Setting Materials – TRENDS 201

Following is an extensive list of products that represent the trends in setting materials, tools and sundries that we’ll see at Coverings and beyond. Coverings exhibitors include booth numbers. For details on up and coming technical trends, stay tuned to the second annual TECH issue of TileLetter, planned for fall, 2016.

Shower Systems

Mark E Industries
Booth #7345

For new or retrofit installations, the company’s Goof Proof Shower Seat is a heavy duty, stay-in-place molded plastic form that is easily installed and can be tiled in the same day. The standard 30”-wide seat has guide marks on the top surface to make it easy to trim the seat to 24” wide. The front face has a 3/16”-wide tile support ledge for easier tile alignment and full tile support. Two leveling vials are integrated to maintain the proper built-in minimum water drainage slope of 1/4” per 12” run. Screws, anchors and shims and illustrated installation instructions are included.

The Noble Company
Booth #8236

The FreeStyle Linear Drain allows for the use of large format tile in showers. A clamping collar ensures a waterproof connection of waterproofing membrane to the drain, and the waste pipe is solvent-welded to the drain. The low-profile and high-drainage capacity make FreeStyle ideal for barrier-free showers and aging-in-place applications. Waterproof shower Niches and Benches from The Noble Company also install in minutes and are ready for tiling.

Booth #8145

Hydro Ban Shower System products such as the Linear Pre-Sloped Shower Pan, Linear Drain, Bonding Flange Drain, Pre-Sloped Shower Pan and Pre-Sloped Ramp are products that can help solve barrier-free/zero-entry/aging-in-place challenges. Whether used on the surface or over recessed wood or concrete floors, these Hydro Ban Shower System products can be installed to create a safe and easily accessible barrier-free or zero-entry shower.

Schluter Systems
Booth #7742

The Schluter-Kerdi-Line drain is now available in lengths up to 72”. Five new drain lengths mean the drain is now available in 4” increments from 20” to 72”. Kerdi-Line is a low-profile alternative to traditional shower drains. It suits many shower designs, including barrier-free showers. Two-inch thick Kerdi-Board (pictured here) can be used to quickly create flat, plumb, square and waterproof shower benches, an alternative to moisture-sensitive wood and gypsum board. A Kerdi-Board bench can be assembled using thin-set mortar or Kerdi-Fix sealing and bonding compound. Kerdi-Board gives tile setters more control over projects, allowing them to create perfect covering, whether using mosaics or large-format tiles.

Tile Redi
Booth #7139

Tile Redi’s new award-winning Redi MegaShower Pan is a one-piece, ready-to-tile shower pan designed for larger, luxury shower applications. The Redi MegaPan is available in a 42” x 96” size with single and multi curbs available. Tile Redi’s patented and UL-listed shower pans and other innovative tile ready products are manufactured as pre-formed, one-piece shower modules. Shower pans are complete with fully integrated drains, curbs and splash walls, each leak-proof and mold free unit is pre-pitched for easy drainage and immediately ready for tile. By solving water intrusion problems, Tile Redi® shower pans inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.

Booth #7148

Ideal for both new construction and repair or remodel projects, the USG Durock Brand Shower System is a fully-bonded waterproofing system for tiled shower installations. It controls moisture independently of the tile covering while creating a solid base for a long-lasting shower. Available is a proprietary tray program – exclusive to USG – that allows for a limitless number of shower configurations. Using optional benches and niches that deliver added flexibility, this system makes it possible to create a completely customized shower.

Booth #8351

wedi has received a great response to its new “LEAN” curb design. Recently it launched the wedi Curb Foam LEAN in a 2”x 8’ x 3-1/2” design to use in conjunction with larger wedi shower bases. LEAN curbs offer a clean, modern design element to the shower with a lower step-over height and additional 3” of shower floor space compared to a standard curb.


Blanke Corp.
Booth #8037

The thinset method dominates today’s tile installation landscape with a variety of underlayments to choose from like backer boards and rolled plastic mats. Blanke•PerMat is a premiere choice of underlayment offering best in class properties: structural support, point-load, shear, and tensile strengths.

Booth #7541

Bostik recently introduced 12 surface preparation products for 2016. This includes four new self-leveling underlayments, two new repair patches, a new deep-penetrating substrate primer and a new reinforcing fiber matrix. Cement-based self-levelers offer flooring contractors many benefits and advantages including a range of price points, robust formulations that are easy to mix and apply, and Bostik self-curing technology that enables the material to be walked on soon after it is poured as well as the ability to install tile, stone, resilient, wood and other floor coverings directly over them. These rapid curing products will result in less downtime in the installation process, which translates into greater profits. Products include a hybrid, gypsum/cement-based underlayment, Self-Leveling Tool kit and a Collomix Self-Leveler Mixer, engineered with the input of Bostik’s German affiliate.

Keene Building Products/Dependable LLC
Booth #7346

Noise and cracking represent two of the greatest challenges for tile setters. KeedeRoll MT from Dependable creates a system to control both these challenges in one roll. By using MT “Muffling Technology” fabric with Dependable’s KeedeRoll products, the company says it has created a revolutionary new way to install tile in noisy environments. The MT technology adds a 19-point delta in IIC ratings on construction products. This combination of uncoupling technology and MT allows installers to protect their tile and create a quiet living environment for the end user.

Booth #8145

Strata_Mat is a next generation uncoupling mat for use under ceramic tile and stone in residential/commercial applications. It’s designed to replace traditional underlayment materials such as cement backer board and plywood. The patented design of Strata_Mat provides for an enhanced mechanical bond and faster drying of the adhesive mortar, allowing for shorter time to grout. Also from LATICRETE is Fracture Ban, a lightweight peel-and-stick membrane designed for use under thin-bed adhesives for ceramic tile, stone and other hard-surface installations. This reinforced membrane performs as an anti-fracture and an acoustical underlayment system that eliminates the transmission of stresses from the substrate. The Fracture Ban Primer is a concentrated water-based primer designed for application prior to the installation of Fracture Ban membrane. This primer may be broom, roller, or spray applied and can be used on the same range of substrates as the Fracture Ban membrane.

NAC Products
Booth #8042

For bathroom surfaces that require waterproofing with impact and audible sound reduction, the Extreme Bathroom System from NAC offers a variety of installation options. SubSeal Liquid Waterproofing membrane combined with an NAC sound control membrane provides an easy-to-install solution that provides a watertight seal with some of the best sound numbers in the industry. NAC sound membranes have the added benefit of providing up to 3/8” crack isolation protection, making the Extreme Bathroom System the most effective system on the market.

Noble Co.
Booth #8236

More specifiers and contractors are using TCNA standards to select waterproofing, crack-isolation and sound-reduction membranes best suited to their project requirements. For example, “System Crack Resistance” is the performance element of the Crack Isolation Standard. A crack isolation membrane must bridge movement of at least 1/16” (or 1/8” for a “High Performance” rating). Sound Isolation membranes must improve IIC by at least 10 in order to meet minimum requirements. To ensure your membrane meets your needs, use NobleSeal and ValueSeal membranes to satisfy these requirements.


GenieMat™ RST is a flat, resilient underlayment that is used directly under a variety of floor finishes. A robust reduced sound transmission mat made from 94% recycled rubber content used when superior sound control is required in multifamily housing, high-rises, or commercial buildings.

Siena/Omega Products

Siena Dragon Skin is a liquid-applied, fast-drying, high-performance, easy-to-use water-proofing and crack-isolation membrane, formulated to produce a high-quality elastomeric barrier. It is easily applied using a trowel, roller, paintbrush or sprayer. It changes color from light purple when wet, to a dark purple when dry. Dragon Skin is IAPMO Certified and complies with the requirements of ANSI A118.10 and ANSI A118.12.

Booth #7148

USG Durock Brand UltraLight Foam Tile Backerboard offers a strong, waterproof and vapor retardant tile base for tub, shower and steam room areas and an underlayment for tile on floors and countertops. The board is readily applied over wood or steel framing and does not require washers for installation. It is also idealfor use with the USG Durock Brand Shower System.

Equipment and Education

The Best of Everything
Primo Tools/Sponga USA/Omni Sealers
Booth # 8143

Our industry continues to show that large format tiles and plank tiles are still the choice of designers and installers alike. The Back Butter Buddy tool was designed to make back-buttering of large format tiles simple and safe. To assure a secure a good bond to substrates it is highly recommended that the tiles be “back buttered” with the setting material. With its 360 degree spinning capability, the Back Butter Buddy makes the back buttering process simple, safe, and effective. This tool increases production and reduces “wear and tear” on the installer.

