event, “Around the World of Tile & Stone,” which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. The event will include entertainment, happy hour specials and a chance to meet with other attendees. What’s more, attendees can network within the show’s mobile app along with an on-site Meet @ Coverings, with a designated area to meet and discuss. Also new is the Orientation Theatre, a program that provides guests with answers to frequently asked questions.

Another new feature is the Tile Heritage Foundation’s Donor Wall for Posterity, which allows attendees to be part of the show’s history. For a $25 donation, individuals can press their hands, names, ideas and/or logos into a tile of wet clay, which will be part of a larger mural that will be placed at the headquarters of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) in Anderson, S.C.

On the humanitarian front, Coverings has teamed up with three charitable initiatives, with each one giving back to an area of the local community in Atlanta. The three initiatives are Habitat for Humanity and Freeman, Clean the World and the Homeless Pets Foundation. “We’re delighted to support these charitable initiatives that serve important segments of the Atlanta community at Coverings 2018,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Events.

Educational opportunities

Coverings will feature more than 50 CEU-accredited sessions primarily intended for architects, builders/remodelers, designers, distributors, fabricators, installers and retailers. Topics of interest include the ongoing labor shortage and skills gap in the industry, a forecast of upcoming trends that are best suited for businesses, what design professionals and general contractors are discussing about the industry, and how to meet the standards of these designers and contractors. Translation services will be available for Spanish-speaking attendees.

Back by demand

For the second consecutive year, Coverings will include the Installation Design Showcase (IDS), which will display tiny homes. Leading designers and contractors will be showing off their stone and live tile installations by certified installers with supplies from major manufacturers, such as ESTIMA Ceramica, Ceramics of Italy and Crossville USA. The miniature homes will be on display in Booth #8804 in Hall C.

“The Installation Design Showcase remains a favorite destination for trade professionals, as a one-stop resource to see and experience the latest in installation techniques and design trends,” Capra said.

Also returning this year are the self-guided audio tours. Guests can explore the show at their own convenience through the mobile app. Like last year, the two repeating tours include the Coverings 101 Tour, which is created especially for new attendees, and the Tile Trends Tour, where visitors can learn about the most recent and hottest trends in the industry on the showroom floor.

Emerging trends

Visitors of the show will have the opportunity to view the hottest and latest trends in the tile and stone industry. “Tile companies are constantly seeking new ways to add movement and volume to the flat surface, whether by texture, pattern, or tromp l’oiel effect,” said Kristin Coleman, marketing representative for Ceramics of Italy. “Deconstructed is the most recent example, featuring a breakdown and reconstruction of shapes that transcend the traditional rectilinear format of a tile such as Palladiana designed by Studiopepe for Bardelli and I Cocci by Fioranese.”

Coleman anticipates finding a return to retro. “Many companies are inspired by simpler times, using square formats, candy colors and retro patterns like Comfort by Dom Ceramiche and Aquarel by Tonalite,” she said.

To that end, patterns such as terrazzo and patchwork are expected to make a strong showing. Designers have embraced and updated this old-fashioned style, giving it a fresh look.

Donato Pompo, president of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, expects to see larger sizes, based on his observations from attending the Cevisama trade show in Spain. Specifically, he said, “12 x 24 inch tiles are still popular, but there are tiles as large as 24 x 48 inches. They are available with realistic types of stone, such as marble, limestone, travertine, etc.”

Concrete has become popular, Pompo noted, although the wood look is still in high demand as well. Also, thin tile porcelain panels/slabs are rising in popularity. “Porcelain tiles are as large as 5 x 10 feet and can vary in thickness from 1⁄8 inches to ¾ inches,” he explained. “With ink-jet technology, the tile gives a very realistic look of the various types of marble, limestone, concrete and other types of styles and looks.”

Glass tile and rectangle subway tiles are still going strong as well, according to Pompo. He’s also seeing movement with respect to embossed 3D ceramic wall tile combined with unique finishes.

Other tile trends that guests can expect to see on display at the show are industrial-inspired looks along with more realistic-stone looks and, of course, larger format tiles.

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Gobis recognized as 2015 TCNA Tile Person of the Year

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.43.39 PMAnderson, S.C—Tile Council of North America (TCNA) has named Dave Gobis its 2015 Tile Person of the Year in recognition of his innumerable contributions and exceptional service in the North American tile industry over several decades.

TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan said Gobis came to be recognized as an “industry guru,” a go-to resource in the tile industry who has had—and continues to have—enormous influence in the realms of training and education, standards development and inspection and consulting.

Gobis held the executive director and technical director positions for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) for nearly a decade. In this role Gobis demonstrated his strong commitment to standards-based, non-proprietary training, and much of the core curriculum he created is still in use today at CTEF for its various installation and inspection courses.

“My time at CTEF represents the pinnacle of my career,” Gobis said. “I feel very strongly about training, standards and standards development. It is really important to have verifiable conformance and develop even, non-biased and non-marketing-driven standards for our products.”

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TCNA's Tile Person of the Year awarded to Donato Grosser

GrosserAnderson, S.C. —Tile Council of North America (TCNA) presented its prestigious Tile Person of the Year award to Donato Grosser at Total Solutions Plus 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. The award is presented annually to an individual who made transformative changes to the North American tile industry.

Grosser is the founder and president of D. Grosser and Associates in New York. His efforts led to the first large scale tile exposition open to all, bringing specifiers, distributors, retailers, installers and more to an international tile exhibition. This quickly led to the international tile industry partnership known today as Coverings, which celebrated its 25 years of success this year.

According to TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan, “Mr. Grosser is a scholar whose vision and quiet but massive efforts over 40 years have had a transformative effect on the North American tile industry; additionally, through Coverings, funding for the promotion of tile and industry standards work has been possible.”

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Tile consumption down slightly, execs stay upbeat

October 27/November 3, 2014; Volume 28/Number 10

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.59.34 AMBy most accounts, domestic tile consumption thus far in 2014 has fallen off slightly, but most tile executives remain optimistic about the rest of the year heading into 2015. The consensus seems to be that despite a slower than expected improvement in U.S. housing and remodeling, the tile segment remains strong following last year’s rebound and subsequent growth.

As Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing at Crossville, observed, 2014 has been a good year, but not the great year originally expected. “There are a few factors at play. The economy didn’t return at all levels as anticipated. Also, at the beginning of the year we were plagued with extreme weather that affected construction starts, ability to ship product and even the number of days showrooms were able to be open. In spite of these challenges, we’re satisfied with the year overall.”

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) also noted economic factors affecting the industry, reporting that through July 2014 U.S. ceramic tile consumption was 1.44 billion square feet, down 1.8% from July 2013 year to date (1.47 billion square feet). In the U.S., dollar value consumption was $1.7 billion (July 2014 year to date), up 3.9% from July 2013 ($1.64 billion).

“We did not expect the market to be down this year in square feet,” said trade data analyst Andrew Whitmire, “given the positive housing and construction data and other economic indicators we’ve seen this year.”

Ceramics of Italy and industry consultant Donato Grosser, who is also president of D. Grosser and Associates, said current ceramic tile sales are flat and projected to be so for the whole year. “The economy is stop and go. Housing is basically flat. Consumers do not have enough money, and salaries are lower than before. About 40% to 50% of the people who were unemployed and found a job are earning less than they were in the previous job. Many are underemployed and working part time.”

While some noted economic indicators as reasons for the downturn in consumption, others offered a more positive outlook, especially regarding the commercial sector. Bart Bettiga, executive director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), noted that in talking with the organization’s commercial members, the group believes 2014 has been markedly stronger than 2013.

“Overall, both residential and commercial work and profits have increased approximately 10%,” Bettiga said. “In some markets (South and West), these numbers seem even stronger.

“With the uncertainty we’ve been faced with in recent years,” he added, “our members have kept their expectations at a minimum. Overall, it is safe to say 2014 exceeded expectations.”

Dal-Tile, the country’s largest tile producer, reported ceramic increases in dollars and volume, and estimated growth from 3% to 4% for the industry overall.

“Dal-Tile sales continue to exceed expectations,” said Lori Kirk-Rolley, vice president of brand marketing. “Simplifying and improving our product portfolio and customer service, driving productivity and strengthening our manufacturing capability in North America and China have been the focus.

“We’re delivering strong results in the short term,” she explained, “but preparing for a stronger market in the future.”

