Ringing in its 25th anniversary, Coverings showed more signs of growth—for both the show and the economy—at the 2014 edition of the convention.

Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and spanning two floors as well as a pavilion area separate from the main building, the show saw a 3% bump in attendance. Compared to the tile and stone show’s last outing in Vegas in 2011, the event was up an overall 22%, including increased traffic from retailers (up 12%), distributors (up 16%) and fabricators (up 36%). The annual event also expanded its exhibit space, with more than 975 exhibitors occupying 387,600 square feet.

One local fabricator, Mark Ladzinski, based in Henderson, Nev., said the show was something he has been attending for several years, and it made sense to stop in again this year. “It’s full of seminars and education, new tools and new trends. It gives me plenty of opportunities to learn and make more money. It’s those little mistakes, those little things you don’t know, that can become thousands of dollars lost from the bottom line.”

Phil Green, a tile contractor in the Chicago area and inventor of the Back Butter Buddy tool, had similar reasons for attending. “It’s all about the new tools, the training out there and being able to rethink how you approach your work. People who are here have a real passion for the trade. Our hands hurt at the end of the day and our knees hurt, but we still feel really good when we complete a job.”

According to Daniel Boone, of Daniel K. Boone & Co. in Boca Raton, Fla., the show offered “a nice balance of different segments in the market. It’s going to take a while to walk both floors.”

He added people need to educate themselves on correctly using the many products on display. “We have serious sun problems in south Florida, so you would have to be out of your mind to install marble on a balcony, but people are doing it all the time. There are lots of misapplications of natural stones in general.”

Stan Platt and Matt Newbold, owner and manager, respectively, of Elite Tile Setters in South Jordan, Utah, were at Coverings to earn their Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certifications from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF).

Newbold noted, “This is my first time for CTI certification. We’re looking for ways to set ourselves apart and advertise our skills.”

Platt added the industry is changing quickly as new technologies come to the forefront. “We have not been asked to install the large-format thin tile that is so big at this show, but I know we will be doing it someday. Frankly, those huge, thin panels shouldn’t even be called tile. It installs differently. It’s transported differently. It cuts differently. It’s a whole different process.”


New CTDA Program

Rick Church, executive director of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), held a press conference with Confindustria Ceramica (the Italian Association of Ceramics) at Coverings to announce a new program, “Good Phytosanitary Practices.”

The program aims to improve shipping procedures for containers of tile shipped to the U.S.

Church said this program was needed to combat major concerns about rejected shipments. “There has been a major issue importing tile to the U.S. because of pests and plants found in tile shipments. The costs are extremely expensive, with some of the these borne by the distributor and the manufacturer.”

According to Steve Cerami, CTDA’s Custom Task Force chairman, the comprehensive program is the result of “thorough research, discussion and negotiation between the CTDA, Confindustria Ceramica and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs.”

Giorgio Romani, Confindustria Ceramica’s trade relations committee chairman, added, “Confindustria has been working with CTDA to bring this program to life. This initiative will have far-reaching effects on the entire industry. We hope it becomes a standard others follow.”

The program requires the monitoring, cleaning and inspection of all pallets, storage containers and loading/storage areas for all tile shipments to the U.S. This includes ensuring no pests or seeds find their way into a container, and rejecting any containers that are found unsuitable. CTDA noted companies representing more than 100 brands have already signed up for the program.

Luciano Galassini, Confindustria Ceramica’s deputy managing director, said, “This program shows the commitment of the Italian industry. We care about the environment. We care about these concerns. We are leading the way.”


New Products

If there was an overall theme of the show, the continued push of thin (around 3mm), extremely large-format panels (up to 5 x 10 feet) was hard to ignore. All the major tile manufacturers, including those from North America, Italy and Spain, had plenty of these types of products on display, usually at the front of their booths where they would command the most attention from attendees milling down the aisles.

Sean Cilona, Florida Tile’s director of marketing, previewed a new thin tile line from the 60-year-old company called Thinner, which ranges from 3½- to 5½mm thickness.