Booth #8139

Bellota POP series manual tile cutters cut ceramic and mosaic glass tiles efficiently with maximum precision. Durable, lightweight construction makes it easy to transport and use at the job site. A wide reinforced cast aluminum base provides added rigidity and stability, while solid steel, chrome-plated rail bars, deliver smooth scoring. Bellota’s patented, universal forged steel scoring wheels are made of high-quality tungsten carbide for maximum strength and durability. They last up to 25% longer than standard wheels and are designed to fit on other makes of tile cutters. The POP employs a heavy-duty breaking system on ceramic and glass tiles, which breaks tile easily with exceptionally clean cuts and keeps the mesh backing on glass tiles intact for quick installations. POP cutters feature a three-year warranty and are available in 21” and 25” cutting capacities.

European Tile Masters
Booth #8353

European Tile Masters saw the need to design a full line of tools for handling and installing mammoth large thin porcelain tiles (LTPT) so that installers could take on jobs involving LTPT with confidence. For example, the ETM-Table and other accessories illustrated in the photo are only one part of ETM’s complete installation system.

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) provides forensic failure investigations and inspections, expert witness services, architectural specifications and quality control services, quality assurance and product testing, market research and business planning consulting to the tile/stone industries. CTaSC educates tile installers and sales professionals, plus specifiers of tile and stone, architects and interior designers, through its online University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS).  NTCA has endorsed UofCTS training courses and offers discount rates to its members. UofCTS offers courses on the basics of ceramic tile and natural stone.


Siena/Omega Products

The company’s Pro Set Flex M300 is a premium modified, high-performance mortar with exceptional bond strength, high flexibility, open time and coverage, used to install porcelain and other types of high-density, non-porous tiles and stones. Used as a flexible mortar for interior and exterior applications, it can be used on floors and walls, in residential and commercial projects. The product will span cracks up to 1/16” (1.6 mm) in substrates with limited vibration/deflection. Available in white or grey, and complies with the requirements of ANSI A118.4, A118.11 and A118.15.

TEC/H.B. Fuller Co.
Booth #7739

TEC’s Super Flex Ultra-Premium Thin Set Mortar is polymer modified with a patented bonding formula for any kind of tile – including glass and porcelain. The flexible, one-part mortar absorbs in-plane movement over plywood, cementitious surfaces or other substrates. Super Flex can be used to install UL-approved TEC In-Floor Heat mats, the latest TEC innovation that supports the luxury residential flooring trend. Super Flex comes with a limited lifetime warranty when used to install TEC In-Floor Heat.

Booth # 8347

Texrite’s Totalcontact is a large-and-heavy-tile mortar. It can bond all tile types and offers non-sag vertical and non-slump horizontal applications. Use it for tile-over-tile projects, or tile over concrete or over EGP plywood substrates. Made for bonding larger tile, plank tile and large thin porcelain tile, Totalcontact is a multi-fit latex/polymer-modified portland cement bonding mortar. It is tough enough for interior or exterior, heavy-duty service installations, yet creamy trowel characteristics reduce physical effort while increasing work productivity. Totalcontact supports critical bond interface between tile and substrate when setting bed becomes 1/8” to 3/4” thick.

Booth #7733

MAPEI Ultralite S1 Quick is a single-component, thin-set mortar that can also be used as a large-and-heavy-tile mortar for non-sag, non-slump applications of large-and-heavy-format tile and stone on walls and floors. It is rapid-setting, lightweight and easy to apply. MAPEI Ultralite S1 Quick is a FastTrack Ready product, allowing grouting in three to four hours. Thanks to its Ultralite Technology, MAPEI Ultralite S1 Quick provides twice the coverage of a standard thin-set mortar per pound/kg; in addition, the product’s Easy Glide Technology makes application easy for installers.


Booth #7539

A solvent-free, two-component epoxy grout and adhesive with a creamy consistency, Ardex WA Epoxy Grout and Adhesive (pictured) is designed for installations in swimming pools, showers, bathrooms, food processing facilities, industrial settings, restaurant kitchens, hospitals or any installation requiring high standards of hygiene and chemical resistance. Its key features include cleaning with water only, interior/exterior floor and wall applications, and waterproof and frost resistant characteristics. Another product, Ardex X 77, is a polymer-modified tile/stone mortar formulated for very large, thin tile applications. It offers unmatched sag resistance – double the ISO standard – true 60-minute open time, creamy consistency, use over in-floor heating systems, use in wet areas, and water/frost resistance. Intended for large-and-heavy tile (medium bed) applications and for interior/exterior installation of floors and walls.

Siena/Omega Products

Siena Epoxy Grout produces a high-strength, 100% solids material that is impermeable, stain and shock resistant. It has high chemical resistance to many acids, alkalis, solvents and stains, making it ideal for usage in areas such as commercial kitchens, hospitals, countertops, floors and walls, interior and exterior, residential and commercial applications, and any area where the use of strong chemicals cause erosion and damage to traditional cementitious grout joints. It can also be used as a mortar and conforms to the requirements for chemical resistance, water cleanability, tile setting and grouting with epoxy found in ANSI A118.3/ANSI A108.6.

Booth #8347

Texrite Chromaflex eliminates the portland cement component in grout, and blends stabilized, color-fast quartz aggregate/sand with specialized co-polymer resin technology and other proprietary additives to create a pre-mixed, ready-to-use grout product that uses water for clean-up. It requires only air-cure drying and has no color shading. The advance Chromaflex formula has no efflorescence, has a built-in sealer and maintains flexible resin properties to resist minor movement or fine cracking. Installers can also store and save any unused Chromaflex grout material for another job and/or repairs.

Floor Warming

CMX Radiant Corp.

For the past 10 years, RPM Mats, “The Original” electric heat wire installation mat system, have been used as a backerboard replacing, anti-fracture membrane, designed specifically to protect the wire and ease the installation process for all brands of electric in-floor heat wire. A unique stud placement and design offers numerous benefits, such as a thinner installation, easy cement leveling over wire, fast wire layouts and adjustments, light weight and, cuts with no dust. The mats are made in the USA from 80-90% recycled materials and available in two thicknesses.

Booth #7742 

Schluter-Ditra-Heat-TB is the first electric floor warming system with an integrated thermal break. Located on the underside of the membrane, the break allows the system to warm tiled floors up to 70% faster over concrete substrates by directing heat to the tile, not the subfloor. The system means faster installation as the membrane, heating cables and break are combined in a single layer. To minimize construction height, the total assembly is only 5/16” thick. The company has also doubled the number of cable lengths available for its Ditra-Heat system—from 17 to 34 lengths.

Booth # 8517

The advanced SunStat Connect Wi-Fi thermostat typifies the home automation trend by allowing remote access to an electric floor heating system via a mobile app or web browser. By measuring floor and air temperatures, it provides both homeowners and businesses easy access to the comfort of in-floor radiant electric heating. Easily integrated into a home automation system, the Connect provides many energy-saving features, including Warm Weather Shut-Down and a patent-pending Weather Compensation mode. The thin-profile thermostat includes a floor sensor, built-in relay and GFCI to safely control 120 or 240 VAC electric floor heating systems.


Controlled from a smartphone, tablet or computer, the 4iE Smart WiFi thermostat learns how you use your heating and the unique way your house reacts. It automatically suggests ways for you to save energy, like what temperature you should set when you’re not home and times you can turn the heating off early. The 4iE finds smart ways to heat your home more efficiently thanks to the smart geo-fencing application that knows where the customer is located and what he or she is likely to do next.

Profiles and transitions

Blanke Corp.
Booth #8037

Blanke has been manufacturing tile trims for over 40 years. Tile trims protect the outside edge of tile from damage and offer a great alternative to traditional bullnose. With modern design moving in the direction of large-format tiles and increasingly-sleek designs, tile trims have become an integral part of this trend. With a broad range of shapes, sizes, and color finishes, Blanke offers a multitude of stylish and elegant tile trims that will protect tile and stone projects for years to come, such as the Cubeline trim pictured.

Ceramic Tool Co.

Colored and anodized finishes are trending in the profile and trim world, and Ceramic Tool Company is offering several options. Whether installing an “L” angle, a carpet trim or a reducer, the finishes of floor transitions seem to be trending toward warmer tones. CTC offers on-fashion tones of Light Bronze, Medium Bronze and Dark Bronze as well as the standard Aluminum finish. These finishes blend in with floor coverings of a neutral palette.

Booth #836

Emac’s aluminum profile is installed as an edge protector to protect and decorate the edges of tiled walls. It is also useful as skirting to top off or to finish medium-height tiled walls. It is available in 10mm and 12mm, and trendy finishes such as matte silver, bright mirror, brushed mirror, chrome and white. The company also manufactures an industrial-style aluminum profile to complete corners and worktops, which is available in 8-10mm and 12-15mm.

