Ringing in its 25th anniversary, Coverings showed more signs of growth at the recent 2014 edition of the convention. Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and spanning two floors as well as a pavilion area separate from the main building, the show saw a three percent bump in attendance. Compared to the tile and stone show’s last outing in Vegas in 2011, the show was up an overall 22 percent, including increased traffic from retailers (up 12 percent), distributors (up 16 percent) and fabricators (up 36 percent). The annual event also expanded its exhibit space, with more than 975 exhibitors in 387,600 square feet.

One local fabricator, Mark Ladzinski, based in Henderson, Nev., said the show was something he has been attending for several years, and it made sense to stop in again this year. “It’s full of seminars and education, new tools and new trends. It gives me plenty of opportunities to learn and make more money. It’s those little mistakes, those little things you don’t know, that can become thousands of dollars lost from the bottom line.”

Phil Green, a tile contractor in the Chicago area and inventor of the Back Butter Buddy tool, had similar reasons for attending. “It’s all about the new tools, the training out there and being able to rethink how you approach your work. People who are here have a real passion for the trade. Our hands hurt at the end of the day and our knees hurt, but we still feel really good when we complete a job.”

According to Daniel Boone, of Daniel K. Boone & Co. in Boca Raton, Fla, the show offered “a nice balance of different segments in the market. It’s going to take a while to walk both floors.” He added that people need to educate themselves on using the many products on display correctly. “We have serious sun problems in South Florida, so you would have to be out of your mind to install marble on a balcony, but people are doing it all the time. There are lots of misapplications of natural stones in general.”

Stan Platt and Matt Newbold, owner and manager, respectively, of Elite Tile Setters in South Jordan, Utah, were at the show to earn Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certification from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF).

Newbold noted, “This is my first time for CTI certification. We’re looking for ways to set ourselves apart and advertise our skills.” Platt added the industry is changing quickly as new technologies come to the forefront. “We have not been asked to install the large-format thin tile that is so big at this show, but I know we will be doing it someday. Frankly, those huge, thin panels shouldn’t even be called tile. It installs differently. It’s transported differently. It cuts differently. It’s a whole different process.”

Along with the CTI certification, Scott Carothers, CTEF director of certification and training, was on-hand to help administer the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program. Combining input and support from union and non-union organizations, ACT includes up to five modules tile installers can be certified in: Large Format Tile & Substrate Preparation, Membranes, Mud Floors, Mud Walls and Shower Receptors.

“Many people don’t do mud walls and floors because it’s so specialized,” Carothers said. “My prediction is they will be coming back because these methods are perfect for installing thin tiles.”

New products. If there was an overall theme of the show, the continued push of thin (around 3mm), extremely large-format panels (up to 5’ by 10’) was hard to ignore. All of the major tile manufacturer associations, including North America, Italy and Spain, had plenty of these types of products on display, usually at the front of their booths where they would command the most attention from attendees milling down the aisles.

Sean Cilona, Florida Tile director of marketing, previewed a new thin tile line from the 60-year-old company called Thinner, which ranges from 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 mm thickness. However, Cilona stated that the product would not be launched until training could occur. “Architects are already asking for it, but this is a pretty big program; we need to roll out training and education to architects, distributors, salespeople and contractors first. These are innovative products, but people need to know how to sell them and work with them.”

Regarding the company’s 60th anniversary, Cilona added, “We have a very strong history and have many things planned throughout the year to celebrate – including giveaways and promotions. We do a lot of trade shows each year, so we’re glad to be able to take our message to so many people. We’re not just a residential company anymore but are continuing to grow and make strides into commercial products.”

Eric Astrachan, executive director of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), also recommended a cautious approach when it comes to thin tile. “Thin tile does not have a standard yet. One manufacturer’s thin tile product will be – not might be – different because there is no standard in place.”

