Although Tennessee is home to many tile manufacturers nowadays, Crossville, Inc. sets itself apart from the competition with its deep-rooted history. A manufacturing legacy that began in 1986, the company celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, with plans of prospering even more than it already has.

With hundreds of employees, nearly half of which have been with the company for 10 years or more, state-of-the-art equipment and around-the-clock production, Crossville has become one of the leading American tile manufacturers. “Simply put, our success is all attributable to the people who do the work at Crossville,” said Tim Curran, co-president of the Curran Group. “Whether that is a visionary like Svend Hovmand who first envisioned Crossville and later became its president, a life-time tile maker like John Smith who brought stability to our manufacturing and also later served as the company’s president, or any of the hundreds of wonderful employees who have made our company at home in Crossville, none of our success happens without the contributions of many hard working individuals of the highest character.”

A wholly owned subsidiary of Curran Group, a privately held holding company, Crossville was the first porcelain tile manufacturer to begin production in Crossville, TN. The company has also been a forerunner in several innovations, achieving an array of industry “firsts.” Within its 30-year lifespan, the company has been the first to: produce large-format tile onsite, manufacture tile with certified recycled content, develop the ability to recycle fired porcelain, achieve certification of its waste recycling program and the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) Green Squared certification for all U.S.-produced tile collections, distribute a complete line of large-format porcelain panels and become a net consumer of waste.

Creating one-of-a-kind tile

Although Crossville’s first factory opened in 1986, the factory that TILE had the opportunity to visit was built in 2000. “We started producing tile in this plant in 2001,” said Scott Branch, plant manager and tour guide. “Only glazed porcelain is created in this factory.”

Branch, who has been working for Crossville for the last 10 years, explained what goes into the tiles that Crossville creates. “Feldspar is the primary body component in our tile,” he explained, adding how the raw material is quarried in North Carolina, right outside of Asheville. “About 50% of our tile is composed of feldspar.”

In addition to feldspar, Crossville’s tile is made with high-quality clays and talc. “We use blended clays,” said Branch. “The ball clays we use, which are very dark and plastic-like, are really regional; they come from north of Nashville, near the Kentucky border. We also use kaolin clays from Georgia; they’re coming from a dead zone between Macon and Savannah. Kaolin allows us to control our base body color so our presses work more efficiently.”

The talc that Crossville utilizes derives from Texas, which is more clump-like in composition compared to the other materials. “It’s the furthest anything comes in for us,” said Branch. “All of our products are domestic.”

Sustainable maintenance

Aside from unglazed porcelain, the plant TILE toured also produces two other types of tile bodies, which have been helping reduce the company’s carbon footprint for the last seven years. “We have two Green Squared Certified processes,” said Branch. “One is our green recycled body which comes from our water filtration plant. We filter all of our wet waste in the factory. We separate it into clear water; it’s very clear, better than drinking water. Then, the water goes into recycle. That was our original Green Squared Certified process; we certified individual products. Today, we certify process. We filter the wet waste, blend it with green, raw product from the factory and we turn it into a recycled body. It’s not a value-add; we just recycle. To run the filtration plant, that’s the recycling part. That’s an added step.

“Today, at our crushing plant, we crush toilets and tile; that is our second Green Squared Certified process,” Branch went on to say. “We’ll use up to 10% of crushed toilets [in our tile]. It’s a good feldspar replacer, but you can’t take 100% crushed toilets and turn it into tile.”

Green Squared®, established by the TCNA, is the first multi-attribute sustainability standard developed for tiles and tile installation materials. It uses transparency and consensus of the ANSI process, combined with third party certification, to evaluate, validate and communicate products which have a positive impact on the environment and society. The certification covers product characteristics, manufacturing, end of product life management, progressive corporate governance and innovation in an effort to establish sustainability criteria for products throughout their full lifecycle.

Crossville’s first program, better known as Tile Take-Back®, involves recycling previously installed tile collected from its distribution network, as well as scraps that result from tile cutting during installation, sizing or sample creation. Since its creation in 2009, Crossville has recycled more than 70 million pounds of fired porcelain.

The subsequent program that was established, known as the TOTO USA recycling partnership, began when the Morrow, GA-based company reached out to Crossville, wanting to donate truckloads of pre-consumer porcelain toilets that did not meet industry standards to be used for another purpose. Branch explained TOTO donated the toilets for free initially, instead of sending them to landfills for disposal; since that first exchange, the two companies have developed a mutually beneficial partnership. Today, there is recycled content in every square foot of porcelain tile produced by Crossville because of the harvested material from TOTO, reducing the need for raw materials for tile production.

Looking forward

While continuing to nourish its thriving partnerships, Crossville is also looking into expanding its offerings and facilities in Crossville, TN. “Right now, we’re in the process of bringing in additional equipment,” said Branch. “We’re constantly expanding and adapting to what the market wants.”

Crossville is also striving to educate consumers and professionals about the correct ways to utilize its products, according to Mark Shannon, executive vice president of sales. “We regularly host Laminam training classes [in Crossville, TN] to show professionals how to properly cut and install the product,” he said of the company’s largest format panels, which span 1 x 3 meters.

Noah Chitty, director of technical services at Crossville, Inc., added how the company has already trained around 1,000 installers over the last two years for Laminam, which will only increase with the new classes. “We built the groundwork and the infrastructure for the industry,” he said.

While Crossville isn’t the only American-based manufacturer in Tennessee, Lindsey Waldrep is confident the company stands apart from other international and national manufacturers. “We’re just the right size, and we have the ability to meet our customers’ demands,” said the vice president of marketing.