Meet the National Tile Contractors Association

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) is celebrating its 65th year as a leading trade association in the tile and stone industry. Today, they represent over 800 company members, including over 6,000 tile installers. As one of the five sponsoring associations managing Coverings, the NTCA is actively involved in the development of the conference program, as well as special activities on the show floor.
The NTCA is dedicated to the professional installation of ceramic tile and natural stone, and its related products. They perform over 75 training programs a year all over the country, reaching out to thousands of trade professionals; updating them on the latest trends and installation methods. They provide this program for both members and non members as a service to the trade.
The NTCA produces two professional publications:
TileLetter Magazine:
TileLetter has been produced for over 50 years and is geared to the trade: with installation tips, technical articles and case studies of successful installations.
TADA (Tile and Stone for Architects, Designers and Affiliates):
TADA magazine is dedicated to the proper specification and use of ceramic tile and natural stone, and targets the architectural and design community, to better prepare these professionals for writing specifications.
The NTCA has expanded its influence in the past decade to create alliances with related associations in the industry and to form partnerships with associations in related trades. They work closely with the Tile Council of North America and Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, and jointly hold an annual conference with them called Total Solutions Plus.
In the past decade, while other Associations struggle to maintain membership levels, the NTCA has experienced an impressive 66% increase in its overall membership, and over 72% in its contractor membership.
For more information on the NTCA, go to  

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New Coverings competition offering up a big reward

Every year, the Coverings show features a new look and feel to appeal to all audiences. Last year when the show was in Las Vegas, the creative for the show featured Vegas-themed images such as showgirls, card decks and poker chips. For Coverings 2012, the creative has a colorful ‘BE’ theme – such as ‘BE Bold. BE Brilliant. BE Bright.’ These creative themes and designs have always been created and well-executed by an internal design theme, but for 2013, it’s time to get the upcoming host city involved. 
Coverings is asking Atlanta-area design professionals and students to submit their own design idea for Coverings 2013, April 29-May 2, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The winning designer will receive $5,000 and will have their design used throughout the Coverings 2013 marketing campaign in advertising, direct mail, email, website graphics, signage and more. The competition is open only to design professionals and students that reside in the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area and entrants must be at least 18 years old to enter.
There is no fee to enter The Art of Coverings Competition and the deadline is March, 9, 2012. All completed entries will be displayed and judged onsite at Coverings 2012 in April in Orlando and the winning designer will be notified by May 1, 2012.
Don’t miss out on this new – and lucrative – opportunity. If you or someone you know is an Atlanta-area based designer, visit for complete rules and entry information. Remember, the deadline is March 9, so do not delay!

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The CID Awards entry deadline is this Friday!

The CID (Coverings Installation and Design) Awards combines elements of the past Spectrum and Prism Awards together with the TileLetter & NTCA Installation Awards which will honor achievement in the outstanding use of tile and stone and the synergy between installation and design.
The CID Awards will spotlight contractor/designer teams who, respectively, have the demonstrated talent and skills to bring to life an exceptional aesthetic vision.
If you have a project you’re proud of and want to show to the world, the CID competition is the perfect venue. The 2012 CID Awards competition is open to architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers, installers and other  professionals whose projects demonstrate design and installation excellence in residential and commercial projects, giving special recognition to stunning natural stone, ceramic tile and mosaic tile/glass. To be eligible, projects must have been completed within the past two (2) years (Jan 2009 – Dec 2011) and be located in the U.S. Both the installer and  designer of the project will be recognized. Multiple entries are accepted and encouraged.
Please fill out a separate form for each entry on the website here and enter by this Friday, February 10.
Good luck and we’ll see you in April at Coverings!