Systems that can be used to control tile lippage are extremely important with the influx of thin tile, he noted. “Usually when there’s a little bit of lippage, most tile installations can handle it. But when you have a 3mm tile, ‘a little bit of lippage’ might mean half the tile is sticking up. You’re going to start having edge failures.”

One product to help avoid lippage shown at Coverings was the Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) system. Two of its inventors, Mick Volponi and Ernie Perry, were in the Russo Trading Co. (RTC) booth to talk about the system, which uses base plates along with reusable caps and straps and a setting device. According to Volponi, “The reusable straps and caps are designed to reduce costs and keep anything from going to the landfill.”

Perry added, “We specifically did not call this a leveling system because it is designed to tune lippage. It’s great for any lippage concerns in thin tile, porcelain and stone.”

3D Stone & Tile, based out of Park City, Utah, also displayed at the RTC booth. Co-owners Rod Katwyk and Diana Scardilli demonstrated the capabilities of their new product, which can give a three-dimensional look to installations via a patent-pending tile backer system that can be custom-cut to create wedges and angles.

Katwyk, who invented the backer, said he first thought about the product when working on a balcony with a herringbone pattern for a customer. “I was thinking about how to pop it out and give it a more 3D look, and came up with putting foam wedges on the back of the tile. Seeing the end-result made Diana and I start to see all the possibilities.”

Scardilli added, “I went to Italy to see if anybody else was doing this. I was sure someone must be. I was astounded to find we were the only ones.”

“We can create this new market,” Katwyk stated. “We can get in there and dominate the 3D tile look. Russo Trading will be distributing for us, and we’re going to reach out to others as well.”

He added as tile has become more advanced and technically challenging, “People are starting to use tile more as art again. This product is for the tradesmen who can use it to offer so many more types of installations. It’s good for showers, too.”

Steve Thompson, a consultant for Tile-A-Drain, explained his company’s new system that is designed to create a perfect height between tile and the strainer. Developed by a 30-year master plumber, the product includes a base, strainer in two finish options, bezel and four shims. “You can achieve a perfect match between the tile and strainer and create an ADA-compliant installation in drain sizes from 1 1/2” to 5 1/2” inches, in two and three-hole patterns. Simply spread and level the thin set and place the tile. Then remove the existing strainer, adding or removing shims as needed. Shear off the pins at the level you want, fill the voids with thin set, and install the new strainer.”

Phil Ciesulka, USG business development director, shared news of his company’s just-announced partnership with XL Brands. “We are going to be working together to bring systems and solutions to the industry. We are going to concentrate on what we do well and let them concentrate on what they do well, and put it together in a system approach. We are also going to transfer knowledge and information between the companies, sharing our R&D capabilities and our perspectives.”

Joseph D’Agostino, CEO of first-time exhibitor Nue Tile, exhibited his company’s releasable tile membrane. “When somebody puts down ceramic tile, it’s very difficult to change. However, with our product you can pull the tile up without damaging it or the substrate. The membrane bonds instantly to the tile, and will allow heavy-duty traffic, but when it’s time to take the tile out, it can be done easily.”

Luke Schilling, co-owner and production engineer for E&S Co., debuted an extremely unique hybrid flooring product which combines a ceramic finish with reclaimed barnwood tiles on a patent-pending perforated backer. Available in three patterns (4” by 4” tiles on 12” by 12” sheets, 2” tiles on 8” by 20” sheets, and 4” by 4” tiles on 12” by 14” sheets), barnwood planks are also offered.

“Everyone is doing the porcelain wood look, but [co-owner] Aaron Everitt and I wanted to do something different. We started a relationship with farmers in the area, and have created a new market for reclaimed barnwood. The patterns are ceramic-finished, are easy to install with either modified thin set or construction adhesive, and don’t require any grouting. The backer allows for expansion and contraction – after all, it is wood.”

Coverings 2015 is set for April 14-17 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. For more information, visit www.coverings.com.

NOTE: For additional photos see the Digital Edition of the magazine. For more information, visit www.fcimag.com/digitaleditions.