While only in his early 20s, Werner Schlüter established his own tile installation company, Schlüter Tile. A little more than 10 years later, in 1975, Schlüter came up with a solution to a common installation problem while working on an unusual bathroom project in Germany. With the creation of the Schluter-Schiene, an L-shaped metal profile that protects tile edges, a long line of products were subsequently born, which are part of Schlüter’s evolving company, now known as Schluter-Systems.
“Mr. Schlüter was always thinking of better ways to do things — other things that he could add to the trade to make his job better — and that’s how Schluter-Systems was created,” said Don Corliss, educational specialist at Schluter. “Today, Schluter employs more than 600 people in America.”
Corliss, who has 37 years of experience under his belt as a former tile installer, began working for Schluter as an educational specialist 12 years ago. Each week, he hosts Schluter’s innovation workshops, which are held in two parts, and cover all aspects of floor and shower applications. Corliss discusses everything from the benefits of tiled floors to different installation methods and products, while incorporating live, hands-on demonstrations involving Schluter’s products, such as Ditra and Kerdi-Board.
“In the beginning, it was just a small experiment,” said Corliss. “In 2003, there were small classes in South Carolina, which were held in small hotel rooms, where 20 people looked like a sell-out crowd. So, what we figured out at the end of the year was the information was good and was being shared by people that came to the class. We had three times as many people on the waiting list than we were able to serve. As a result, we doubled the classes every year until 2007, at which time we moved the classes to the West Coast as well, and started doing one class each month [one in South Carolina and one in Anaheim, CA]. We had 24 classes by that point and time.
“Then, about five years ago, we expanded one more time and started doing what I call, ‘circus pop-up shows,’” Corliss went on to say. “They are the same event [covering the same topics] everywhere we go all over the U.S.”
Corliss explained how Schluter now hosts 250 of these workshops each year. In addition to himself, there are four other full-time speakers, including a full-time Spanish presenter. “This is a free form of information,” said Corliss.
Although Schluter is a German-born company, it has expanded into a variety of countries, including the U.S., where it currently has three permanent sites. The company also has two sites in Canada — Montreal and Vancouver — that were built strictly as educational centers.
“We are an international company, not a German company,” Corliss explained. “Each organization within Schluter is an organization within that region; we study how business is done in various areas of the world, take our business model and adapt it to how each place does business, that way we fit in nicely. Here in the U.S., we even adjust to regions; in California, business is done a little bit differently than how it’s done over here on the East Coast.”
An inside look
On July 26 and 27, TILE had the opportunity to attend the Part 1 portion of Schluter’s innovation workshop at The Hilton in Parsippany, NJ, which entailed the fundamentals of waterproofing and uncoupling. After spending most of the day learning about Schluter as a company and what products have been created to assist the industry, we put our knowledge to use.
With the help of local installers, and those from as far as Long Island, NY, we successfully installed Schluter’s uncoupling membranes, Ditra and Ditra-Heat, and laid tile atop using its renowned profile, Schluter-Schiene, and newly developed thinset. “The thinset is new; it was designed specifically for use with Schluter products,” said Corliss. “Research started years ago and the product was released a couple of months ago. Our goal was to make something that worked with our products.”
During the second day, which was mostly hands-on, the learning continued with the implementation of Schluter’s Kerdi-Board system. The lightweight pieces within the system, which aren’t much heavier than Styrofoam, were surprisingly easy to position and install.
After completing Part 1, professionals receive a certification of completion. For Part 2, which covers more advanced applications and is encouraged after the completion of Part 1, participants spend around 35% of the time in the “classroom” and 65% of the time in the hands-on, live demonstration area, according to Corliss. “With part one, we spend more time in the ‘classroom’ learning, while part two is essentially the opposite,” he said.
For anyone attending either session — Part 1 or Part 2 — who lives one and a half hours away or more from the location of the workshop, Schluter provides a complimentary hotel room. For more information or to register for any upcoming workshops, visit https://schluterevents.com/en/about.php. For more information about Schluter-Systems, visit www.schluter.com.