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Ceramic revolution

If you weren’t aware already, 2012 has already proven that it’s time to get excited to be a part of the ceramic tile industry again. In this humble tile junky’s opinion, taking the long view, 2008’s global economic meltdown did more good than bad for our industry. Never before have property owners (commercial or residential) been more aware that the safest investment vehicle is in their real estate. Consequently, consumers have never been more receptive to the ROI hard surfaces provide. Unsurprisingly, ceramic tile was the fastest growing flooring sector in the USA last year. The momentum is building and the manufacturers are working hard to provide all the tools necessary for distribution, retail and design professionals to take full advantage.
I call this year the ‘Renaissance Reprise’ of ceramics. The last technology boom of digital glazing has now reached almost the entire sector giving everyone time to work out the kinks & find their POV. The universal adoption and maturation of this technology is pushing quality & aesthetic boundaries at a staggering pace. We have the most intelligent, responsive, technical product at our fingertips now with ripe & mature designs offering a level of aesthetics that’s almost unimaginable since tile was handmade by master artists of the renaissance. Like that period of our history, it is the competition between today’s masters that stokes the fires of innovation, pushing new developments to evolve at nearly breakneck speeds.

Perhaps the most important shift in consumers for the industry instigated by the recession is the evolving luxury sector. Across nearly all industries, it is the luxury demographic that is showing the most robust growth. Consumers are looking for quality materials with history, produced in a responsible manner that offers timeless refinement yet remaining approachable and durable enough for daily use- a fairly demanding list of criteria, which ceramics can uniquely satisfy. This new consumer is not looking for the $0.99/sft ‘baked dirt’ of the industry- they crave the experience, investment value and superior quality offered by the crème of ceramic manufacturers and most importantly see paying a premium as good value for value.

To join me and thousands of other professionals at the show, click here to register today for free.
Ryan Fasan is a partner of Professional Attention to Tile Installations (p.a.t.t.i.) and technical consultant and trainer for Tile of Spain.

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See us at Coverings: The Marble Institute of America – Serving the global stone industry

For over 65 years, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has served as the authoritative source of information on standards of natural stone workmanship and practice, and the suitable application of natural stone products. Membership in the trade association is worldwide and includes nearly 2,000 natural stone producers, exporters/importers, distributors/wholesalers, fabricators, finishers, installers, and industry suppliers ? all committed to the highest standards of workmanship and business ethics.
While a primary purpose of the MIA remains setting authoritative standards on all aspects of natural stone installation, the MIA is consistently innovating new ways to assist member companies in the promotion of natural stone.
During Coverings 2012, the MIA will debut two new powerful iPad apps that provide architects and interior designers with tools to assist them in specifying the exact stone required for the project they are working on. Stones of North America (presented with the generous support of MAPEI) is going to change the way architects working on green building projects locate locally quarried and processed natural stone. Version 1.0 includes 70 stones from across the U.S. and Canada in a wide variety of colors and stone types. The ability to punch in the zip code of a building project and have the app produce results of all quarries and processing facilities within X number of miles (generally it will be 500 as that is the current requirement for achieving LEED credit) is something that was previously unavailable on any portable tablet device.
In addition to locating local materials, the app also included a database of TCNA and MIA standards. The user can select what type of project he/she is working on and a list of the applicable TCNA standards and details for use on that type of project will appear. The entire MIADimension Stone Design Manual v7.2 is also included free of charge and is searchable by chapter. The app also features high-res images of the stone in existing applications, ANSI technical data, and more.
iStone is the second app being unveiled at Coverings. Through a collaborative effort with Studio Marmo of Florence, Italy, the MIA is excited to present photos and data on over 1,000 stones from around the world. All stones include a high-res close up image, 3D and bookmatch rendering, and technical data. The data is searchable in a variety of ways including color, country of origin, type of stone, and more.
Through a partnership with Stone World magazine, the MIA provides education seminars all across the United States and Canada on topics ranging from commercial installation to business success for fabricators to marketing in the digital age, and much more. In 2012, the MIA will hold eight seminars. In addition, MIA continues to provide educational sessions at nearly every industry trade show. The MIA also facilitates the stone industry’s only independent credentialing program.
The MIA accreditation program recognizes those companies that are among the best in the natural stone industry with respect to physical facility and equipment, business and trade practices, technical knowledge and expertise, quality control, safety, finance, ethics, customer service, customer education, advertising, promotion, and employee policies for training, advancement, and discipline. The sole purpose of the accreditation program is to increase the quality of fabrication and installation practices in the stone industry and to reward those companies that qualify with a special identity in the marketplace.
MIA invites you to come and learn more about the association at Coverings 2012 in Orlando, Florida. MIA will be exhibiting as part of the TCNA pavilion. Register today for free to join us in April at