Sealers, cleaners and maintenance products

Aqua Mix
Booth #8339

Interior and exterior natural stone surfaces are exposed to food, beverages, weather, moisture, grease, oil, dirt and other harmful stain-causing elements on a regular basis. Sealing these surfaces with Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold will prevent stains and permanent damage. It is a premium, no-sheen, natural look, water-based, penetrating sealer designed to maximize protection against stains without hurting the tile. In fact, Sealer’s Choice Gold incorporates high-quality polymers that penetrate into the pores of tile, stone and grout so stains can be cleaned off the surface before causing permanent damage.

Booth #8145

As natural stone surfaces continue to be a popular choice amongst commercial and residential segments, so too is proper sealing and maintenance. Trending stones such as quartzite – also known as “the new marble” – are less resistant to etching and chemicals, and like most natural stones still require sealing. LATICRETE’s StoneTech BulletProof Sealer is the solution to stain-proofing natural stone surfaces including quartzite. Solvent-free and easy to use, StoneTech BulletProof Sealer offers maximum protection against water and oil-based stains all while maintaining the natural look of the stone.

Booth #7733 

The company has added three products to its UltraCare line of care/maintenance products for stone, tile and grout. UltraCare Penetrating SB Stone, Tile & Grout Sealer is a solvent-based sealer that provides protection against most water- and oil-based stains. It’s safe for use on all interior/exterior natural stone (marble, limestone, sandstone, slate, granite, travertine), unglazed porcelain and ceramic tiles, masonry, quarry tiles and cementitious grout. UltraCare Sulfamic Acid Crystals granular powder, when dissolved in water, produces a cleaner for nonporous, acid-resistant tile and natural stone. The solution removes cured cement grout haze, mortar residue, rust stains and mineral deposits. UltraCare Grout Release is a water-based, temporary pre-grout coating that enhances the cleanability of ceramic, porcelain and natural-stone tiles while providing protection to the surface from grout and mortar staining. The product is suitable for use with cementitious, acrylic, urethane and epoxy (reaction resin) grouts in interior/exterior applications.

Miracle Sealants Co.
Booth #7348

For as long as people can remember there has been a double-edged sword in the industry; acid is needed to remove portland cement grout haze, efflorescence and mineral deposits, but acid also strips natural stone of its factory-applied polish. Miracle Sealants believes it has come up with the solution.

Miracle Heavy-Duty Cleaner is a water-based industrial cleaner designed to remove grout haze, built-up grease, dirt and stains from all natural stone, marble, ceramic, porcelain, grout, masonry and concrete surfaces. It will not hurt or remove the finish or polish on acid-sensitive surfaces, including marble. This product is a ready-to-use, no VOC cleaner and is stable in both hot and cold climates.

Stone Trends – TRENDS 2016

Following is a sampling of trending stone products. Booth numbers for companies exhibiting at Coverings are included.

Ann Sacks

Ann Sacks introduces three gorgeous collections from the internationally known designer Kelly Wearstler. Her global luxury lifestyle brand is renowned for its distinctive designs and sophisticated soulful vibe pioneered by the celebrated interior designer. Wearstler has a signature style that juxtaposes raw with refined, melds color, sophistication and spirited spontaneity, and seamlessly blends diverse periods of furniture under one roof. Drawing upon Wearstler’s affinity for repetition and relaxed, painted geometric patterns, Liaison (shown) by Kelly Wearstler for ANN SACKS features the designer’s signature graphic striations and black and white motifs in embossed, textural designs that are at once spirited and sophisticated. Also in the collection are the ceramics Maven, and the textural Tableau.

Artistic Tile

The company has recently launched several new products. Using the centuries-old Aquaforte etching technique, Siam features an art deco motif in a golden metallic wall tile. Artisans created Orly hand-textured limestone while hammering white bronze metal onto the face. When complete, the four metal-clad corners fuse in a sunburst, contrasting the Noir limestone background. Lumina is also handmade, featuring silver metal wrapped around stone with hand-worked rays hammered into the surface. Lumina is part of Artistic Tile’s Grand Tour Collection, which also features Castello, a stone tile reminiscent of the studded trunks that accompanied European nobles on their adventures.


Classic, elegant, and comfortable, Modern Farmhouse style is all about keeping things simple and organic. Top a barn-inspired island with Bedrosians Calacatta Oro marble and matching kitchen backsplash to bring neutral tones and enhance the vibrancy of the home, or achieve a luxurious and timeless look with a Calacatta Oro marble bathroom countertop.


Composed of 99% post-industrial recycled natural stone, Daltile’s Lithoverde marble and limestone slabs give designers a unique, linear design that can satisfy environmentally conscious customers without sacrificing style. Beyond the LEED and SCS certification perks, the modern, linear graphics created with classic stone provide a striking option for countertops, walls and tub surrounds. Stocked slabs come in White Carrara and Gris du Marais and two sizes. Special orders available in two additional colors:Crema d’ Orcia and Pietra d’Avola as well as a 1.4cm thickness. The collection will be available in Spring 2016.

Island Stone
Booth #8511

Melding the top selling appeal of the Strip claddings with a modern spin on the trendy Chevron and Herringbone designs, Cross Strips transform a surface into a mesmerizing stone façade. This original, 30 degree angle design comes as two-part meshed back tile that interlocks to zigzag across a wall. The inherent hue variations of natural stones accent the unique pattern creating a sophisticated appearance, subtle yet distinctively different from classic linear stone walls. Cross Strips are a natural choice for interior feature walls and fireplaces, but are also an exterior option both for commercial and residential applications.

Booth #1043

People who love tile large formats have new options when choosing Crema Marfil Coto natural marble. With new formats such as 36” x 24” x 1/2” and 36” x 18” x 1/2” to round off the current range, these sizes make it possible to design original settings with style, ideal for creating large settings with fewer joints and a matchlessly uniform look. Formats can also be mixed for a custom look, on-trend settings and unique interior spaces.

The Tile Shop

The Strato Bianco Marble Collection is part of The Tile Shop’s stone collection, Rush River Stone. Only found on small island of the coast of Turkey, this unique marble features black and grey striations on a creamy white background. This “Zebra Stripe” look is available in several sizes with multiple trim options.

Walker Zanger
Booth #4851

Decorative influences from Moorish Spain mingle with Venetian Gothic and Medieval Egyptian, echoing the mélange created by the eons of cultural overlap in the ancient Mediterranean world. Working from historical sources, each design was stripped down to its graphic essence and rebuilt in contemporary colorways and scales. Each pattern in Villa d’Oro, like Tangier, pictured here, is cut and assembled from stones sourced in a variety of Mediterranean countries, creating new decorative art to enliven your modern surroundings.

Tile Trends – TRENDS 2016


Following is a sampling of trending tile products. Booth numbers for companies exhibiting at Coverings are included.

American Olean

A modern take on cement, American Olean’s Theoretical ColorBody porcelain tile features a light graphic variation created through the company’s patented Reveal Imaging technology that gives depth and visual richness to the minimalist- style tile. Ideal for commercial or residential installation, Theoretical can be used to achieve a modern urban environment, which is particularly on trend for 2016. Available in 10 colors, with an array of options to customize the space. Available in June 2016.

Ann Sacks

Ann Sacks introduces three gorgeous collections from the internationally known designer Kelly Wearstler. Her eponymous global luxury lifestyle brand is renowned for its distinctive designs and sophisticated soulful vibe pioneered by the celebrated interior designer. Wearstler has a signature style that juxtaposes raw with refined, melds color, sophistication and spirited spontaneity, and seamlessly blends diverse periods of furniture under one roof. Drawing upon Wearstler’s affinity for repetition and relaxed, painted geometric patterns, Maven (shown) by Kelly Wearstler for ANN SACKS features the designer’s signature graphic striations and black and white motifs in embossed, textural designs that are at once spirited and sophisticated. Also in the collection are the stone mosaic Liaison, and the textural Tableau.

Arizona Tile

Arizona Tile’s Just Design Program offers a collection of modern and traditional patterns and textures. It allows the company’s clients to customize one of its unique designs by choosing their own materials from Arizona Tile’s extensive selection of products. Designs can be created by combining porcelain, stone and glass or mirror. Shown is the Ribbons Feature Wall made using the Arizona Tile’s Calacatta Gold marble with Antique Mirror accents in silver.


The arabesque shape continues to be a winner at Artobrick, and the classic subway tile rectangle in ceramic is a company mainstay. Arto takes a fresh approach to the brick shape with a grey hue and concrete aesthetic for interiors. Shown is the Artillo Series in Early Grey 2” x 8” tile.


