Gerald Sloan of NTCA (right) and Scott Carothers of CTEF (left) demonstrate how lighting affects lippage in ceramic tile installations at Total Solutions 2008 in National Harbor, MD.

Incoming NTCA president John Cox (l.) and outgoing NTCA president Frank Canto present Ally Fertitta Venugopal with the Best Practice award for Tile Partners for Humanity’s work to provide tile and labor for Habitat for Humanity homes.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) recently held its Total Solutions 2008 conference at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, MD. The two-day conference included a variety of high-profile industry speakers, hands-on demonstrations, and tabletop displays from many manufacturers of ceramic tile and related accessories.

Despite current economic conditions, attendance for this year’s show was up 29 percent over last year’s show in Tampa, FL.

“Recognizing the economic uncertainty that looms over the country - and certainly the tile industry - the NTCA is delighted with the attendance and support we received at Total Solutions,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA executive director. “Our tabletop event, breakout AIA/IIDA seminar program, and conference seminars, enjoyed some of the best participation we have ever experienced. The Mid-Atlantic region supported our efforts in helping to encourage local attendance, and their assistance is reflected in the positive figures. We are indebted to all who assisted us in our most comprehensive efforts ever to attract industry professionals to our conference. We look forward to capitalizing on all that we learned on how to promote and coordinate a strong conference, and look for even more success in San Antonio, TX, next year.”

At the tabletop event, Jorge Goytisolo of StarQuartz Industries coaches Tiede-Zoeller’s Kevin Crawford in the use of StarQuartz urethane grout. Tiede-Zoller, based in Long Beach, Miss., installed the 70-80,000 square feet of tile and stone in the Gaylord National hotel, the site of Total Solutions. It took Tiede-Zoeller 54,000 man-hours of work to meet the tight 3.5-month deadline.

The turnout showed attendees’ desire to invest in both individual businesses and the industry.

“We are inspired by the contractors who decided to invest in their businesses during these uncertain economic times, and encouraged and grateful to the manufacturer and distributor sponsors who support the industry in tangible ways – most notably by their participation in Total Solutions,” Bettiga added.

The conference opened with a keynote presentation from business partnership expert Ed Rigsbee, whose presentation, “Developing Alliances and Partnerships,” offered a seven-step plan for developing successful collaborations.

Next, tile style guru Patti Fasan offered a dynamic presentation on “Advantages of Ceramic Tile vs. Competitive Products.” In her fast-paced style, Fasan discussed the benefits of ceramic tile, such as its environmentally sound production methods, and challenged the audience members to take a more aggressive stance in promoting the use of ceramic tile versus other flooring materials such as carpet, resilient and laminate.

Joe Tarver presented the non-contractor Ring of Honor to Leigh Hightower of Texas Cement Products in Houston.

“We are the cheerleaders for ceramic tile,” Fasan said. “If we don’t know what ceramic tile is capable of, then who will know?”

Howard Kanare of the CTL Group, a subsidiary of the Portland Cement Association, gave a presentation on “What’s New with Concrete Floors and Moisture Issues.” Kanare offered an in-depth look at some of the most important issues regarding concrete floors, including drying issues, ASTM F1869 Standards, and an update on ASTM F2170. In discussing installation issues related to concrete moisture problems, Kanare presented a key advantage of ceramic tile over other flooring materials.

“Tile is more resistant to moisture problems than other types of flooring,” Kanare said. “This gives tile installers an important advantage in the marketplace.”

Svend Hovmand of Crossville, Inc. gave a presentation on “Total Quality Management,” using examples from Crossville’s reduction of inventory errors to stress the importance of quality management in long-term success. According to a survey cited by Hovmand, more than 90 percent of retailers surveyed would not give up a trustworthy supplier for a 10 percent price reduction. Hovmand closed his presentation by stressing the importance of properly trained installers, and urged all contractors to let the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) train and certify their employees.

NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga presented the Tile Person of the Year award to contractor Tommy Cox of Memphis Tile and Marble in Memphis, Tenn.

“Get your employees certified, and it will pay off in spades,” Hovmand concluded.

Following Hovmand’s presentation, Scott Carothers of CTEF gave an update on the organization’s Certified Ceramic Tile Installer program. Changes for 2009 include the availability of home study materials as well a new Certified Installer Manual authored by CTEF, which will supplement the TCNA Manual and ANSI specifications. Carothers emphasized the value of proper installation training for the continued growth of the ceramic tile industry.

“Certification is the validation of the skills and knowledge of the installers,” Carothers said.

A variety of technical and business presentations filled the afternoon session, including: Joe Still discussed “Movement Joints and Their Importance for Successful Tile Installations;” and J. Mathew Godwin gave a presentation on “Ownership Transfer and Management Succession Planning.

A breakout conference geared toward the A&D community included: Scott Fleming of Oceanside Glasstile, who discussed “Large Format Glass Tile;” award-winning architect Michael P. Johnson presented “Aesthetic and Sustainable Benefits of Ventilated Wall Systems;” and tile design expert Patti Fasan discussed “Architectural Specification of Ceramic Tile.”

The first-day program concluded with technical installation presentations by MAPEI, LATICRETE and TEC, followed by a tabletop show featuring a variety of manufacturers of ceramic tile and related products.

Day two of Total Solutions kicked off with the election of new officers for NTCA. John Cox, president of Cox Tile in San Antonio, TX, was elected as the new president of NTCA, taking over from outgoing president Frank Canto, owner of Canto Tile & Stone in Riverview, FL. The elections were followed by a Construction Forecast for 2008/2009 by Ken Simonson of AGC, and Marc Rosencrantz, who offered a presentation on “Insurance/Risk Transfer/Safety.”

NTCA’s Gerald Sloan conducted a seminar on lippage and lighting, using an installation module to demonstrate how changes in the placement of lighting can affect lippage issues.

Eric Astrachan of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) gave a comprehensive presentation on the “TCNA 2009 Handbook and Large Format Tile Specifications and Installation Challenges.” Notable changes to the 2009 Handbook include: definitions to cleavage membrane and vapor retarder; section on accessible design; changes to F128 and C312; additions to EJ171 (Movement Joints); plans for adding environmental conditions; and Robinson Floor Testing.

Afternoon sessions included: Chip Carter and Ken Peeples of Construction Risk Services discussed “Contract Language/Documentation;” and Ron Treister of Communicators International gave a presentation on “Marketing for Contractors.” These presentations were followed by technical installation presentations from Custom Building Products and Star Quartz Industries.

Total Solutions concluded with the annual NTCA Awards Banquet, at which a variety of awards were presented. Tommy Cox of Memphis Tile & Marble in Memphis was honored as NTCA’s Tile Person of the Year. Ring of Honor winners were Leigh Hightower of Texas Cement Products in Houston and Paul Sherba of Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo in Canfield, OH. Best Practice awards went to Ally Fertitta Venugopal, executive director of Tile Partners for Humanity for work done to help Habitat for Humanity homes, and Phil Halcomb, vice president of David Allen Company, for his work in the company’s 14 annual golf tournaments to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Total Solutions 2009 will be held Sept. 17-18, 2009, at the Hotel Valencia/San Antonio Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX. For more information, call (601) 939-2071 or visit