However, he said the product would not be launched until training could occur. “Architects are already asking for it, but this is a pretty big program; we need to roll out training and education to architects, distributors, salespeople and contractors first. These are innovative products, but people need to know how to sell them and work with them.”

Regarding the company’s 60th anniversary, Cilona added, “We have a very strong history and have many things planned throughout the year to celebrate—including giveaways and promotions. We do a lot of trade shows each year, so we’re glad to be able to take our message to so many people. We’re not just a residential company anymore but are continuing to grow and make strides into commercial products.”

Eric Astrachan, executive director of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), recommended a cautious approach when it comes to thin tile. “Thin tile does not have a standard yet. One manufacturer’s thin tile product willbe—not mightbe—different because there is no standard in place.”

Systems that can be used to control tile lippage are extremely important with the influx of thin tile, he noted. “Usually when there’s a little bit of lippage, most tile installations can handle it. But when you have a 3mm tile, ‘a little bit of lippage’ might mean half the tile is sticking up. You’re going to start having edge failures.”

Also at the show, Stone & Pewter Accents revealed it was returning to its roots by rebranding itself under its original name: Lunada Bay Tile. Carl Steadly, president and CEO, put it succinctly during a champagne reception announcing the rebranding: “As we continue to grow, I’ve made the decision to end the Stone & Pewter Accents name. We’re going back to Lunada Bay Tile, and we are going to take our products to a whole new level.”

Founded in 2002, the company carries glass, ceramic, stone and metal tiles. At its Coverings exhibit, Lunada Bay emphasized new colors and styles in its glass tile collections.

According to Ryan Fassan, ceramic tile consultant and presenter of Tile of Spain’s design outlook for 2014, “We have seen the reincarnation of ceramic craftsmen. We’re returning to the roots of our industry—of the artisanal coupled with modern production technology. We’re seeing lots of terracotta, wood prints and Victorian glazes, all done in inkjet.”

3D Stone & Tile, based out of Park City, Utah, displayed at the Russo Trading Co. (RTC) booth. Co-owners Rod Katwyk and Diana Scardilli demonstrated the capabilities of their new product, which can give a three-dimensional look to installations via a patent-pending tile backer system that can be custom-cut to create wedges and angles.

Katwyk, who invented the backer, said he first thought about the product when working on a balcony with a herringbone pattern for a customer. “I was thinking about how to pop it out and give it a more 3-D look, and came up with putting foam wedges on the back of the tile. Seeing the end-result made Diana and I start to see all the possibilities.”

Scardilli added, “I went to Italy to see if anybody else was doing this. I was sure someone must be. I was astounded to find we were the only ones.”

 Katwyk pointed out, “We can create this new market. We can get in there and dominate the 3-D tile look. Russo Trading will be distributing for us, and we’re going to reach out to others as well.”

He added as tile has become more advanced and technically challenging, “People are starting to use it more as art again. This product is for the tradesmen/salesperson who can use it to offer so many more types of installations. It’s good for showers, too.”

Phil Ciesulka, USG’s business development director, shared news of his company’s recently announced partnership with XL Brands. “We are going to be working together to bring systems and solutions to the industry. We are going to concentrate on what we do well and let them concentrate on what they do well, and put it together in a system approach. We are also going to transfer knowledge and information between the companies, sharing our R&D capabilities and our perspectives.”

Luke Schilling, co-owner and production engineer for E&S Co., debuted an extremely unique hybrid flooring product which combines a ceramic finish with reclaimed barnwood tiles on a patent-pending perforated backer. Available in three patterns (4-inch tiles on 12 x 12- and 12 x 14-inch sheets, and 2-inch tiles on 8 x 20-inch sheets), barnwood planks are also offered.

 “Everyone is doing the porcelain wood look, but [co-owner] Aaron Everitt and I wanted to do something different,” he said. “We started a relationship with farmers in the area, and have created a new market for reclaimed barnwood. The patterns are ceramic-finished, are easy to install with either modified thin set or construction adhesive, and don’t require any grouting. The backer allows for expansion and contraction—after all, it is wood.”

Coverings 2015 is set for April 14 to 17 and will return to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. For more information, visit coverings.com.