At Tile of Spain, representative Rocamador Rubio Gomez was also bullish on the future, believing the market is completely recovered as shown by construction data in recent months. “According to a new Kitchen and Bath study by GMP Research, U.S. construction grew 12% in 2013, fueled by private expenditures (+20.6%).”

George Larrazabal, national sales manager of Mediterranea, reported the company has experienced a very strong year thus far. “We’ve seen double-digit growth in both our commercial and residential product offerings and beat our expectations for 2014. We surpassed our goals despite having them set very high. We feel this is due to innovative product designs that continue to offer our customers new design options and formats.”

Green, installation initiatives

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.13.14 AMThe tile segment’s consensus regarding recent green and installation developments was a positive one. As TCNA standards development/green initiative manager Bill Griese noted, Green Squared/ANSI A138.1, enacted in 2012, continues to strengthen the tile industry’s presence in the green building community.

“With continued influence and an emerging presence in today’s most well-known green building standards and rating systems,” he said, “awareness of this standard and the overall demand for Green Squared-certified products are on the rise. This has resulted in increased A&D familiarity with Green Squared.”

As Kirk-Rolley noted, Dal-Tile and American Olean were among the first companies to endorse the Green Squared program. “All of our U.S. facilities and our Monterrey, Mexico operations were included in the third-party audit process, so architects and designers can be confident that a selection of Dal-Tile products meet the standard’s requirements.

“In 2013,” she added, “we successfully completed all the process changes needed, and now 100% of our Daltile and American Olean manufactured products meet the Green Squared certification to the ANSI Standard–A138.1, Sustainable Tile & Installation Materials.”

While sustainability is gaining importance across the board, some industry figures report a wider acceptance of the efforts in the commercial community. “Thankfully, we’re seeing an increasing level of awareness of the Green Squared ANSI standard in the A&D community,” Larrazabal said. “However, we haven’t seen quite the same awareness in our residential channels yet.”

Crossville is another company continuing to progress with the green movement. It recently released its 2014 Sustainability Report as gleaned through a formal survey and follow-up discussions conducted by a third-party sustainability consulting firm, and is based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) sustainability reporting and ISO 26001 frameworks. Crossville’s 2014 report meets the requirements of LEED V.4 MRc3 credit, and is the first such sustainability report in the company’s 28-year history. It is also the first GRI-based document released by a tile-only manufacturer, denoting a significant milestone for the tile industry.

“This report is a comprehensive compilation of the many measurable aspects of our sustainability initiatives,” explained John Smith, Crossville’s president. “It will serve as a resource for our customers in the design and building communities and, hopefully, be a standard bearer for our industry.”

Another industry initiative—this one on the installation front—is the Advanced Certifications for Tile installers program (ACT), enacted in 2013 by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). Kirk-Rolley said the installation professional is one of Dal-Tile’s core customers, and “we support industry initiatives like ACT that assist in their professional development. ACT takes that training to the next level. The end result of certification is a visually stunning installation that will last in its designed purpose for a lifetime.”

Waldrep noted Crosville’s support of ACT. “We’re proponents of any program that encourages and recognizes excellence for installers, including ACT. Every aspect of our industry stands to benefit when installers are compelled to advance their skills and capabilities.”

Bettiga, also a major proponent of ACT, added, “We recently were successful in getting the ACT language approved for inclusion in the TCNA Handbook for the installation of ceramic tile. We’re trying to shift the emphasis for specifiers and general contractors to move from accepting the low bid on a project to the lowest ‘qualified bid.’ ACT certification will create a level of confidence when project owners, architects, consumers and specifiers consider awarding the bid to the most qualified tile contracting company.”

And the program’s momentum seems to be picking up speed. Just recently, CTEF, working in conjunction with Schlüter Systems, hosted the first hands-on testing of the ACT program for open shop tile contractors at the Schlüter headquarters in Plattsburgh, N.Y. The installers taking the ACT tests first had to be recognized as having successfully completed the CTEF certified tile installer (CTI) testing of their skills and knowledge.

During the two-day testing, the pre-qualified CTEF-certified tile installers demonstrated their hands-on abilities in skill sets including large-format tile and substrate preparation, membranes (both sheet and liquid), mortar bed (mud) floors and shower receptors. “Prior to taking the hands-on portion of the ACT test,” Bettiga said, “each installer was required to successfully complete the online knowledge test, proving their command of the test subject.”