Both a trend and a tradition, the herringbone pattern adds a dramatically wonderful aesthetic appeal that won’t go out of style. Inspired by Japanese ceramics, the 90 degree Collection is an elegant herringbone mosaic that portrays 90-degree angles collectively throughout the panel. Offered in six luscious colors, the collection is offered in 1/2”x 2” mosaic on a 11”x 12-1/4” sheet.

Bon Ton Designs
Booth # 8012

Arbor brings the natural look of wood with the versatility of tile in a unique cross-cut wood aesthetic to meet the Rustic Urban trend. Available in 40 glaze options, Arbor is perfect for fireplace surrounds, wood-burning stoves and commercial applications.

Booth #7306

The Oceanaire porcelain tile collection captures the appearance of sea- and sand-swept natural stone. Multidirectional striations are interpreted in five gradient color options and a range of versatile size options – including large formats and a mosaic option, for a true beachside look and feel. Oceanaire’s color options offer an earthen palette that ranges from lighter to darker tones, each in both unpolished and honed finishes, which can be mixed and matched within the installation. Sizes include 24” x 24”, 12” x 24”, 18” x 36”, and 6” x 36,”as well as a 4”x24” bullnose and 2” x 6” mesh-backed mosaics. Crossville’s Get Planked sizes may also be requested. Oceanaire is Green Squared Certified®, with a minimum of 4% recycled content. Oceanaire is suitable for commercial and residential interior floors, walls, countertops, and exterior walls in both residential and commercial applications.


The warmth and timeless look of hardwood can flow through the entire home to the outdoors, with Saddle Brook XT glazed porcelain tile. An authentic hardwood visual created by Reveal Imaging™ technology is combined with four natural wood tones to give a realistic look on a durable, scratch-resistant surface. The popular plank size features coordinating trim. StepWise™ technology provides superior slip resistance while being exceptionally easy to clean. Saddle Brook XT provides a dynamic coefficient of friction (DCoF) that is among the highest in the market, allows for seamless installation of wood-look tile from the indoors to outdoors and is ideal for pool surrounds and areas where decking might be an alternative.

East Coast Tile

The Residence collection is a unique Color-Body Italian porcelain that replicates a modern blend of textured linen on washed cement. The linen look is enhanced by subtle tone shading in four colors (Ash, Beige, Brown and Black), available in a natural finish or a semi-polished lappato. Residence comes in two rectangular formats, 12 x 24” and 8 x 48”, along with 2 x 2” mesh-mounted mosaics and trim.

Ege Seramik
Booth # 3807

Jupiter is a new wall tile from Ege Seramik. The Turkish tile producer offers Jupiter in a 10” x 16” wall tile and glazed porcelain field tiles in 13” x 13”, 18 x 18” and 12” x 24” formats. Jupiter offers a complete package, with 2” x 2” mosaics, wall and floor trim and two different insert and listello options. The slightly textured surface and slightly chiseled edge comes in a matte finish in Grey, Ivory and Taupe hues.

Florida Tile
Booth # 7333

Inspired by planks found in an abandoned factory floor in Northern Italy, CellarHDP perfectly captures the rich character of vintage boards, from its timeworn surface texture to its variety of color tones. Rooted in history, these planks show the patina of heavy use by people, machinery, chemicals, and water for a unique rustic yet modern appearance. CellarHDP is as well suited for an industrial chic loft as it is for a farm to table restaurant. It features a natural palette of bleached greys, aged charcoal, rich mocha or warm honey brown, that meld with forged steel, aluminum and exposed brick, as well as hand-hewn beams. Available in 8” x 48” format planks, a generous herringbone mosaic and a modern stack mosaic, CellarHDP combines the look of reclaimed wood using advanced HDP – High Definition Porcelain® printing technology with the technical performance of porcelain. CellarHDP is appropriate for all interior residential and commercial applications. It’s entirely made in the USA of 40% pre-consumer recycled content, meets the DCOF AcuTest requirements to be installed in wet areas and is GREENGUARD® and Porcelain Tile certified.

Florim USA
Booth # 1637

Wood Tobacco is a durable new alternative to pavers; Florim USA’s outdoor tile can be used in a  variety of applications. These 24” x 24” 2 cm thick porcelain stoneware slabs are created by atomizing high quality clays, quartzes and metal oxides pressed at 400kg/cm2, and then slowly firing them in a 2,192 °F kiln. These tiles are frost-resistant, anti-slip, removable, easy to install and clean.

Booth #1201

Urban District is an eclectic blend of products that complement an industrial design style. The collection is influenced by elements such as brick, metal, concrete and wood that are found in the raw materials of buildings in the warehouse district. Urban District is available in three styles, BRX (brick-look – pictured here), STX (wood-look) and HEX (hexagon-shaped cotto). Urban District is available in a variety of colors and is suitable for floor or wall installations. It is available end of May 2016.


New to the Neolith Timber Collection, TheSize introduces its first wood finish, La Bohème. La Bohème is offered in two versions, La Bohème B01 and La Bohème B02, both ideal for countertop applications and kitchen islands. Inspired by the trunk of the Lebanese Cedar tree, this new design stands out from the collection with its bold grain and raw wooden color. When combined with marble, stone or steel, it gives a modern and warm look with a touch of romanticism.

The Tile Shop

Highly-dimensional “3-D” tiles are becoming very popular with homeowners and designers alike. A slight “fume” glazing technique creates even more depth and rich shadows while preserving a clean, modern look. Shown here is The Tile Shop’s Nova Hex Graphite (615265), also available in White (Bianco 615267) and Light Grey (Smoke 615266).

Trend Group

Murrine is a new collection of pictorial composition tiles born from the interpretation of the historic Venetian murrine designs, made of rods of colored glass. These precious and unique works of art are derived from real blowups of murrine designs, converted into artistic mosaics in order to create new decorative and stylish options, specifically designed for contemporary settings.

Walker Zanger
Booth #4851

Kaza is a brand new concrete tile collection incorporating tactile 3-D elements and textures into each design, transcending the accent wall to create a bold statement wall. Kaza redefines concrete with a modern sensibility. Born from a collaboration of Kaza, a European tile studio and Walker Zanger, the collection is comprised of both stock products and bespoke items, making it possible to find the right design/color for any application. The designs in Kaza span the stylistic spectrum, from the angular geometry of Edgy (pictured) to the soft curves of Lantern. Walker Zanger is the exclusive distributor of Kaza in the U.S.

A&D Q&A – TRENDS 2016

Today’s trends and fashion direction in tile

Direct from the designers

How are design professionals viewing today’s trends and fashion direction in tile? We asked the four design professionals who are participating in the Installation Design Showcase about their views on what’s hot in our industry, as well as their thoughts on partnering with suppliers and NTCA Five Star Contractors in the Installation Design Showcase (IDS), being built in real time on the show floor at Coverings. For information about the vignettes and the teams, see Coverings Industry Ambassador Alena Capra’s welcome on page 8 of this issue.

Participating in this Q&A are:
Raegan Porter IIDA, LEED AP ID+C/
Louise Kowalcyzk, AIA, LEEP AP, FGM Architects (FGM)
Susan El-Naggar, ASID, NCIDQ, LEED Green Associate/Tarik El-Naggar, Healing Environments (HE)
Alena Capra, CKD, CBD, Alena Capra Designs (ACD)
Sharon Exley, MAAE ASID/
Peter Exley, RIBA, Architecture is Fun, Inc. (AIF)

The accompanying sidebar gives more information about our design professionals and their work.

– Lesley Goddin

TRENDS: What is the most dynamic trend you see emerging in tile today and in the foreseeable future? How do you incorporate this trend into your work residentially and/or commercially?

FGM: Large porcelain slabs vs. tile or planks would be what we see as the most dominant trend at the moment.

HE: The wood-look plank tile is still very popular, but this year we will see it utilized in creative ways such as painted patterns, distressed look, and interesting cross grains. The brick-look tile is also “in” this year. It will give an Urban Metro feel on floors, and can appear painted and also aged. The concrete-look tiles are great because they come in large sizes and are versatile for a traditional look or can be used in contemporary spaces to give a sleek look. All of these trends can be incorporated into residential and commercial spaces to give an updated look.

ACD: I believe the wood tile trend has become more than a trend, but a staple in the industry. Every year since this type of tile has been introduced, the printing technology has gotten better, and the style choices and cool offerings have really become quite broad. With many of my projects being located in south Florida, I incorporate wood tile in flooring throughout the entire home, as well as for accent walls, bathroom walls and/or floors, etc. For commercial flooring this is also a great choice, due to the high traffic areas, and the durability of this tile. Everything from the new colors – right now I’m loving more of the taupe, washed-looking woods – to the textures and patterns keeps the product fresh and exciting. I cannot design without it!

