Last October, more than 500 professionals from the tile industry gathered at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs, Fla., for Total Solutions Plus 2013. Held annually, the conference is a collaborative effort between the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and for the first time, the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA). The event, which boasted an increase of more than 100 attendees compared to the previous year, is designed to bring industry professionals together for education as well as networking opportunities.

On the opening evening, attendees were welcomed at a cocktail reception sponsored by Coverings, the annual international tile and stone exhibition that is scheduled this year at the Las Vegas Convention Center from April 29 to May 2. The next morning, Bart Bettiga, NTCA executive director, greeted a full room. “Each year it gets better, and the quality of people is incredible,” he said. “We reached more than 500 people for the first time ever. Also, it’s the first time that TCAA joined us – now we are truly an industry.”

On the second morning of the conference, Eric Astrachan, TCNA executive director, addressed the audience with his keynote, “Fat, Skinny, Tall, Short and Tattooed: Tiles Go Wild.” He started off by discussing the hot topic in the industry – thin tile.

“Thin is in,” said Astrachan, adding that thin tile typically refers to 3- to 6-mm thickness. “How is thin tile different? It has reduced thickness, increased edge sensitivity and flexibility is a new consideration.” Astrachan explained that ANSI A137.3 for thin porcelain tile is currently under construction. “Even giving it a name can be a challenge,” he noted.

Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers. Among the breakout sessions at the event were two demonstrations of The Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program Both the ACT Certification Demo: Membranes and Large Format Tile and ACT Certification Demo: Mudwork and Showers were given by NTCA and TCAA. Scott Carothers, executive director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), led the discussions that addressed these four technically challenging areas of installation expertise.

Partners in the development of the initiative are CTEF; TCAA, representing signatory tile contractors from International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC); along with IUBAC; the International Masonry Institute, which provides professional and technical training for union masonry contractors; and NTCA, with membership open to all tile contracting companies.

Manufacturers that contributed to the development of modules and tests for each of the areas of installation include:


· MAPEI – Large Format Tile Installation and Substrate Preparation

· Custom Building Products – Mudwork

· The Noble Co. and Tec Specialty Products – Shower Pans

· Laticrete and The Noble Co. – Membranes

At Coverings 2013, held in Atlanta last April, four union and four non-union installers took the test on the show floor. The eight installers recently completed the on-line written test that comprises 25% of the certification score, and they are now the first class of ACT graduates.

Awards Presentations. Both the NTCA Ring of Honor Award and Tile Person of the Year went to Scott Carothers of CTEF.“I’ve always had a passion for this industry and love it dearly,” he said to a full room, including his wife and daughters who flew in to surprise him. “We are moving forward because the industry is behind us.”

The CTDA presented its 2013 CTDA Hall of Fame Award to Dave Milanowycz, director of sales for the independent channel at Florida Tile. Additionally, Bill Griese,TCNA standards development & green initiative manager, was honored by ASTM International with the International President’s Leadership Award.

During the conference, several companies held their own gatherings to make company announcements or celebrate a milestone. NAC Products surprised owner Tom Duve during an exclusive breakfast with a 30-year achievement award.

In addition to the awards programs and seminars, a tabletop exhibition was held on the first day. Manufacturers of tile products and setting materials had the opportunity to show their latest product developments to a crowd of tile contractors and distributors.

As Total Solutions 2013 wrapped up, attendees enjoyed a beach-themed cocktail reception – complete with hermit crab races and frozen drink bars sponsored by TILE Magazineand Louisville Tile – followed by a seated dinner.