Environmental developments

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.14.35 AMAnother top-of-mind subject in tile is the development of environmental product declarations (EPDs). At press time, this subject was to be discussed at the Total Solutions Plus (TSP) conference in San Antonio.

“We will be providing an update on TCNA’s effort to release an EPD for ceramic tile made in North America,” said Eric Astrachan, TCNA’s executive director. “At TSP 2014, we will announce this EPD’s completion, publication and certification by UL Environment.”

The North American ceramic tile EPD is a report that quantifies the environmental impacts of generic North American-made ceramic tile throughout its life cycle. It contains information about tile’s carbon footprint and resource depletion potential, among other things. With the North American Tile EPD, Astrachan noted, the environmental qualities of tile can be compared to those of other types of flooring products.

“Also, tile producers can compare the qualities of their products to those of the reported industry averages from the EPD in order to identify environmental strengths and areas needing improvement,” he added. “With the North American ceramic tile EPD completed and certified, products from manufacturers that submitted data will be automatically eligible for point contributions to LEED and other green building standards and rating systems.”

Trends

There continues to be a strong movement toward larger formats, wood looks, rectangular sizes and thin tiles in the segment.

“Wood looks are clearly among the hottest trends in the marketplace,” Kirk-Rolley said. “The use of tile that emulates wood is a style gaining momentum in both floor and wall applications for several years. Designers have specifically been leaning toward long, linear plank sizes. What was first introduced as a traditional take on hardwood floors has evolved to include more colors and textures to choose from than ever.”

In addition to warm rustic visuals and various structures, “water-stained and brushed visuals have recently been introduced,” she explained. “These products typically are offered in multi-color blends that are very authentic looking.”

When it comes to larger formats, Larrazabal continues to see an increasing demand for 8 x 48 leading the way, “as with our plank format offerings Dream, Boardwalk and American Naturals. Rectangles continue to be popular and we recently introduced an 18 x 36 in several of our series (Soho, Elements, Stonehenge) with strong success.”

As the style of thin, large-format porcelain tile continues to be popular in the U.S., the industry is rallying to create parameters for product use and installation. To that end, the NTCA, Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC) came together midyear to offer a shared position statement regarding acceptable thickness of 5.5mm or more for thin, large-format porcelain tile panels used in flooring installations.

“Our Laminam by Crossville 5.6 collections (5.6mm in thickness) launched earlier this year, already exceed the stated requirements, putting us ahead of the game in terms of the evolving standards for the large format, thin porcelain panel category,” Waldrep said.

According to many manufacturers, thin tile is also the future of ceramic.

For example, Ryan Fasan, technical consultant at Tile of Spain, said, “With the same strength and properties of regular ceramic, thin tile can be offered in large, groutless formats for counters, showers, walls, facades and more. It’s less costly to ship and it’s easier and more efficient to install. As the tile becomes more popular and is used in more projects, standards and training will help make it even more mainstream.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.15.16 AMAs Grosser noted, work is being done at ISO level to set standards for large format tiles and panels with various thicknesses. “The future of tile is headed in that direction and new standards are needed to meet the challenges of evolving products.”

Meanwhile, at the recent Cersaie show, Italian manufacturers exhibited a move beyond tile’s traditional role as a floor or wall covering and into the realm of smart materials. ABK Group unveiled a technology called Auto Leveling that adds elasticity to porcelain tile, ensuring perfectly flat installations, while Piemme’s Cottage tiles include embedded photovoltaic cells that create self-illuminating outdoor flooring.

In terms of innovative formats, Florim showcased some of the largest thin slabs in the industry—5.5 x 11 feet and only 6mm thick—and Faetano introduced a new tile that is part of its Murales series, designed to wrap corners.

Trending styles presented by Tile of Spain companies at Cersaie included matte black finishes, distressed wood planks, vintage patterns, delicate motifs, mix-and-match patterns, gradients, subtle reliefs, geometric designs including hexagons and metallics with mirrored effects.

Future outlook

As for the rest of 2014 and the start of next year, executives appear to be positive about ceramic’s future. As Waldrep noted, current market reports indicate 2015 will bring an increase in commercial building projects, which is “a positive forecast for our industry. As for Crossville, we’re poised to make an impact on our industry by advancing our messaging on sustainability. These advancements will be a driving force for Crossville and our customers in 2015.”