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An architect goes to a stone quarry

I’m so looking forward to seeing the stone exhibits at this year’s Coverings show! I have a special appreciation for Italian stone after seeing it quarried up-close-and-personal near Verona, Italy. I had the privilege of attending the ‘Designing with Natural Stone’ course for architects awhile ago. A highlight of the week was seeing stone pieces as big as railroad cars tumble down the side of an open pit quarry. Here are some pictures to take your there… you’ll have to imagine the incredible sounds for yourself.
This picture (above) includes nearly 20 architects standing in the shovel of a gigantic front-end loader with tires over 7 feet tall. I know a few contractors who would say, ‘Great, now toss them into the quarry pit and don’t tell anybody!’ We picked a beautiful day but rain from the previous day turned the ground to mush. That’s why we’re all wearing blue trash bags for foot gear (it’s not a fashion trend destined for Milan).

Our guide, Vince Marazita, had been there many times but never seen the stone being ripped from the quarry walls. Our timing was perfect. The quarrying method we witnessed began with holes drilled into the stone, followed by bladders that are filled to rupture the stone into dimensions that accommodate front-end loaders and cutting machines. In this picture you see the next step. The giant shovels are prying the stone loose from the quarry wall in gigantic chunks.

The stone pieces are then moved to the top of the quarry using heavy equipment. In this picture you see the stone being cut into smaller rectangular pieces to transport by truck to a stone fabricator. This cutting process uses a high speed chain moving over the stone under a steady stream of water. Friction cuts the stone and cool water keeps the chain from burning. The fabrication process is next but that’s another story in itself!
Sculptors experience their creations emerging from stone as they chisel away. In our visit, we witnessed stone emerging from the earth where it was created over eons of time. It’s an incredible experience and forever changed the way I view and appreciate stone. I’m looking forward to the offerings of the tile and stone industry at Coverings this year!

Mark Johnson writes the blog Markitect and you can find him there.

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Sustainability + stone: The equation works

This floor is from Coverings, Etc. and it’s made from 70% pre-consumer, natural stone  manufacturing waste.
When some read the details of the PROJECT: Green competition at Coverings this year, there’s bound to be one immediate reaction about including stone in an enviro-friendly contest: Are you nuts?
Natural stone, after all, is material that’s carved out of the ground, with a regeneration cycle of several million years (and that’s on the short side). Large pieces get hauled massive distances around the globe, only to be chopped smaller. There’s plenty of energy consumed in production and a pile of waste at the end of a project. Where’s the green in all of that?
Good points all – on the surface. When delving deeper into the subject, those arguments can be made, in whole or part, against virtually every other hard-surface product available in the industry. Even the trendiest material that tries to hit all the green buttons can have problems, particularly in the downcycle after use in countertops or flooring.
Stone, though, seems to take the brunt of green-based criticism… and, to be frank, ostracism. Countertop and flooring roundups tap on a couple of negative points — if stone is mentioned at all — before moving on to other materials of equally questionable value in sustainability. It’s odd to see articles that omit stone, in any shape or form, while touting pale green materials such as linoleum (without differentiating between linseed-oil-based products and polyvinyl chloride) and run-of-the-mill laminates.
That’s why Coverings is a vital event for architects, designers and builders to get a better feel of stone and its relationship to sustainability. In addition to the PROJECT: Green competition, the show gives an open stage in the marketplace of the tradeshow floor.
The trade exhibits continue to show new materials incorporating recycled stone; there are surfaces including pre-consumer waste in slab format, along with machinery to recut shop scraps and old countertops for tiling and flooring. Some of the quartz-surface producers are expanding their product lines to recycle their own in-house waste materials and post-consumer materials like recycled glass.
Coverings also provides a place to learn about sustainability efforts in the U.S. natural-stone industry, particularly through the efforts of the Natural Stone Council. In the past few years, there’s been a diligent effort to explore and enhance natural stone’s green attributes and establish a series of best practices for the production chain of U.S.-quarried stone.
And, yes, there are domestic stones available that qualify as regional materials (quarried within 500 miles of use) for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® rating systems. It’s also another part of the industry where sustainability is playing a key role in production and quarrying.
More and more, it’s possible to go green with countertops and still make stone a viable choice. It’s anything but a crazy notion.

