Bart Bettiga: On the Industry, Coverings, and the Members of NTCA

Bart Bettiga

What’s new with the tile industry? From standards for finding the right installer, to the future of the industry, Bart Bettiga, Executive Director at the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) has some advice and insights for the Coverings Community.

NTCA represents tile installation companies and suppliers and producers of tile and installation materials, and are active in the development of standards and we promote professional installation and ethical business practices. As such, Mr. Bettiga is able to report back from the front lines on our industry:

1.    What are typical problems your customers come to you with and how do you help them solve these problems?

Our members come to us for support in many situations.  In particular, we have often been supportive in areas of business or technical assistance.  In one instance, a member of ours sought our help in a very large hotel project. The architect had specified a very large tile for the walls with a very narrow grout width.  The installation crews had done everything right, and yet the combination of lighting and the allowable variance of the tile sizing caused the installation to be rejected by the architect on the first few floors of a high-rise project.  After consulting with our technical team, we submitted a letter on our members behalf, backed by recognized standards, that this situation was unrealistic with the type of tile being used with the grout width recommended. Instead of a costly tear out and re-installation, the architect approved widening the grout joint, and moving and relocating the lighting fixtures.  This resulted in saving our member over $100,000 if they would have had to tear out and re-install the existing installation.

2.    Do you have a rant? Or some “conventional wisdom” you’d like to debate?

This one is easy and quite important.  And it is really obvious yet it consistently is ignored in many cases.  Ceramic tile is beautiful and will last forever, but only if it is installed correctly.  Too often, the focus on the project is on getting the lowest price for the installation, instead of finding the most qualified bid. I tell people all the time.  When you are looking for an installer, get multiple bids.  Make sure the company that bids on your project has a proven track record of success in the type of work you require.  Compare the bids and accept the lowest qualified bid, not the lowest price.  Tile is a permanent finish, and often job failures impact other areas in the home, and replacement is both costly and uncomfortable for anyone who resides there.  You can avoid this by hiring the most qualified installation company, and unfortunately this trend of looking for lowest price continues to plague our industry.

3.    Do you have any industry predictions for the coming year? What’s on the horizon in your business?

One thing we are concerned with is recruiting new people into our trade, especially installers. We have spent thousands of dollars and a lot of staff time developing an on line education program, an apprenticeship program is in development, and we will begin a marketing strategy to take our message to high schools and other groups that may be interested in a rewarding career.  There are many great opportunities in the tile industry, and we feel that the trades, and especially ceramic tile, have been overlooked in the school systems, and we think we need to take this message to counselors and career advisors.  We have ramped up our efforts to further develop certification to go along with apprenticeship. In this way, a young person entering our trade will see a clear path towards developing a career, with monetary compensation growing as they further their learning skills and develop a trade.

4.    How has being involved in Coverings helped your business?
How does your company, or you personally, benefit by participating each year? Being involved as a sponsoring association in Coverings has allowed NTCA to gain visibility both nationally and internationally.  We have used this platform to cultivate associate partnerships with manufacturers and suppliers from all over the world.  We also are involved in developing educational programs at the show, positively impacting best practices related to installing tile and stone.  We create a networking opportunity at Coverings for our members, so that they can share ideas and discuss common problems and offer solutions to help each other.  We hear all the time of business relationships that have been developed at Coverings that NTCA helped facilitate.

5.    What 3 tips would you give to “newbies” who have never attended a Coverings show?
1. Plan your day and your schedule.  The exhibit hall is extremely large.  Fortunately, it is laid out very well, with country pavilions helping to guide you.  Use the Internet tools the show offers to plan your meetings and exhibits you wish to see.  You can waste a lot of time wandering around looking at the incredible exhibits, so I suggest developing a plan of attack before you get there.

2. Visit an association sponsor for assistance and guidance.  If you are a contractor, visit the National Tile Contractors Association. Tile Distributors should see the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, etc.  There are several associations present and we can provide assistance in navigating the show floor and make suggestions for site visits. More importantly, we can connect you to other attendees, helping you network and meet new people, and invite you to events on the show floor and after hours. This will create a much more positive show experience.

3. Take advantage of the Conference Program, both on the show floor and in the conference rooms. Everything is completely free, which is unusual for a trade show of this size.  We spend a lot of time developing conference programming, and there is something for everyone that can bring value.  When I first attended Coverings many years ago, the conference program allowed me to take many ideas back to my company and put them into practice.

For more information on Bart, and the National Tile Contractors Association:

Registration for Coverings is open!