Tile of Spain’s Gomez noted, “We feel that the U.S. market is a priority for Spanish exports. Ceramic tile use is on the rise, and the number of distributors and retailers are also growing. Spain is perfectly positioned with technology, design and sustainable product especially made for the U.S. market. Many companies have worked hard to improve their distribution to the U.S. so that tile is stocked and ready to be provided quickly for projects.”

In addition to its planned construction of a glazed porcelain manufacturing plant/distribution center in Dickson, Tenn., scheduled to open in late 2015, Dal-Tile is also undergoing expansion and adding additional capabilities at its Sunnyvale, Texas, manufacturing facility. This will allow it to meet the demand for larger sizes and more sophisticated graphics/textures on the domestic front, Kirk-Rolley explained.

“These facilities provide us with a number of key advantages,” she added, “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.”

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Custom Building Products meets TCNA guidelines

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.22.15 AMSeal Beach, Calif.—Custom Building Products, a provider of tile and stone installation systems, said its system of mortars and uncoupling membrane products meet the new guidelines in the 2014 edition of the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) 2014 Handbook.

The new TCNA guidelines help eliminate any confusion over which mortar or uncoupling membrane tile contractors should use for any particular installation.

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Tile Council donates tiled benches to Boys & Girls Club

Archaeology_ChacoCanyon_Bench.jpg[1]Las Vegas — Six members of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) recently donated beautifully tiled benches to the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada.

The donation took place during Coverings 2014. 

The participating companies were Interceramic, Marazzi USA, Status Ceramics, StonePeak Ceramics, Tiles Couture and Wizard Enterprise.

The Wedi bench forms used to make the benches were donated by Wedi and TCNA.

 “These benches will provide a place for the kids to rest between activities,” said Gabriel Suarez, marketing manager for BGCSNV. “We will be distributing the benches to our clubs, and greatly appreciate the support from TCNA and its members.”



Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada serves more than 30,000 children per year after school and during the summer in its 17 clubhouses.

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NTCA, TCNA event highlights Five Star Awards

Atlanta—The inaugural National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Awards show, held here at this year’s Coverings featured the first NTCA Five Star Awards. Winners were chosen in both residential and commercial installation, with grand prize recipients awarded $2,500 for the winning project submission. Continue reading NTCA, TCNA event highlights Five Star Awards

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Joe Lundgren joins TCNA team

Joe Lundgren

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) is pleased to announce Joe Lundgren, of Joseph Lundgren Consulting (JLC),  has joined the TCNA team to advance TCNA’s laboratory services. Mr. Lundgren’s extensive experience in the tile industry makes him uniquely well-suited to connect his customers with TCNA lab services which can help build their businesses. Marketplace requirements, conformance to standards, and product research are all areas where the customer benefits from the synergy between JLC and TCNA lab services.

Mr. Lundgren began his career in tile in 1984 with American Olean ascending the ranks to that of management at Dal-Tile, becoming vice president of marketing.

He represented Dal-Tile on TCNA’s Board of Directors and played a key part in TCNA initiatives aimed at growing the tile industry and the organization. “We are excited to have Joe working directly with our laboratory,” says TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan. Continue reading Joe Lundgren joins TCNA team

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NTCA to hold first annual Awards Night

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) will celebrate with its members and associate partners in a special awards program at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, in conjunction with Coverings. Immediately after the show closes its exhibit hall, the NTCA will hold its first annual awards event, honoring its yearly Tile Person of the Year and the Joe A. Tarver Lifetime achievement award for service to the industry. In addition, the Tile Council of North America will recognize their Tile Person of the Year, and for the first time ever, the NTCA will recognize its Five Star Contractor Members with the Grand Prize for Commercial and Residential Projects. Each recipient will receive $2,500 for installation excellence. Continue reading NTCA to hold first annual Awards Night

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Former Dal-Tile president joins NTCA’s Ring of Honor

Harold Turk

Former Dal-Tile president Harold Turk was recently inducted into the National Tile Contractors Association’s (NTCA) Ring of Honor for his lifetime service to the NTCA and contribution to the tile industry. Turk received the prestigious award at Total Solutions Plus 2012, an annual industry-wide event presented jointly by the NTCA, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association and the Tile Council of North America. Continue reading Former Dal-Tile president joins NTCA’s Ring of Honor