Emerson Schwartzkopf is editor/publisher of Stone Update, an online news service for the stone and hard-surfaces industry. He can be reached at

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A sneak peek at this year’s Ceramics of Italy Pavilion

Every year at Coverings, attendees flock to the Italian Pavilion as the center of hospitality during the four-day show. Like a real-life piazza, it’s a hub for architects, designers, contractors, distributors, and remodelers to gather in one place, sip on an authentic Italian espresso, and discuss the state-of-the-art products and design trends found at the show. In a new twist this year, the 3,000 square foot Italian Pavilion will even look like a piazza, as envisioned by e+i studio. The NYC-based architecture and design firm was selected as the official winner of the Ceramics of Italy Exhibit Design Challenge and will design a brand new space for the Italian Pavilion at the fair in April.
Sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica, the Association of Italian Ceramics, and hosted by Architizer, a dynamic online community of architects, the Ceramics of Italy Exhibit Design Challenge called on architects from around the world to submit their designs for a 3,000 square foot pavilion to be built at Coverings this spring. Given relatively free artistic reign and a reasonable budget, entrants were asked to incorporate a restaurant and café, space for an information desk and re-usable components to reflect the Italian tile industry’s commitment to sustainability. Over 80 architecture firms signed on for the challenge. Proposals were reviewed by representatives of Confindustria Ceramica, Architizer, and an advisory committee of previous exhibit architects including Bernard Tschumi, Laurinda Spear, and Michael P. Johnson.

After much deliberation, Eva Perez de Vega and Ian Gordon, founders of the dynamic architecture and design practice e+i studio, were chosen as the overall winners of the competition for their inventive Piazza Ceramica design. Based on the idea of an Italian piazza, their proposed design features a large open gathering space with gradual steps reminiscent of a piazza church. According to e+i studio, the topographic mounds can be recreated into many different piazza-like configurations.
Michael P. Johnson, principal of Michael P. Johnson Studio and an advisor for the competition said, ‘The proposal by e+i studio is a clever concept of carving out the functional requirements of the project. A landscape of tile-cladded typography ‘steps’ will certainly draw attention to the booth while the plaza located in the valley between the hills will create a rich experience for visitors.’

Ceramics of Italy is now working with the design team at e+i studio to finalize the plans for the pavilion. Stop by during Coverings to see the new landscape –register for free at

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Remember the deadline for PROJECT: Green entries is January 30

PROJECT: Green is a joint venture from Environmental Design + Construction (ED+C) magazine and Coverings. It’s a unique contest that seeks to honor the best sustainable projects that use tile and stone across a range of building categories. The contest is open to architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers, manufacturers and installers.
Projects must have been completed within the past two years (January 2010-January 2012) and may be located anywhere in the world. Multiple entries are accepted and encouraged. Please fill out a separate form for each entry and you can enter directly by following this link.
PROJECT: Green has three categories.

Residential Both new construction and remodeled
Commercial Both new construction and remodeled
Institutional Both new construction and remodeled

Projects chosen for their exceptional achievements will be honored in a centerpiece display in Coverings Central at Coverings 2012, April 17-20 in Orlando, Florida. What’s more, they will enjoy exposure on the Coverings website and in ED+C magazine.

Each entry must be accompanied by at least three photos; essays detailing the sustainability of the project; a list of the green certifications applied for and or awarded for the project; a list of green products used; and any .pdfs or videos related to the project. There is no fee to enter. An independent panel of judges will evaluate all of the entries based on the following criteria, so in your essay detail as many of them that apply.

