Jorge Goytisolo of StarQuartz Industries (left) and Pat Hurley (center) of Quickrete/C-Cure watch Kevin Crawford of Tiede-Zoeller, try his hand at StarQuartz urethane grout during the tabletop event.

The goal established by the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) for Total Solutions this year (held at the new Gaylord Resort and Hotel in Washington D.C.) was to offer educational opportunities in our ever-changing industry for people from all facets of the tile industry. For this reason, we created a conference offering a wide variety of topics, ranging from specification and design to succession planning for your business. The message we are trying to send is that Total Solutions is not a conference solely for tile contractors.

As a contractor association, one could ask why we have altered our approach in our annual conference planning. The credit goes to several innovative members of our Convention Planning Committee, who work on planning conference sessions at both Total Solutions and Coverings. In our discussions, we came to the agreement that NTCA had to take a leading role in providing education on the proper installation of ceramic tile and natural stone and its specification. This includes educating more than those installing the product. It applies to manufacturing, sales and distribution, and design and specification.

The results were encouraging for our supporters and staff and Board of Directors. Attendance at this year’s conference increased 29% over last year and boasted a remarkable 68% increase over the 2006 total, with 463 tile contactors, architects, distributors and industry leaders participating. Suffice it to say, we are on the right track.

I would like to take a moment to highlight a few major issues or trends that emerged from the seminars and discussions held during the conference. Some of these topics will be turned into articles over the next year. Some are not new issues, but ones that continue to play a significant role in our industry.

Large Format Tiles

As larger format tiles continue to become the norm rather than the exception, it is becoming increasingly clear how important it is for the substrate to be suitable for this installation. More often than not, this would require the contractor to communicate with the builder or architect on what preparation may need to be done to adequately prepare the floor or wall.

Several seminars addressed this issue, ranging from the importance of properly specifying and installing movement joints in tile and stone installations to the critical effects that lighting can play on both floors and walls.

Vertical Façades

Vertical façade installations, an emerging trend in the U.S. is already being successfully specified in many other parts of the world, and presents many industry professionals with unique challenges and opportunities.

At Architectural Ceramics, Eliel Oliveira, designer of the AC Green logo (seen in the background) with Tile of Spain consultant Patti Fasan, Rocamador Rubio from Trade Commission of Spain and Architectural Ceramics’ Dick Clark.

Tile/Stone Over Concrete Installations

New methods have been approved allowing for tile and stone to be installed on concrete that is not fully cured. Howard Kanare, an expert consultant and speaker in the concrete industry, skillfully exposed some myths about concrete and provided valuable information for distributors, architects and contractors. He will be at Coverings in 2009 in Chicago to go deeper into this subject for a much broader audience.

Other highlights of the conference included a networking tabletop event featuring 57 manufacturers and distributors who supported the conference. Most of the suppliers were extremely complimentary of this year’s turnout and participation.

NTCA hopes to build from the momentum generated in Washington D.C. with an even stronger event next year, taking place at the Valencia Hotel on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX, on Sept. 17-18, 2009. We encourage all of you to attend.