AIF: We are excited to have the opportunity to play with scale and shape. Manufacturers are developing product that allows designers to think about tile in more than 4” x 4” or 12” x 12” units. We can be complex or simple. We can clad walls using super-sized tile – super clean sets, and juxtapose that against small jewel-sized tile. Or we can go BIG or little. For designers, this new trend of scale and size options allows us freedom to tell stories of home or work that begin with tile and end with the client’s comfort and delight.

TRENDS: How are new products and designs expanding the application for tile other than traditional kitchen/bath/foyer applications?

FGM: Tile feature walls are being incorporated more and more. The thin porcelain veneer can also be used in lieu of traditional wall protection products to create a more modern/ minimal look.

HE: In the past, we traditionally saw tile in wet areas e.g. bathrooms, locker rooms, and kitchens. Tile is now expanding into luxury areas e.g. the master bedroom, living room, and commercial applications such as waiting rooms. Tiles are being used in these luxury areas on the floor, as well as on the walls to replace paint and wall covering. Darker shades on the wall create a dramatic effect, which many consumers are looking for. Metallic tiles are still trending and look great as an accent tile. 3D designs are big this year in a neutral palette which will add texture to the walls.

ACD: Some of the amazing new 3D tiles, stacked stone, and even some of the wood tile have allowed me to work tile into other areas of my clients’ homes. I love using tile to clad columns, or as an accent wall in a family room or entryway of a home. It’s more durable than a wallpaper, and some of the new prints actually look like fabric and wallpaper prints! With the increased technology of the digital printing, this has made tile an easy choice for that type of application.

AIF: Once you play with tile, you understand it can enrich, enhance, and envelop spaces other than the norm. For example, the open kitchen is living space that can be informed by tile reaching out into the public space from the backsplash. Tile can become the unifying element – adding color, form and beauty throughout. Tile can also call attention to treasures, adding contrast and curiosity to a special collection.

TRENDS: Please speak to the state of sustainable design as relates to tile. Has demand increased? How have EPDs/HPDs made tile a more viable product selection? How often do you seek Green Squared Certified® tile products in your work?

FGM: Sustainable design is a best practices for us. We feel like it has just become a standard in the design industry.

HE: Sustainable tiles are becoming more popular as consumers are becoming more educated about their environments. Many are seeking “healthy spaces” since we spend 90% of our time indoors. As a company that creates “Healthy Environments,” we are continually seeking Green Squared Certified® tile products. Lifecycle assessments (LCAs) study the impact of a product on the environment from sourcing through manufacture, distribution, use, removal/disposal and renewal (through recycling or other means). Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are individual product summaries, similar to nutrition labels on foods, that present a snapshot of key information gained from LCAs to allow designers and architects to clearly evaluate the sustainability of a particular product over its entire life cycle. Together, these two tools help standardize sustainability reporting across industries, and make the process of choosing eco-responsible products simpler, smarter and more transparent.

We are currently working with Crossville. Crossville is the first manufacturer to earn Green Squared® Certification – the highest sustainability standard in the industry – across all of its U.S.-manufactured porcelain tile product lines and its entire production process.

ACD: As mostly a residential designer, I do not get asked as often about the sustainability of the tile or products from my clients. Although, if a tile has that feature, I do point it out, and definitely try to use them if I can. Most of my clients’ choices in tile for residential application still revolves around look, durability, size, availability and price point.

AIF: While many clients are still not motivated by “green” product, or feel over “greened,” it is always important to design responsibly. Certified product makes sourcing healthy and sustainable products easier and provides access to information.

TRENDS: Qualified labor language has been incorporated into the Master Spec. Why do you think this is important and how do you incorporate qualified/certified tile installers/contractors into your projects?

FGM: All of our specifications are written utilizing Master Spec and maintaining the language requiring qualified/certified tile installers/contractors is language we keep in all of our projects.  We have been requiring a qualified/certified installer/contractor on our projects resulting in a better final product for our clients, as these contractors have gone through the manufacturers’ training programs on how to properly install their tile product. 

HE: The “qualified labor language” is important when bidding a project so that we are selecting high-quality tile contractors who have experience and are committed to their craft. Instead of going with the lowest bid, it is important to select the tile installer that is the most qualified for the scope of the work. A portfolio and references that show the installer’s experience, along with a bid, will help to determine if the installer is qualified for the project. A short interview is also helpful.

ACD: It is very important to me to have qualified installers in my projects. So much time and detail goes into the design planning and materials selection that it is imperative to have the right execution of the installation. My install team knows my work well, and is very talented in their craft, so there are never any surprises. We keep in constant communication throughout the jobs, which is also key.

AIF: We often work on publicly bid projects where we actively advise clients to pre-qualify certified installers. For us, that means that the “gene” pool is knowledgeable and experienced and can meet or exceed the standards and installation criteria we specify. Highly trained, experienced installers are essential to the success of our projects as poorly installed work reflects upon our design and opportunities to specify preferred, high-performing products in future.

TRENDS: Concerning the IDS project, why did you choose to participate? What do you hope to learn from this experience? What do you hope to express with your design and collaborative work with contractors and sponsors? How’s the experience so far?

FGM: The experience has been great. We thought it would be an interesting experience and a great way to collaborate with contractors and manufacturers that not everyone has had the chance to do. We hope to express the variety of ways that you can use tile through our Golf Club Bar/Lounge. The challenge we saw is how to design a space that incorporates a great deal of hard surface tile and still make it warm and inviting. We use a lot of tile in our regular designs, but that (warmth) is always the challenge, so we wanted to take it to the extreme here and see what we could do.

HE: We chose to participate in the “Coverings ‘16 Installation Design Showcase” because it is North America’s largest and most prestigious event for the tile and stone industry. We felt it was a great opportunity to showcase a “healthy environment” that promotes healing and inner peace to the mind, body, and spirit by focusing on a sustainable and highly versatile material.  We are enjoying collaborating with the team to create a high synergy for the “Spa Lobby.”

ACD: This is exciting for me to once again participate in the IDS. I was a designer in the inaugural showcase years ago, and loved the experience. I am also fortunate to be paired with the same installation team who was absolutely wonderful to work with, as well as Ceramics of Italy. The collaborative experience of design and installation in the showcase is wonderful. I get the opportunity to work with some of the best tile installers in the nation, and to see my design come to life in just a few days!! Nothing better than that!

I am very excited about my design for this year. I am working on a boutique space, incorporating a mix of many of the tile trends that are emerging this year. I wanted to showcase many of the trends such as 3D tile, tile that resembles fabric, graphic prints, as well as lots of the turquoise blue shades that we will be seeing a lot of at Coverings. As the Industry Ambassador for Coverings, I’m presenting about tile trends at several A&D events in the Chicago area leading up to Coverings. I thought it would be fitting to try and incorporate as many as possible into my IDS design. I am so excited to be working with the same amazing team!

AIF: Architecture is FUN. Materiality has always played a big role in the aesthetic and functionality of the public and private spaces we create, for home, for culture and for play. Coverings is an opportunity for us to play with material goods, disrupting the norm and showing how our partner’s tile and stone can reflect a playful spirit. Within our mock boutique hotel lobby, we want guests to “stay and play.” Great public spaces are those you can claim as your own, where you can be rebellious or not, creative or calm and they are always a destination. Our partner and the products we’re selecting will help support Hotel X’s vibe and vice, while shaping an aesthetic that says – this is for you. Come. Stay. Play. Return. Often.

Stone Trends – TRENDS 2016

Transcending civilizations, the use of natural stone in architecture and design evokes a strong emotional experience. Valued for its versatility in format and overall aesthetic, natural stone has the power to enchant in iconic or everyday structures. One can bear witness to this impact, metamorphosing through antiquity from the great temples of ancient Greece into towering structures of the Roman Empire. Stone is eternal, with an ability to be refined, reused, reimagined and repurposed.

Stone’s characteristics are extremely unique, making it difficult to replicate its look and feel in manmade materials. The veining in many copies may appear authentic, however the color, tone and “hand” of a reproduction typically cannot achieve the nuances of a natural stone product. Specifiers will notice this difference. Combining these natural nuances with the desire for an authentic experience by the end user places natural stone at the top of the list of materials when designing any space. Advances in technology have given us new ways to elaborate, design and install natural stone, allowing endless options only limited by the specifier’s imagination.