The use of tile and stone in the project areas being considered, including where and how much
Aesthetic attractiveness and/or uniqueness of the installed finish (0-20 points)
Positive environmental impact
Environmental effectiveness and significance of the project design, installation and operation (0-5 points)
Environmental innovation: incorporating design, installation or operational strategies not regularly addressed by green building standards or rating systems (0-5 points)
The use of tile and stone products with environmental benefits such as:

Products with recycled or reclaimed content (0-10 points)

Low or no VOC adhesives, grouts or sealers (0-10 points)

Salvaged, refurbished, or reused materials (0-10 points)

The use of tile or stone products instead of competitive coverings to achieve better performance-based benefits such as extended material longevity and durability; reduced maintenance; lower replacement frequency; enhanced user safety (0-10 points)

Products with other third-party environmental acknowledgements or LCA reports (0-10 points)

Products designed to reduce building energy loads (0-10 points)

Products with innovative environmental technologies not addressed in the criteria listed above (0-10 points)

Everybody knows that the tile and stone industry leads the way when it comes to integrating sustainable practices in construction projects and PROJECT: Green is the perfect way to show that to the world. Hurry though, that deadline’s coming up fast – Monday, January 30.
Enter today.

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An architect talks about tile

Photo by Bob Borson
If our last several projects are any indication, glass and ceramic tile are going to have a really good 2012. Durable, easy to take care of, and with an unlimited variety of color, patterns, textures and sizes, more and more of our clients are turning to tile throughout their house. As an architect that specializes in modern residential design, I am excited about the design opportunities this presents to me.

Photo by Cotto D’Este
Modern residences frequently take advantage of the open floor plan where the spaces flow together rather than more traditional layouts where the spaces are defined more by perimeter walls. To help visually connect these spaces together, we like to use large format tile – as large as 36″ x 36″ – to visually extend your eye from one space into and through the next space.
Photo by Bob Borson
In specialty areas like kitchens, these spaces tend to be visible from several other rooms at the same time and as a result, we like small format tiles that either have a unique size or texture to them.

Bob Borson is an award-winning Dallas architect. His blog, Life of an Architect, is read by thousands every day.

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Tile from north to south: a builder’s perspective

Photo by Crossville, Inc
I have been a builder for over 27 years and have built in New England and more recently in the Bahamas. During that period of time I have seen and done many tile projects and both of these regions are different in their styles and construction techniques. Some of the tile that can be done in the Bahamas can’t be done in cold New England or I should say isn’t done as frequently.
New England as a whole is a very conservative area and in that regard tile is used in all the conventional spaces such as baths, kitchens and certain area floors. One of the challenges I have experienced is blending the different tile for the various applications needed to get the look a client is seeking. Being a builder and using tile is always interesting and is totally different than choosing a species of wood for trim work. Many times a client has an idea of what style and colors they are looking for but no exact tile choice whereas if you ask what type of wood, they will usually have a set species in mind such as maple or oak. Therefore tile choices can take a bit longer in the planning process.
Now in the Bahamas tile is everywhere. We use it for baths, floors, walls and even outside. Personally I haven’t used much tile outdoors in Vermont due to the freeze thaw cycles. Now it can be used but much more preparation has to be taken to insure against cracking such as an adequate base and drainage plane as well the proper tile and sealants. Yet even with the best precautions there can still be problems as New England winters can be hard.

Photo by Tile of Spain
Tile in the Bahamas is used frequently outdoors for porch floors and applied directly with thin set to the concrete. There is no freeze/thaw cycle here so cracking from the cold is not an issue. It is also used frequently around pools for the deck area and some wonderful designs are produced with various materials, mosaics and much more color than I’ve used in New England, it’s the tropics and color is abundantly used in the islands.
Another application that I have done here, and I must say it was a first, was tile on the exterior of a home. A few years ago we actually applied Travertine tile to the lower exterior portion of home approximately 30′ up. From that point to the eve, HardiPlank siding was installed and the look was wonderful. The application of tile to exterior home surfaces has become more common place here as it can be used as a focal point and set the home apart.
One other area of tile that I have done here is called Cement Tile. However here they refer to it as ‘Nassau Tile’ and at one time I have been told it was manufactured in Nassau. I had to do some repair work on a home and some of the tile had to be removed carefully for re-installation afterwards. When these tiles were removed I studied the layers and it looked to be the same process used as in Cement Tile-( multiple layers of various cements and about ½’ thick). The design of all the ‘Nassau tiles’ that I have seen here is not as elaborate as Cement Tiles produced today as Nassau tiles have more of a generic pattern but I have learned they have been here for a very long time which is another virtue of tile worldwide- longevity.
Tile in New England and the Bahamas has the same installation procedures as any where else in the world but there are regional differences in styles, color choices, and of course, a clients budget. Throughout time, tile has shown it’s ability to adapt and change for new customs and styles while remaining a material that will withstand years of use while retaining its beauty whether indoors or out.

