Happy New Year! As we venture into 2014, I’d like to take a minute to reflect on some of the new and exciting things that happened in 2013 and will only get better this year. It is evident that the tile industry continues to progress, and there is no limit to its innovations.jenn2013_body.jpg

In the fall, I attended Total Solutions Plus (TSP), which you can read about beginning on page 42 of this issue. The conference saw a 25% increase in growth, and it was obvious people had come to network and learn. Two seminars in particular received quite a buzz — ACT Certification Demo: Membranes and Large Format Tile and ACT Certification Demo: Mudwork and Showers, which were both given by the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) and led by Scott Carothers, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). In fact, the first of the two sessions had more than a standing-room-only crowd.

Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers — or ACT as it is called — is a tile installer testing program that was developed with a two-fold purpose: to allow the ACT installer to be differentiated from those who do not have this distinction and to provide the consumer, whether commercial or residential, with a choice of a better and more qualified tile installer. Carothers, who is also TILE’s technical writer, explains in the Technical Focus, beginning on page 36, that “the ACT tests are a combination of an open book written test which is administered online and taken at home or in the office per the installer’s schedule and the hands-on test which is provided at regional locations around the country.” Over the next four issues of TILE, we will be highlighting the features and benefits of the ACT program to bring more awareness. But judging by the crowd that filled the seminar room at TSP, it seems the new program has already generated interest, which is good to see.

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) is also spreading the word about the importance of certified tile installers. The TCNA Spotlight on page 40 discusses the certification programs held by the various industry associations. “When tile installation moved from predominantly mud set to predominantly thin-set methods, it became a much more knowledge-centric trade,” states the article. “Installer and contractor evaluation programs identify the companies and individuals with the necessary qualifications to provide superior quality installations.”

And one of the primary reasons that ACT and other certification programs are so important is that tile collections are no longer just a standard 12- x 12-inch format. Tile manufacturers are now making large thin porcelain panels — some as expansive as 5 x 10 feet. As you can read in our Trend Report, starting on page 32, there is some debate over what to name these porcelain slabs and standards still need to be put into place.

Eric Astrachan, Executive Director of TCNA, spoke on this topic at TSP, explaining that ANSI A137.3 for thin porcelain tile is currently under construction. “Even giving it a name can be a challenge,” he said

So as you can see, there are many exciting developments that were starting to take place in 2013. Stay tuned to see how they evolve during this coming year.