Coverings recently returned to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., for the 2017 edition of the tile and stone show. Though official attendee numbers were not available at press time, exhibitors polled by FCI believed show traffic was “slightly up.”

While the main focus of Coverings has always been the unveiling of the latest designer-savvy tile and stone products for residential and commercial settings, the installation arm of the show continues to gain prominence—with a long list of product demonstrations at the Live Installation Demonstration Stage, and live certifications of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) programs both administered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF).

Additionally, the annual display of unique installation projects at the Installation Design Showcase—a partnership between designers, manufacturers and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Five Star Contractors—focused on the “tiny homes” trend with the installation of three tiny homes on the show floor.

TCNA updates

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) announced several initiatives and updates during Coverings 2017. First, the group announced the release of two new industry standards focused on thin tile: ANSI A137.3 for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs, and ANSI A108.19 for Interior Installation of Gauged Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method Bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar or Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar.

According to TCNA, “The standards use the term ‘gauged’ to cover a range of precise thicknesses that can carry different loads and be used in different ways, taking a similar approach to standardized wire gauges and gauged sheet metal. Two classes of gauged tile products are defined—those for wall applications from 3.5 to 4.9 mm, and for floor and wall applications from 5.0 to 6.5 mm.

“ANSI A137.3 standardizes the minimum required properties for the products themselves and ANSI A108.19 standardizes the methodologies for installing the products in interior installations by the thin-bed method with specific mortars.”

TCNA also announced updates to the latest edition of the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. New sections include “Tile Layout Considerations,” “System Modularity,” “Visual Inspection of Tilework” and “Design Considerations When Specifying Tile.” Also included is an explanation of substrate flatness requirements, considerations when using equivalent gauge (EQ) studs, and avoiding wall-wash lighting on tile installations. TCNA also said there were “significant” changes to EJ171 movement joint guidelines, and a new method for tiling an exterior deck or balcony over an unoccupied space.

Finally, the group announced a new marketing and education initiative focused on consumers, called Why Tile. The program is a partnership between TCNA, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), NTCA, CTEF, the Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), the Tile Heritage Foundation (THF) and industry manufacturers.

According to TCNA, the campaign, housed on the the new website, “provides extensive messaging on the benefits of tile, centering on four main tenets: Design, Easy Care, Healthy Spaces and Heritage. The site features an Inspiration Gallery; downloadable Project Guide, schematics, and maintenance tips; and a Test Your Tile IQ feature where users can take a simple 10-question quiz for a chance to win a prize.”

New products

MAPEI has launched Flexcolor 3D, a professional-grade, ready-to-use translucent specialty grout with an iridescent effect finish. According to Diane Choate, marketing for MAPEI, “Flexcolor 3D both reflects and refracts light, which allows the grout to transition its color to complement the tile color.”

The grout is offered in Crystal Moon (a nearly translucent neutral base), along with nine color effects that include golds, silvers, coppers, greens and blues.

Terry Baskin, speaking on behalf of Schluter-Systems, was excited to introduce the company’s new line of thin sets (Editor’s Note: See this month’s Product Focus for details). He stressed, however, that this introduction was not a sign of Schluter looking to enter into the mortars business. “It’s so we can offer installers a complete system. Schluter formulated these thin sets to work specifically with Schluter membranes, so it gives contractors a lot of flexibility.”

He added that the complete system carries a lifetime warranty. “That’s a real selling point for the installer. It not only promotes the use of tile, but the expertise behind how it’s installed.”

Laticrete has enhanced the formula for its NXT Skim fast-drying underlayment to provide a creamier consistency for a smoother application, sleeker finish and extended pot life, the company stated. The product can be applied from skim depth up to 1”, with finished flooring installed as soon as 20 minutes after application.

At Tec’s booth, Kristin Fritts, H.B. Fuller Construction Products’ director of marketing, showcased Tec’s new Ultimate 6 Plus Mortar, as well as a new 3.5 gallon pail in the HydraFlex crack isolation and waterproofing system, and improved pot life and stain protection for the company’s Power Grout.

“Ultimate 6 Plus is a polymer-modified mortar for all types of thin and large heavy tiles. It has a long pot life but is fast-setting—tile will be ready to grout in six hours,” she explained. “It’s very creamy and easy to spread.”

Joel Guth, president of iQ Power Tools, unveiled iQTS244, the industry’s first dry-cut tile saw with integrated dust collection. While a prototype of the tool was shown last year, this year’s event marks the first time the unit is in production.

“We’ve had a tremendous response,” Guth stated. “People have sought us out at this show. They heard about it and wanted to see it first-hand. It’s the only dry-cut tile saw with a vacuum system and dust containment built in. It can handle thin tile as well.”

QEP’s latest offerings include Xtreme Board ceramic tile backer board, the flat LASH Leveling System and the new F3 Stabilizer kneepad. According to Rodrigo Vera, Q.E.P. senior vice president, specialty sales, Xtreme Board “contains no silica, asbestos or VOCs. It has a zero fire and smoke rating, never delaminates, is easy to cut and score, and is mold and mildew resistant.”

Jamie Clingan, senior vice president of sales and marketing, stated the flat LASH (Level Align Space Hold) system is designed for eliminating lippage between tiles of the same thickness. The company’s original curved LASH system is designed to create a lippage-free installation for tiles of different thicknesses.

QEP’s F3 Stabilizer kneepad features a six-layer system including memory foam and gel, and is designed to conform to the shape of the wearer’s knee.

Ben Mack, director of marketing at Ardex Americas, showcased the company’s exterior tiling systems, including X 90 Outdoor thin set and the soft launch of the ProDrain exterior passive drainage system. He explained, “In North America we’re known mostly for prep products and self-levelers, but everywhere else in the world we’re known primarily for our tiling products.”

Molly Galvin, marketing for USG, presented a new partnership between USG and Infinity Drain with the USG Durock Infinity Drain Shower System. She stated, “This is our first launch into linear drains. We’re keeping it really simple, with four finishes and three grate options.”

Matthew Day, territory manager for Bostik, explained the benefits of the company’s new Bosti-Set adhesive and sound reduction membrane for thin porcelain tile panels. “It’s designed for installing thin porcelain tile on walls in a single application. It offers very aggressive initial grab, features a longer working time of 30 minutes and includes Thickness Control Spacer technology.”

Blanke Corp.’s Amanda Henke, marketing manager, spoke about her company’s Permat uncoupling underlayment. “Permat features a reinforced mesh panel design, which adds support to wood substrates while also providing greater compression and tensile strength.”

Matt Rosenberg, national sales manager for Cover Guard temporary surface protection, promoted the company’s surface protectors. “We’re a division of Bainbridge International, which makes sailcloth and other industrial marine fabrics. We’ve incorporated that technology into an integrated range of surface protection products that can be used in new construction, refurbishment and maintenance,” he said.

One new company at Coverings, Austyn Tyler Tools, introduced a new line of tile spacers called Str8 Spacers. “You can clean thin set out of the joints as you go, and eliminate lippage 100% when the spacers are used correctly,” stated Brian Hunt, owner of the Colorado-based company. “It offers the experienced tile setter speed and accuracy. We want to change the narrative, help make installers better at what they do, and really bring back the American tradesman.”

Coverings 2018 is scheduled for May 8-11, 2018, in Atlanta. For more information, visit