Lifecycle advantages, monolithic effects

When considering the use of natural stone it is important to analyze the lifecycle cost, a process for evaluating the total financial impact of acquiring, owning and disposing of the product. Due to its extremely long life span, natural stone is a cost-effective material, although initial expenditure may appear higher than other options. As man’s oldest known building material, stone’s potential for a cradle-to-grave lifecycle can be used to the material’s best advantage, supporting its claim as a sustainable building material.

Today, specifiers are insisting on larger and thinner stone slabs and field tile, offering a monolithic effect with fewer grout joints. Tiles measuring 24” x 24” and 18” x 36” by 3/8” thickness are now accessible in many stones. It is possible to acquire cut-to-size panels (from slab) in sizes such as 48” x 48”, typically supplied at 3/4” thickness. Large sizes will command a premium, due to lower production output and yield rates from the block.

Thanks to improved manufacturing techniques increasing the array of available stone, full slab wall installations are resurging. This allows for book-matching or diamond-matching of the slabs, featuring the natural grace of an individual stone to define the space it occupies. Book-matching sharply-veined slabs provides a mirror-like reflection from one piece to the next, creating a symmetrical effect radiating from the joint between the slabs. In order to achieve the desired effect with natural stone slab walls, the slab selection and layout process is vigorous. The use of CAD programs allows the designer to accurately mock up the installation.

White marble, grey tones define today’s design

Historically, white marble quarried in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Asia, and the United States has been highly sought after for both interior and exterior use. This is no different today, with an abundance of varieties that range from clean, minimal veining, to graphically-veined displays. This plentiful marketplace of white marble allows for a nuanced selection that contributes to today’s clean and modern aesthetic. While white remains classic, grey tones are the fashion statement of the moment. Limestone, travertine, marble, quartzite, or soapstone, warm or cool, quiet or veined – the use of grey is the most significant color trend we have seen in recent years.

Quartzite: a good choice for kitchen countertops

In kitchens, the use of marble slabs has also grown dramatically in recent years. Whether honed or polished, clients must be informed of maintenance considerations as well as finish choices that minimize the risk of etching due to acid contact. For clients desiring the look of a marble countertop, but who are not willing to accept surface etching, the use of quartzite has grown in recent years. Although typically not available in tones quite as white as marble, certain varieties of quartzite do offer a light, contemporary color option, as well as grey tones. At the high end of the market, quartzite has largely replaced granites as the stone of choice for kitchen use. When considering a quartzite for a project, it is important to be informed as to its composition and acid sensitivity. Interestingly, despite its popularity in slabs, quartzite tile is still relatively scarce.

Vein cutting expands design options 

Counterpoint to the plethora of white surfaces, vein-cut material offers strong horizontal striped effects with a graphic contemporary feel. Travertine, once hugely popular in cross-cut varieties, now predominates in horizontal vein cut options. Advancement in production techniques, plus the use of reinforcing resins and fiberglass mesh, has allowed for a larger variety of vein-cut and heavily veined materials to be marketed. This gives the consumer access to a fantastic selection of colors and textures. In all cases, the use of fiberglass mesh backing will impact your setting material choice. When designing with vein-cut stones, consider the veining direction to make a space appear wider or taller, depending on the orientation of the tile. The use of heavily veined stones affords the specifier limitless direction in design, ensuring that the end result is a one-of-a-kind work.

Surface finishes add tactile dimension

Another important factor affecting the look and feel of any project is the escalating demand for textured finishes. Stone textures today are more refined than ever before, with inspiration coming from high-fashion fabrics and other textile surfaces. These new finishes are often lightly brushed, closing down the pores and highlighting the natural color in the stone. This is in sharp contrast to the rough, dusty, gritty textured stone finishes of the past.

Another unique benefit of natural stone is the potential for creating surface effects and dimensionality. When studying natural stone, one must imagine any vein or feature in three dimensions. Hand or machine carving patterns exploit these natural features and provide a dramatic backdrop for walls in any commercial or residential application. Visiting a quarry, seeing stone in-situ and inspecting blocks is the optimum method for appreciating these traits. This characteristic has led to the development of many three-dimensional patterns in natural stone, most too difficult to reproduce in man-made materials, especially in more deeply carved designs.

Stone stars in
waterjet patterns

The incorporation of natural stone into waterjet cut patterns has continued to grow in popularity. Inspired by ancient works from places such as the Church of San Marco in Venice or the Taj Mahal in India, today’s stone waterjet patterns offer the sophisticated union of art and technology. The ability to combine stones in a variety of colors and textures alongside glass, shell or metal, provides a striking contrast to natural stone. Furthermore, a seamless interlock within the overall pattern creates the sophisticated effect of an endless design. Bold geometric forms and elegant curves are at the forefront of current waterjet design.

Stone mosaics: a timeless design option

Stone mosaics employ the traditional technique of hand placing tesserae (small chips) into patterns, and continue to be a popular decorative option. Stone scraps and waste from the production process may be incorporated into the output of mosaics, yet another nod to the sustainable use of natural stone. Mosaic designs often derive their inspiration from ancient sources, adapting the pattern to meet modern design trends. Designers and specifiers often utilize this technique, incorporating new stone colors, finishes or waterjet cut shapes to give a more contemporary look and feel.

Stone: beauty from nature that transcends time

Natural stone use goes beyond trends and is part of the essential fabric of wherever humankind has chosen to live and build. Advances in technology, both in the processing and designing of natural stone, have allowed a multitude of new ideas to evolve. Informed selection and installation means there is virtually no limit to how natural stone can be beautifully incorporated into any space that can be imagined. Nothing is more authentic than to live with the most basic material from nature, the geology below our feet.

Tile Trends – TRENDS 2016

Tile trends of 2016 and beyond

By Joe Lundgren

As you embark on another visit to Coverings in Chicago, you will once again be exposed to the heartbeat of our industry’s new trends including sizes, shapes, thicknesses and new designs.

Our industry has come a long way with the introduction of inkjet technology. It’s also made great strides in the area of installation, allowing our installers to learn the correct methods to install a wide array of tiles. There was a time when 12” x 12” tiles were considered “large-format tile.” As we have seen over the past few years – and will see at Coverings 2016 – things have truly changed and will continue to evolve in the years to come.

First let’s define a trend with respect to the tile industry and not just a niche. A trend is a pattern of gradual change that we see in the industry and not a “one hit wonder” that fills a niche and is not a broad-selling category. You will see in the following article what industry experts have seen and expect to see grow in our market.

Is it thin or thick?
Sizes and shapes to come

Is it thin, thick or a large format? Is it square, rectangular or a new geometric shape including chevron and the everlasting hexagon? Over the past years we have seen the continued growth of the “Thin Tile Category,” and you will see more of this at Coverings as companies focus on training installers to ensure a quality installation of these ultra-thin and ultra-large format porcelains. Sizes will continue to grow in length and width as 24” x 24” and 8” x 36” have become more common and have evolved into 24” x 48” and 8” x 48”. On the other side of the spectrum you will see “thick” tiles as companies enter into the 2 cm category that will further the ceramic tile industry’s growth into exterior applications.

In terms of shapes, Emily Holle from MSI said, “Though hexagons are making a big splash, the hottest shape we see is the chevron. Forecast as the ‘must have’ motif in the upcoming year, dramatic chevron patterns appear as meshed components, printed and embossed details, and tile-works created with tiles sporting clipped corners. Unlike herringbone patterns, chevron patterns are all about the zigzag,” explained Holle. “In chevron patterns, tiles run point to point and the ends are cut at an angle to create a continuous zigzag design. In herringbone patterns, tiles finish perpendicular to each other, which results in a broken zigzag,” she said.

Wall tile comes up to date

Yes, we all know 4-1/4” x 4-1/4” and 6” x 6” tiles have dominated the wall tile category for years. However, wall tile is coming back stronger than ever with the emergence of “subway tile” into larger sizes including 3” x 12”, 4” x 12”, and 4” x 16” as well as three-dimensional shapes. You will also see the chevron and hexagon shapes making their way into wall tiles to allow the consumer a vast array of design flexibility. Even larger formats are being utilized with 12” x 24” sizes and larger now becoming the norm.

According to Sean Cilona of Florida Tile, “These larger wall tiles will begin to appear in new sizes like 14” x 39”. These tiles will include solid colors, but also true marble looks that replicate the actual stone so closely consumers prefer it over the “real thing” for maintenance benefits. While your market may utilize floor tile for wall applications, you will see a resurgence of wall tiles for the ease of installation and the wide range of designs. This lends itself to the minimalistic look that we see in many of the new high rise condominiums. Traditionally this has been in smooth monochromatic colors, but now you will see undulated, handmade looks with a variety of glazing techniques to enhance the appearance.

