Coverings 2013, which ran April 29-May 2, touched down for the first time in Atlanta this year. The change of venue was hardly the biggest news at the show; instead it was the more than 900 exhibitors showing off new products, new technologies and for some even new branding. While final numbers were not available at press time, the consensus among show-goers was that attendance was up as well.

New tiles for walls and floors. Beautiful ceramic and stone tiles were on display from more than 50 countries, including the United States, Italy, Spain, China, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey. Florida Tile showcased several collections including Mingle – featuring limestone, marble and travertine looks with mix-and-match options – and updates to its Streamline range of wall tile. “We wanted to fill the gap and offer products that can be used for both residential and commercial,” noted Sean Cilona, Florida Tile director of marketing.

 Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola (CCImola) rolled out six collections across three brands: Imola Ceramica, LaFaenza and Leonardo, including parquet and wood visuals. According to company spokeswoman Catherine Minervini, “It shows Imola’s capability, just that they can create that little nuance between two visuals.” CCImola was also recognized as the first Italian company to be third-party certified to the Green Squared standard. (See more about Green Squared later in this article.)

 Crossville unveiled Hydrotect, a nanotechnology developed by Toto that is engineered to offer antimicrobial, self-cleaning and air-purifying properties. The treatment is available for most of the company’s porcelain tile collections at an additional cost. “With Hydrotect, you do not need harsh chemicals or a degreaser to clean it,” said Bhavik Patel, Toto’s director of business strategy, demonstrating the new technology at Coverings. “It decomposes stains, attracts water and neutralizes smells while offering an antimicrobial effect.”

 Nicole Kelly, Vitromex director of marketing, showed her company’s latest red-body tile lines, including Miramar and Captiva. “Our red-body tile uses Mexican clay and features digital printing technology,” she explained, adding, “Red-body products offer a lower price point for builder markets.”

 Fiandre and StonePeak Ceramics unveiled new 5’ by 10’, 6mm thick porcelain slabs. According to StonePeak Ceramics CEO Rodolfo Panisi, this technology represents a breakthrough in the tile industry. “You can offer one continuous surface, or have fabricators cut it to size,” he said.

 Interceramic launched its Moods concept, which groups wall tiles based on colors to create different design concepts. Humberto Maese, exec. vp of U.S. operations, stated, “We wanted to match a design concept with a modular concept, so designers and specifiers have an easier time.”

 Also at the show, Verve Ceramics, a new company from Grupo Lamosa, debuted. Based in Addison, Texas, Verve “sells to traditional distributors while offering streamlined production,” according to Brent Schick, marketing manager. Verve offers a range of ceramic and porcelain tile collections including Zone, featuring an organic stone look.

 New installation products. If there was one common theme among manufacturers in the installation products segment at the show, it was expanding into new categories. Among the new products LATICRETE showcased was the Floor Heat Wire radiant heating system and the Hydro Ban linear drain, one of several manufacturers capitalizing on the growing popularity of linear drain products.

 Sean Boyle, LATICRETE marketing and product management director, said offering these types of products creates more reasons for customers to shop under one brand. “Not offering a radiant heating system when selling the tile installation is like selling carpet without the pad,” he said, adding, “Shower installation products are a very important part of our business. Without these products, all the potential for extra business would just go to a plumbing showroom.”

 Farrell Gerber, Tile Redi exec. vp of sales, echoed those sentiments. His company also displayed linear tile drain systems, including the Redi Trench and WonderFall Trench. “It’s a crossover product, and so can be used both in the tile and plumbing industries.”

 Larry Horton, Schluter Systems national sales mgr., also spoke about new shower products, including the new KERDI-BOARD prefabricated shower niche system. He said his company exhibits at Coverings for one reason: “This show represents the pinnacle of our trade and really supports our industry. It gives us a chance to tell contractors and distributors about everything we do.”

H.B. Fuller Construction Products’ TEC brand used the show to debut a new logo and tagline: “Imagine. Achieve.” According to Mike Kroll, associate brand mgr., the new branding is designed to get contractors thinking about what they can accomplish with the right products. TEC also rolled out its new TecniColor commercial-grade grout.

