This past February, I spent most of the month on the road attending various trade exhibitions. To be certain, one thing I have taken back with me is that the tile industry has been busy. From the many new tantalizing tile collections — ranging from textured surfaces to the increasingly popular large-format thin tile — to new installation/maintenance products and tile installation standards, manufacturers and other industry professionals were out there sharing their latest developments. In the pages that follow, you will see some of the new introductions for yourself, as we have product reviews from Surfaces | StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas and Cevisama in Spain. Of course, we also have our regular Product Showcase.

And while it is important for us in the industry to pay attention to new product developments, it is important to remember that industry standards for installation are also critical — especially with the array of tile sizes, surface finishes and thicknesses available today. At Surfaces in Las Vegas, five of the largest organizations representing tile contractors, installers and manufacturers announced that they developed a new certification program which will be recognized by the entire tile industry. Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) will address four technically challenging installation areas of current importance: Large-Format Tile Installation and Substrate Preparation, Mudwork, Shower Pans and Membranes. A specific certification will demonstrate the installer’s skill in each of these four segments. For those interested in learning more about the program, it is the lead announcement in our Industry News section.

More and more, I am hearing that a design is only as good as its installation. As I continue to talk with leading industry professionals and partake in seminars about tile installation, I realize how true this statement is. A space can have a beautiful tile product featured on its walls or floor, but if the wrong mortar is used or the work itself is shoddy, then the design will appear subpar. “The critical part of these certifications for the installer is to tell them what they can and cannot do,” explained Scott Carothers, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), one of the five partners in the development initiative. Scott also is TILE’s contributing technical writer. Check out this issue’s Technical Focus on “The ever-changing world of vertical tile installation” on p. 42.

The important message that many in the industry are trying to relay is that it is important for architects and designers to work with installers to ensure a successful installation. And with these types of certification programs, the goal is for the A&D community to recognize the importance of using a certified installer.

Coverings, which will be held in Atlanta, GA, from April 29 to May 2, will feature an Installation Design Showcase. NTCA Five Star contractors and Atlanta-area design firms will be partnered together and collaborate to showcase the synergy between beautiful design and great installation. This is just another way to spread the word how design and installation go hand in hand. Also during Coverings, the first installers of the ACT program will be certified.