Wood brings nature into the home

Consumers are drawn to products that emulate the warmth and comfort of natural products like wood. Although this is not a new trend, this generation of wood looks continues to progress into authentic replications of actual wood to the point they are indistinguishable from real wood, with the benefits of easy maintenance and durability we find in tile. The distressed looks you will see are remarkable in terms of the visuals. The sizes – as with other categories – continue to grow into true plank sizes we see in real wood floors. The days of the 6” x 24” have been replaced by the 36” lengths and now 48”. This has not only been a residential focus, but also commercial, where we see architects and designers deinstitutionalizing their client’s environment with the natural products.

Cement continues to evolve

The cement look is no newcomer, but the resurgence of the worn concrete look that is a cool, clean and crisper impression of actual poured concrete will surprise you. The cross between industrial and refined design has come a long way. Initially, cement tiles were only used commercially, and we see these moving into residential applications as designs transcend plain cement looks to include more sophisticated visuals. The tile may look just like cement, but it goes one step beyond to be the perfect complement for the streamlined industrial aesthetic in your home. Manufacturers will continue to focus on the true natural use of colors with a range of large formats and textures.

Anne Demers of Specialty Tile Products, a premier distributor in Georgia and Florida, adds, “Concrete looks are still in high demand, but have become more decorative and soft, moving away from the industrial towards a refined palette, thereby securing their crossover into the residential market.”

Glass continues to shimmer

Glass came into the market years ago and has continued to expand into combinations of different shapes, sizes, and colors.

Sylvie Atanasio of Studio S shared her views on glass: “All that glitters is gold, titanium or luster. Glass tile is no longer about being sleek and contemporary. It’s all about commanding attention, shouting: ‘Hey, look at me! Am I not the first thing you noticed?’ Glass tile has an attitude: look for 3D hand-poured glass with metal and luster finishes and antique or enameled mirror looks,” she said.

Rustic stone 

A large part of our market continues to be the real stone looks. As companies refine the capabilities of inkjet technology, the looks are becoming so realistic that it’s difficult to tell the difference. The ability to create a product with graphics that do not repeat has flourished and become a feature factories have incorporated into the visuals, emulating real stone graphics and colors. Florida Tile’s Cilona said, “We will see more of the stone looks in both soft and strong graphics begin to move into our market from abroad.”

Bricks: Wait, is that tile?

While typically viewed as a category outside of the tile industry, the brick look has roared its way into our product portfolios. The look has mirrored that of the feel and aura of vintage brick, bringing nature into the fold as consumers move to the urban look and feel in their homes.

According to Michael Mariutto from Mediterranea, “We are doing extremely well all across the USA with our original Chicago and New York Brick series, and I believe that this is just the beginning of a design trend that could last for many years to come. Porcelain brick has a multitude of diverse applications such as driveways, home entries, pool decks, back splashes, accent walls and main floors and baths. It is quite clear that porcelain brick is here to stay, and is one of the most unique and versatile products currently on the market!” he explained.


2016 invites surrendering to the complexity of whites and greys in both the residential and commercial markets. While considered neutrals, we will see more whites and greys used with an edgy approach in design. The white/grey trend goes with everything and comes in hundreds of shades and tones. Warm, cool, dark, light – you name it and it’s yours. Black and white schemes will also continue to be popular. The beige and browns will reign supreme for the natural stone looks but with more soft, subtle and stable hues. Neutrals as the basis of the kitchen allow you to accent with color and as a result will continue their popularity.



Editor’s Letter – February 2016

Lesley psf head shot“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” 
– Albert Einstein

A couple of topics for this letter.

First, I want to post this photo, taken in December 2015 at association headquarters in Jackson, Miss., of the brand new, updated NTCA logo and most of the NTCA staff and distinguished guests. The porcelain logo was created for the association by Tom Ade and Filling Marble & Tile in Egg Harbor City, N.J. It just so happened that the installation of the logo coincided with a visit of most of the staff to headquarters for year-end meetings, planning, and a holiday dinner. Shown are (l. to r.): Sandy Bettiga, Bart Bettiga, Lesley Goddin, Mark Heinlein, Mary Shaw-Olson, Jim Olson, Becky Serbin, Scott Carothers, Michael Whistler, Jill Whistler, Tricia Moss and Michelle Chapman. Missing is Lisa Murphy, NTCA accountant, and Joe Tarver, NTCA executive director emeritus.

NTCA-staffSecond, I want to further the discussion, started in the December Editor Letter, about solutions to the labor shortage in the U.S.

Just this second week in January, we received a report from the Associated General Contractors of America that showed in December, construction firms added 45,000 workers, as construction unemployment continued its decline from 8.3% a year ago to the current 7.5%.

One of the telling aspects of the report, however, was this statement: “Association officials noted that most contractors remain concerned about shortages of available construction workers, noting that 70% of contractors report having a hard time finding workers. They urged federal, state and local officials to act on measures outlined in the association’s Workforce Development Plan to support new career and technical education programs. In particular, they called on Congress to enact needed reforms and increase funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”

SEVENTY percent. That’s huge. I don’t currently have a figure for the tile industry, but I suspect it would be in a similar ballpark. Which brings us back to the December letter.

We received a lot of feedback to this letter – phone calls to Bart in the office and emails to me – thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! Some respondents were very favorable to the idea of exploring the possibility of importing labor in the form of skilled, certified Mexican workers on a temporary basis to help alleviate some of the immediate labor shortages that are plaguing our industry; some also cited personal experience with excellent work of Mexican laborers they had worked alongside.

Others misunderstood the intent of the letter, fearing an influx of unskilled, undocumented workers, which was never part of the original discussion. But the point was made numerous times about the importance of developing U.S. resources, whether in trade schools, recruiting ex-military – goals NTCA is involved in at various levels, including our online apprentice program in development. And in fact, NTCA president James Woelfel added this comment:

“Young African-American males between the ages of 16-19 are unemployed at the rate of over 20% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young women are in the same range. Here in Arizona young Navajo males are at around 70% unemployment, these numbers are staggering.

“Have we as an industry done our best to reach out to these diverse groups? I don’t think so. Are we selling our own citizens short? We need to do better in outreach to the younger people in our country, no matter the ethnicity (Ed. note – And, I would add, the gender). We have plenty of opportunity in our industry to employ young Americans.”

Well said, and great points. And yet I can’t help thinking that while all the plans to develop U.S. resources are good ones that should definitely be pursued, this issue is that educating, training, enticing and convincing U.S. citizens to enter the field, obtain necessary training and certification and make tile setting their life’s work takes a long time. Certainly, a great goal to shoot for and to attract more U.S. workers into the field from trade school paths, ex-military, inner city populations.

Yet we have an immediate need  – a NOW need – for workers. SEVENTY percent of construction contractors report a shortage. Would a program to certify skilled Mexican workers to help alleviate this situation be able to be implemented more quickly? That is anyone’s guess. But it might make sense to initiate efforts on both fronts. Once any obstacles are overcome in getting these trained workers here legally, we would be working with a population that has the desire to work in this field vs. starting from square one when it comes to plans to recruit U.S. workers.

I invite continuing discussion on this topic, and let’s see what arises!


Are You Paying Attention? – January 3, 2016

Back in August of last year the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed down a new standard that “rewrites U.S. Labor law and upends thousands of business relationships”. Their reasoning is that the old standard was “increasingly out of step with changing economic circumstances”. Reaction was swift with several calling it “alarming” and “fundamentally unrealistic”. The new rule stems from the board’s watershed Browning-Ferris decision which dealt with joint-employer relationships. While the rule will have far reaching effects on industries from staffing companies to franchises, it will also have great effect on the construction industry in terms of how our labor is classified. And yes you should at the very least be aware and even concerned.

The focus of this ruling for our industry concerns the classification of labor into the camps of employees and sub-contractors. While the NLRB, the governmental agency that implements the National Labor Relations Act, has found it within their jurisdiction and infinite wisdom to reverse several decades of practice in labor relationships, they are of the opinion that the line between the two to be blurred to the point that action separating them must be taken. The dissenters on the board who voted against this decision said it “reverses several prior decisions that established clear standards…all of which had been approved by powerful federal courts of appeal”. This is specifically addressing the use of 1099-based labor in the construction industry.