 Several companies celebrated milestones, including Bonsal American’s ProSpec brand with 50 years in business, and National Applied Construction (NAC) Products with 30 years. Eric Peterson, Bonsal American director of marketing and technical services, said the primary focus for Coverings was to launch new products, including rapid-setting ProColor Plus grout. ProSpec was also offering giveaways tied to the company’s 50th anniversary, but most of the celebration will be done later in the year. “We are planning different events throughout the year,” he said.

 NAC Products celebrated its anniversary with cake and champagne on the show floor, while displaying products including ECB membrane and the Extreme Deck Waterproofing System. Tom Duvé, NAC Products CEO, considers 30 years in business “a great accomplishment.”

 “We can hold our own with the big boys,” he said. “We are absolutely very honored that a small smart-up company can compete against huge corporations. It took a lot of pioneering, and we are grateful to have so many customers stick with us through the years.”

 USGshowcased its DUROCK EcoCap self-leveling underlayment and Fast Finish floor patch. EcoCap features 75 percent recycled material in the cement binder. “We take fly ash, break it down to its fundamental components, then use that in the cement,” explained Phil Ciesiulka, business development director. “It’s fast-setting, but with a sustainable feature.”

 MAPEI displayed several products, including Kerabond T thin-set tile mortar, Mapesonic 2 sound-reduction and crack-isolation sheet membrane, and the UltraCare tile and stone care line. Steven Day, MAPEI’s director of marketing, said the show is important for his company for its global reach. “It’s a big international show for us. We’re also here to support our Italian heritage.”

 Bostik’s booth featured eye-catching displays of its Dimension reflective, pre-mixed urethane grout, paired with glass tile. “We’re showing the beauty of grout with glass, which creates a lot of excitement and interest with designers,” noted Brian Day, Bostik’s market manager for ceramic installation systems. “We want to show our products to everyone in the trade, whether they’re contractors, installers or dealers. This show gives you that opportunity to make connections, and meet so much talent from across the industry.”

 New standards and certifications. Eric Astrachan, exec. director of the Tile Council of North America, discussed several updates to the 50th anniversary TCNA handbook and also recognized the first birthday of the Green Squared standard, a sustainability certification established by TCNA under ANSI 138.1. “What the Green Squared standard brought to the industry is being able to talk about green in regards to tile and installation materials from more than one attribute. This is a multi-attribute standard.”

 Changes to the handbook include a new method for installing tile over concrete when using a bonded sound reduction membrane, new requirements for using waterproofing membranes in continuous-use steam rooms and showers, new information to meet concrete flatness requirements, and an updated installation guide for glass tile based on ANSI 137.2.

 Other additions include a new ventilated rainscreen/exterior wall systems section, which Astrachan called “an exciting area of development, representing a potentially massive increase of surfaces for tile on the outside of buildings.” There are also strict new requirements for coefficient of friction tests, which are moving to a much more aggressive standard. “All parties in the supply chain can be held responsible for meeting these new requirements,” Astrachan warned.

 Finally, the handbook offers new information on thin tiles. Astrachan stressed that this is an area that still needs more research. “There are no standards out there for thin tile – none for ISO, none for ANSI. There are many different types, thicknesses and assemblies being used, and all of the products are being identified by manufacturers as thin tile. Many of these products do not meet breaking strength requirements, and unfortunately we are seeing failures.”

 The Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program made its official launch at Coverings. The program tests professional installers on up to four modules: Large-Format Tile Installation and Substrate Preparation, Mudwork, Shower Pans, and Membranes. It was developed by both union and nonunion organizations including the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), the Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC), the International Masonry Institute (IMI) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). TCNA member companies have also contributed to the program.

 At Coverings, eight installers were certified in the four modules. “We have four union guys and four nonunion guys working side by side to complete this new industry-wide certification,” noted Scott Carothers, CTEF director of certification and training, who was overseeing the event. “The idea is to have people on both sides offset the unfortunate infusion of mediocre labor in our industry. Unqualified installers take work away from qualified people and give the industry a black eye.”

“It’s become lowest price wins all, but the ones seeking the lowest price are also the ones who scream the loudest when something goes wrong,” he added. “We want to promote quality labor and put them in demand for quality installations.”