Photo by Ceramics of Italy
I love tile and all the possible design choices that it affords so I am extremely excited about a trip I have decide to take this spring from the urging of some friends. I will be going to the Coverings trade show in Orlando, Florida, this April 17-20 and I am looking forward to seeing all of the offerings by the participating vendors as well as seeing and learning new techniques and tools for installation of tile and stone.  I have no doubt there will be more to see and learn in the time afforded me but I will try to take in as much as possible and let you know all the wonderful offerings in a future post on my blog, Building Blox.

Todd Vendituoli is a custom homebuilder and in addition to his blog, you can find him on Twitter as @TALV58.

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Coverings facts & figures

Coverings is the premier international trade fair and expo dedicated exclusively to showcasing the newest in ceramic tile and natural stone. It has grown to be the largest and most important show of its kind in North America. It features exhibitors from more than 50 countries and attracts thousands of distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors and specifiers, installers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers, plus the press and journalists who cover this dynamic industry.
Coverings is the stage for introducing some of the most innovative tile and stone products in the world. The exposition also serves as a valuable resource for continuing education for all categories of attendees, with informative, accredited seminars and live demonstration sessions conducted throughout the four days of the show. Show floor admission and all of the educational sessions are completely free of charge. Coverings 2012 is set for April 17-20, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.  
Coverings 2012 will feature:

More than 800 exhibitors from around the world
‘Coverings Central,’ a dedicated space on the floor for attendees to check email, attend social media events, view the PROJECT: Green display and grab a refreshment with friends, colleagues and peers.
More the 300,000 net square feet of exhibit space
Live installation demonstrations conducted right on the expo floor by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).
Thousands of attendees from more than 50 countries
The Installation Design Showcase, a unique collaboration between leading designers and installers partner together to design and install a master bath, an outdoor living space and a hotel bedroom right on the show floor.
More than 100 industry leaders presenting in nearly 70 educational sessions
The Art Tile Village, a space dedicated to artisans who hand craft art and specialty tile
Earn a Coverings Green Certification by attending four of the seven, core, sustainability sessions offered during the three days of the show.
A Tweetup, that’s an in-person mixer for people who know one another through Twitter (though Facebook and LinkedIn friends are encouraged to attend as well).
And much more!

Coverings 2012 promises to be an incredible show and is the definite must-see event in the world of North American tile and stone. You can register for the show for free by clicking here.
And while you’re registering, you can also reserve your accommodations at any of our seven Orlando partner hotels. Reservations should be made by March 23 and the Peabody Orlando, the Courtyard by Marriott and the Hilton Orlando or the Hampton Inn are all within walking distance of the Orange County Convention Center.
See you in Orlando!

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Welcome to the Coverings blog

Today marks the inaugural post of Coverings’ new blog, and we’re looking to it as yet another way to spread the word about the great things we have planned for Coverings 2012. Over the course of the next few months, we’ll be posting here at least twice a week with news and announcements about April’s show and conference.
More than that, we’ll be using this blog as a forum to share news and perspectives from a variety of stone and tile industry professionals. Through this blog you’ll meet a number of your peers, get previews of Coverings 2012 sessions written by the people who’ll be leading them, and you’ll read general news and overviews of the industry as a whole.
We welcome your comments on this blog and we’re looking to it to be another forum to exchange ideas and opinions about the state of the industry. Think of the comments to as a suggestion box of a sort as well. If there’s something you’d like to see us do at the show or feature here as we lead into the show, let us know!
Coverings 2012 is being held this year at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando Florida from April 17th through the 20th. If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to register for the show. Click here to register now for free.
We’ll see you in Orlando!

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