The International Surface Event 2019 (TISE), held in Las Vegas from Jan. 22 to 25, offered a great kick-off to the year. Along with giving us all the opportunity to connect and network with peers, the show was a place to feel rejuvenated and get excited for the year to come, with loads of new products and tools.

So, what did I see this year that caught my attention? LVP, LVP and more LVP—wow! “Waterproof” was the word I kept seeing at exhibitor booths. WPC, SPC and Rigid Core banners were all over the show floor.

I also saw quite a few new tools and sundry items. On the subject of LVP, Bullet Tools unveiled its new LVT/LVP Cruiser scoring tool (Photo 1). The tool can score both widths and lengths and even has the ability to make radial cuts. When an installer turns the handle, a roller on the underside of the tool feeds the plank through, while a blade on the topside scores the plank.

Lori Rhoads from Better Tools introduced me to some great, inexpensive kneepad covers called Gorilla Guards BT 130. These fit right over most types and brands of kneepads, and what’s nice about these is they slip on and off easily and can be washed. For those of us who have used tape to cover our pads to keep from scratching floors, now there’s a much easier solution. So if you’re setting tile one day and installing wood the next, you don’t have to worry about thin-set residue scratching the hardwood floor! (Photo 2)

Todd Hall with CalFlor showed off a couple of new products. One was a tapping block that also has a knife notch and pencil hole for scribing to walls (Photo 3). The company stated, “CalFlor’s new VersaBlock Tapping Block is a top-seated block with specialized notches designed to tap in any click flooring pattern. From 3mm LVT to 15mm engineered wood, VersaBlock’s unique, patented design fits perfectly on any profile and includes a cutting notch for removing click tongues, wall tracing holes and built-in ruler.”

The other new CalFlor product was a bracket system that integrates click flooring for walls (Photo 4). The company noted, “The Ômur On The Wall system features a unique, patented Clip & Rail wall mount system created to easily put any click flooring on any wall. It offers numerous creative possibilities to decorate and renovate your interior.”

My first thought was why not just glue the click flooring to the wall; but then, thinking further, if you ever wanted to remove the product you would have major repairs or replacement of the sheetrock—versus just filling in some small screw holes. 

Andy Acker from Schluter showed me the new KERDI stainless steel shower shelves they’ll be introducing soon. Schluter offers shelves for new installations as well as the ability to retrofit to existing tile installations (Photo 5).

One of the tool vendors made the comment that they noticed an increase in contractors who dropped by their booth from previous years. So the word is getting out: TISE is very installer-friendly!

Education Program and the Return of ‘the Nationals’

This year’s TISE educational program was called Converge and featured three tracks: “Creatives” for creative and design professionals; “Suits” for sales and business professionals; and “Hammers + Nails” for installers/contractors and other construction professionals.

Whatever tracks attendees decided to pursue, the program offered great opportunities for them to discuss the latest issues and sharpen their skillsets. Along with the educational package, several certifications were also offered, including International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI) Moisture Testing Certification, North American Laminate Flooring Association’s (NALFA) Certified Inspector Course, and a free class on woven, tufted wool and synthetic carpet from Natural Fiber Installation Certification (NFIC).

In partnership with the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI), TISE also saw the return of the National Installer of the Year installation competition (“the Nationals”) for the first time since 2003. Installers from across the industry were asked to submit their installation projects. A panel of judges then reviewed submissions and selected finalists in three categories: carpet, stone/tile and wood. These finalists then competed on the show floor in a set of installation challenges to decide the National Installer of the Year.

Here is the list of finalists and winners for each category. A big congratulations to all who participated! 

  • Stone/tile: Allen Lewis, Eagle Interiors (winner); and Ken Ballin, Skyro Floors.
  • Hardwood: Matus Mazurek, MMM Designs (winner); Brandon Mills, BM Flooring; and Brett Bell, RW Flooring.
  • Carpet: Chris Sessum, ECS Floor Covering (winner); Donald Perkins, DFP LLC; and Scott Zito, S. Zito Covering LLC.

Judges were, for Stone/tile: Roy Lewis and Randy Fleming; for Hardwood: Dave Garden and Paul Pleshek; and for Carpet: Tom Cartmell and Jim Walker.

After returning from TISE, I’m energized to start the year and look forward to great jobs ahead. I hope those of you who attended feel the same, and for those of you who missed this year, hopefully we’ll see you next year!