I’m sure many are aware of the IRS’s 20 Point Checklist for Determining an Independent Contractor ( which has been used in the past to make the distinction between an employee and a subcontractor. It now appears that the NLRB wishes to go beyond this already stringent test to make it even more so as the Obama administration chases “perceived worker rights abuses” as a main target as increased funding to both the NLRB and the IRS has increased in the last few years. The rule seems to actively seek to “restrict and tighten the use of independent contractors “ in the construction industry. This matter is especially poignant to the homebuilding industry since the NAHB states that a typical builder “relies on an average of 22 subcontractors to build a typical single family home.” Much of this stems from the toughening stance put forth from the Department of Labor and an administrator’s opinion that stated that the DOL “is putting more weight on a subcontractor’s economic independence when it decides whether that sub really ought to be regarded as an independent enterprise”. No longer is the IRS’s checklist enough. Now subcontractors must show “the managerial and business skills that are part of being and independent contractor, not just providing skilled labor”.

At stake is misclassification of your labor, if you use subcontractors, and the perception that they should have been W-2 based employees. The money it could cost you if they deem you have breached their new rules “can be ruinous”. It has been said that “reclassification attacks are very expensive to defend” and the resulting actions trigger a “domino-like effect” that if you lose your case can have you paying beloved fees such as past due overtime, past due health insurance, past due retirement benefits, past due employee benefits, past due worker’s compensation insurance, past due state and federal withholding taxes plus penalties and interest and enormous legal fees to the other side.

I doubt any installation contractors in our industry want to incur such onerous penalties that could potentially put them out of business, so each must understand the risks and rewards of this issue. This issue is currently being researched and information is being disseminated by the installation industry. There has even been a period of time after this ruling for associations such as ours to comment to the NLRB our opinion of the rule and how it will affect our members.

There has been legislation proposed in Congress to undo the rule by representatives whose constituents have shown an “immense backlash” to it. I urge you to consider the ramifications of the NLRB’s new rule on your business and our industry. Do some research into how the rule will be applied in your state. I also urge you to contact your legislators to support, as one congressman put it, “commonsense proposals that would restore policies in place long before the NLRB’s radical decision, the very same policies that served workers, employers, and consumers well for decades.”

A program on this very subject will be presented at the Surfaces show in Las Vegas and is just one of the educational opportunities available there January 19.

Qualified Labor – January 2016







CTI exam tests and teaches Hawthorne Tile’s project manager Shon Parker learns from the Certified Tile Installer evaluation

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing


Shon Parker

In 2014, when Shon Parker of Hawthorne Tile walked into his local Portland, Ore., Daltile, he glanced at the modules for the hands-on portion of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Test and thought it would take only a few hours to complete. He was surprised that it took six hours, and that the written part of the test was so thorough. “The hands-on [test] looks deceptively easy, and just like the written test, was broad in what was being tested…given the small space it was in.”

Parker started in the tile industry in 1987 and has been a journeyman for 20 years. He describes the hands-on portion as “not too bad,” but admits the written portion “took a bit of studying.” He explains, “I felt I had a good understanding of specifications in our industry before the test, but going through some of the questions made me realize how much is really out there.”

Parker learned about the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) certifications at a Schluter training event for NTCA contractors. After talking to NTCA assistant executive director Jim Olson about the CTEF, Parker and two other installers from Hawthorne Tile signed up for the certification.

“When I heard about the opportunity,” Parker said, “I thought it would be an asset for our company and something to set us apart from our local competition.” Since becoming certified, Parker said the installers at Hawthorne Tile “educate our clients and builders prior to starting any project. We also spend more time at our vendors and chatting with our reps to make sure we are always moving forward to produce a better product.”

Parker feels like he has a better understanding about his industry than a lot of his competition. “Hawthorne Tile has always been about giving our clients the best-looking project we can. Now we know we can give them a well-functioning and technically correct one as well.”

The benefits of becoming certified are obvious to Parker. “Why wouldn’t you [become certified]?” Parker asked. “As more people understand the value of what [certification] means, it will increase your worth to employers and clients,” Parker said. “It’s really one of the best ways to bring up wages in our industry.” He likens it to someone who goes to college for computer programming and obtains a degree – that person will get “a better salary than a guy playing around on his laptop and reading some books in his spare time,” he said.

Parker pointed out that the trade now relies both on hands-on skills as well as an important base of knowledge. “To be successful, you need to be equally skilled at both,” he said. “There are so many new materials out and designers asking to put tile in new locations, plus all the new things tile is being made out of, from new types and sizes of glass to the relatively new thin porcelain type of material like Laminam. Education is key to keeping your liability as low as possible.”

Going through the certification process winds up being educational even though it’s a testing program. During his CTI testing, Parker learned about thin-set coverage and the differences between thin-set mortars. “I always knew that more coverage was better,” Parker said, “but there are differences between wet vs. dry locations.”

Hawthorne Tile now has a page on its website dedicated to education. Parker himself has been through his local union apprenticeship program and training from Nuheat and wedi. He enjoys attending classes that manufacturers host because they allow him to learn new things and keep up on current trends in the industry. Next, Parker is planning on taking the Ceramic Tile Inspection course also offered by CTEF.

Thin Tile

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile project combines on-site training and expert installation

Laminam by Crossville, MAPEI, and Schluter products make detailed bank project a success

By Lesley Goddin

When the Commerce Bank in Garden City, Kan., sought to build a new facility, they wanted a clean, easy-to-maintain material on all its bank teller walls.


The Fox Ceramic Tile team uses prescribed tools and equipment to safely move large thin porcelain tile (TPT) on the Commerce Bank job.

Howard & Helmer Architecture of Wichita, Kan., turned to Laminam by Crossville, a large thin porcelain tile to get the job done. The 1m x 3m Urban Influence Filo 3+ offered a subtle metallic chain mail-like texture in the dark grey Ghisa hue.

“We chose to use the Laminam porcelain product at the Commerce Bank teller stations not only because of the aesthetic quality, but also the exceptional durability that it offers at high traffic areas,” said David White, AIA, president of Howard & Helmer Architecture.

This was to be a challenging installation, said Kevin Fox, owner of NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile from St. Marys, Kan., who was charged with the project. “It was a very difficult one because of the detail of the cuts and all the corners using Schluter metals that was required,” Fox said.


The crew back butters the Laminam by Crossville large thin porcelain tile to achieve complete coverage.

The first step was being sure all the installers on the project were trained on how to handle, work with and install the Laminam panels, which are only 3 mm thick.

Enter Brent Stoller, installation specialist and training manager with ISC Surfaces with locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) training director Scott Carothers said, “ISC Surfaces is the only Laminam training facility in the U.S. outside of Crossville itself.” Stoller is a very supportive board member of CTEF. He received CTEF’s CTI Host of the Year award in 2014, and is on record for hosting the largest number of Certified Tile Installer tests at one site. So Stoller “desires to see installations done correctly and is always willing to offer assistance when needed,” Carothers added.


Schluter Rondec and outside corners gave an elegant finish to the walls.

To that end, Stoller came from Kansas City to the Garden City jobsite to train Fox’s crew before they began the project. “[He helped] train our tile setters on the latest techniques using the most up-to-date installation tools,” Fox said.

“The ISC Surfaces location in Kansas City, Kan., has been doing Crossville/Laminam Training since December of 2012, training 27 installation companies with 81 installers through December 2015,” Stoller explained.

“Our trainings are done in our Kansas City location based on tool requirements; full panel installations, floor and wall, and the transportation issues inherent with those requirements,” he continued. The company offers its customers job-site starts and first-day supervision especially on a first-job scenario based on job-start timing and Stoller’s availability.

ISC Surfaces arose from a blend of several companies over the years: Interstate Supply, Case Supply and AMC Tile, said Stoller. Case supply was the Crossville distributor in the Kansas City territory. Over the past 23 years, Stoller’s relationship with Crossville’s Tim Bolby and ISC’s proactive approach to training


Installing the Laminam by Crossville TPT.

and industry commitment through training opened the door to partner with Crossville. In December 2012, ISC was invited on board by Crossville to grow the segment of thin porcelain tile. Active in all levels of the industry, ISC Surfaces is also a host site for both the CTEF CTI and ACT programs with six locations in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and service to Southern Illinois.

Once trained at the job site, Fox’s team of Certified Tile Installers had additional obstacles to overcome. “We had to work around the countertops,” Fox said.

All installation materials were from MAPEI, starting with the primer for the exterior-grade plywood substrate: MAPEI ECO Prim Grip, with MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar for the Laminam sheets, grouted with MAPEI Ultracolor Plus. MAPEI sales rep Brett Robben worked with Fox to develop a package of products that offered single-source benefits and a system warranty.

The project took a tremendous amount of care and precision. “Although only 20 sheets of Laminam were used, the installation consumed 60 pieces of Schluter Rondec and 50 outside corners,” Fox said.

The completed project offers sleek, easy-to-maintain work stations for tellers, expertly installed.


A lippage control system keeps both pieces of TPT per wall side flush. Walls were installed, and counters assembled.

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