Caption: The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) conducted installation certification for its Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program during the first two days of Coverings 2009.

Representatives from MAPEI demonstrate the company’s new Opticolor grout at Coverings 2009.

Dozens of ceramic tile installers completed their installation training and certification at Coverings 2009, and there were numerous installation demonstrations throughout the show, as North America’s largest trade show for ceramic tile, stone and related accessories was held April 21-24 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL.

Coverings 2009 opened with a keynote presentation by Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America. In his presentation, “Construction Forecast: What Impact Can You Expect?,” Simonson offered a detailed look at how the current economic crisis will affect the residential and commercial construction sectors this year.

Simonson first outlined the primary factors influencing the economy this year, which include: the credit market freeze is negatively affecting consumer spending; there is weak demand for income-producing properties; falling state spending; no job growth and rising unemployment; U.S. government recently passed a $787 billion stimulus plan.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America, answers questions from audience members following his presentation, “Construction Forecast: What Impact Can You Expect?,” the opening keynote at Coverings 2009.

Next, Simonson detailed the provisions of the stimulus plan, and how this spending will impact commercial construction in the coming years. Of the allocated funds, $49 billion is designated for transportation projects; $38 billion is designated for building construction; $5 billion is designated for weatherization of public buildings.

Simonson then offered an in-depth forecast of the construction industry during the remainder of 2009, and explained how the trends of the past two years have affected current market conditions. Total construction for the period from February 2008 to February 2009 fell 10%, with private residential construction down 30%. Housing starts during this period fell nearly 50%. Despite the severity of these figures, Simonson predicts that residential construction will increase soon, driven by low prices and interest rates.

“We’re expecting to see an upturn in single-family construction by the end of the year,” Simonson said.

 Eric Astrachan, executive director of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), explains the changes to the 2009 TCA Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation, at TCNA’s press conference at Coverings 2009.

In summary, Simonson predicted that 2009 will see a 3 to 9 percent decrease in consumer spending, and a 1 to 7 percent decrease in construction, primarily in the residential sector, with commercial construction remaining fairly level.

During the first two days of the show, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) conducted certification training for its Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program, which recently celebrated its first anniversary after launching last year at Coverings 2008. This year, Daltile recruited the majority of the candidates who were tested, and also donated all the materials for the hands-on portion of the testing, including membranes, backer board, thin-set, grout and flexible sealants. In addition to earning the CTI designation, the three highest scoring installers earned the following prizes: the highest scoring installer received a Husqvarna 10” Tilematic Wet Saw; the second highest scorer received a Sigma 3D Tile Cutter; and the third highest scorer received a European Tile Masters Hole Saw Kit. In addition, all participants received a tool and safety kit from MAPEI, a Euro-style notch trowel supplied by European Tile Masters, and a canvas tool bag from Schluter Systems.

Also noteworthy for installers, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) introduced the latest version of the industry standard, the 2009 TCA Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation, which includes several important changes and additions, including sections on accessibility and sustainability. The new section on accessibility, written by TCNA staff at the request of the United States Access Board, provides accessibility criteria for tile installations and lists ways to make tile installations accessible. In addition, a new section on tile and the environment, written by TCNA’s Green Initiative Committee, contains information on: how tile can contribute LEED points to a project; 12 reasons to choose tile; tile lifecycle costs; and how tile is environmentally friendly.