Total U.S. consumption of ceramic tile in 2005 increased by 3.8% - from 3.1 billion sq. ft. to over 3.2 billion sq. ft. Andrew Whitmire, trade data analyst for the Tile Council of North America, examines these and other important trends in the U.S. ceramic tile industry.

Part 1: Production Overview:

The U.S. ceramic tile industry experienced continued growth in 2005 and through the first quarter of 2006. This followed the trend of a decade of growth in the consumption of ceramic tile. Total U.S. consumption of ceramic tile in 2005 increased by 3.8% - from 3.1 billion sq. ft. to over 3.2 billion sq. ft.

(See Table 1/Chart 1)

The countries which exported the most tile to the U.S. have changed in the last decade (Tables 2 & 3). Since 1996, Italy has lost 22.5 percent of its U.S. import market share (based on sq. ft.), while China has gone from being the 22nd largest exporter of tile to the United States to being the fifth largest. (source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce)

(See Tables 2 & 3/Chart 2)

In 2005, imports from Italy and Spain fell by 6.5% and 0.3%, respectively, while imports from Brazil, Mexico, and China rose by 14.3%, 23.8%, and 104.9%, respectively. In general, European manufacturers, with their higher labor costs, lost market share to South American and Far Eastern countries, which have lower labor costs.

Overall, ceramic tile imports continued to steadily gain a larger share of the U.S. ceramic tile market based on square footage. Imports comprised 80.8% of all tile sold in the U.S. in 2005, compared with 79.0% in 2004 and 46.9% 25 years ago.

(See Chart 3)

However, when we look at imports to the U.S. based on dollar value, we get a different picture. Based on value, imports comprised approximately 74% of 2005 U.S. tile consumption. Table 4 lists the weight and value of imports from 2004 through first quarter 2006. (source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce)

(See Table 4)

When we look at Italy, which, like the United States, is strong in the higher-end market, we can see that their share of value of tiles exported to the U.S. has not changed much in the last decade. In 2005, tile exports from Italy to the United States were valued at U.S. $1,003,038,229, representing 43 percent of the total value of tiles imported to the United States. For comparison, in 1996 Italian tile exports to the United States totaled U.S. $378,154,375, representing 45.2 percent of the total value of tiles imported.

Part 2: Future Indicators and Key Influences:

Value of Other Currencies vs. Dollar:

The value of the Euro fell by 13.3% from 2004 to 2005 in relation to the U.S. dollar, but has rebounded in 2006. The dollar gained 8.5% (2004-2006) in value in relation to the Mexican Peso. However, it lost ground to the Chinese Yuan and Brazilian Real from 2004 to 2006.

(See Table 6)

Mortgage rates:

A factor affecting ceramic tile usage is the mortgage rate. The average 30-yr. fixed mortgage rates have risen from 5.84% in 2004 to 5.87% in 2005, and 6.47% in August 2006. (Source: Freddie Mac)


The U.S. population will grow to over an estimated 298 million in 2006, which is a 6.0% increase over 2000.

(See Table 7)


According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, unemployment fell from 5.5% in 2004 to 5.1% in 2005.

Housing Starts:

The square footage of new single-family houses continued to grow in 2005, up 3.6% over 2004 to an average of 2,434 square feet. Larger new single-family houses continued to be built, as there were more homes built with at least 3000 sq. ft. than any other category.

(See Table 8)


With the large number of baby boomers' (who are responsible for the majority of remodeling) approaching retirement age, the remodeling markets have experienced a continual growth pattern.1

(See Chart 4)

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the amount spent in 2005 on the remodeling of homes was $215 billion, up 8.3% from 2004. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau News 5/1/06)

Part 3: Summary and Outlook:

Overall, 2005 was a good year for residential construction and the U.S. economy, which had its fourth straight year of growth, with real GDP's rising 3.4 % over 2004. Residential construction was bolstered by falling unemployment rates and comparatively low interest rates. New housing (single-family) starts grew to record highs for the third consecutive year, as overall housing starts were at 30-year highs.2

For 2006, real GDP has increased 2.6 % in the second quarter, down from first quarter's 5.6% increase. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce) However, as of August 2006, the number of unsold new homes nationwide grew to a record 568,000 units, just below July's record of 570,000, according to Commerce Dept. estimates. This reflects the long-awaited cooling of the housing market and may negatively impact the growth of the tile market in the short-term.3

Key Economic Observations:

Tile consumption in the United States continues to grow. The industry has experienced a growth rate of 129% from 1996 to 2005.

There is a consistent population growth in the United States. Between 2000 and 2005 the population of the U.S. grew 5.0%, resulting in an increasing need for housing, jobs, and other products, such as tile.

Real GDP is predicted to grow at below-trend rates in 2006.4

Although there will be an expected slowdown in the number of new housing starts, the amount that will be spent on remodeling is expected to increase.

The average square footage in homes rose 3.6% from 2004 to 2005.

The two rooms that are most often remodeled are the bathrooms and kitchens, which also happen to be the two rooms in which tiles are most frequently used.

As housing prices and interest rates have risen, housing starts are expected to decline through 2007.