Coverings 2013 will offer an unrivaled global perspective on leading trends

With more than 900 exhibitors from over 50 countries, and a wide-ranging conference program of 70-plus free-of-charge seminars, Coverings 2013, the largest international exposition dedicated to tile and stone, offers an unrivaled view of the most current industry trends. Attendees, whether they are architects, designers, builders, remodelers, installers, fabricators, distributors, or retailers, will find the latest developments and directions in their particular field addressed when The Ultimate Tile + Stone Experience comes to Atlanta for the first time, today through May 2, 2013.

According to the five sponsoring organizations of Coverings–the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Tile of Spain, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Ceramics of Italy, and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA)–visitors to this year’s show will have the opportunity to see for themselves important emerging trends including thin tile; large-format tile; high-definition digital inkjet printing; and antibacterial and self-cleaning ceramics, among others.

Another key trend is the development of certification programs for product performance and installation standards.

Here are some of the most important trends anticipated at Coverings 2013:
Thin Tile
The trend to thin porcelain tiles, starting at thicknesses of about 2.5 mm for walls up to about 6 mm thick for floors, will be taken to new levels at the show. Because they can be installed over existing floor or wall coverings, they save time and money, particularly on renovation projects. ‘Thin tiles are getting stronger and stronger as the technology advances,’ says Harold Yarborough, a CTDA director at large, ‘which means they’ll be appropriate for more applications, thereby reducing material consumption and benefitting the environment.’ As Christine Abbate, marketing representative for Ceramics of Italy, notes, ‘Italian manufacturers pioneered the development of skinny tiles.’ Cotto d’Este and Panaria are two Italian tile companies that will introduce new super-thin tiles at the show. Spanish companies are also leaders in the field. ‘Porcelanosa, one of Spain’s largest manufacturers, is really taking skinny tile to the next level,’ says Ryan Fasan, technical consultant to Tile of Spain. While thin tiles are now used throughout Europe, the U.S. has been slower to specify them because ‘they are so new that there are no industry standards in place here yet,’ says Stephanie Samulski, a project manager for TCNA. Expect that to change rapidly as acceptance of this new technology grows.
Large Format
As porcelain tiles get thinner, lighter, and stronger, it has become possible to manufacture them in larger and larger formats. For instance, Laminam by Crossville now offers giant 3-foot by 9-foot slabs that are a mere 3 mm thick intended for residential and commercial wall applications. TECHLAM, from the Spanish company Levantina, has a comparable specification. Plane is an eye-popping 5-foot by 10-foot, 6 mm thick engineered porcelain ceramic wall panel from Tennessee-based StonePeak. ‘These product are so light they can even be used on cruise ships,’ says CTDA’s Yarborough. ‘And because there are no grout joints, they’re ideal for hospitals and other sanitary applications.’ They can also be applied directly over existing tile, representing considerable savings in handling costs and in the time spent removing old tiles and preparing smooth and flat surfaces. ‘Large format thin tile impacts distribution,’ notes Bart Bettiga, executive director of NTCA. ‘You can get twice as much product in a container, which is an environmental benefit.’ While the panels can be cut with a wet saw and are easy to install, ‘they are not traditional tiles,’ says Bettiga. ‘They are technologically innovative and require the right mortar, the right tools, and the correct installation techniques to be applied successfully.’ The Coverings conference program includes educational seminars on these topics.
Certifying Product Performance & Installation Standards
With constant advances in stone and tile technology, it becomes increasingly important that product performance and installation standards are established and maintained through recognized educational and certification programs. Two of Coverings’ sponsoring organizations, the Tile Council of North America and the National Tile Contractors Association, are dedicated to this goal. A prime example is the rapid development of super-thin, extra-large porcelain tile panels. ‘There are many ways to manufacture these products,’ says TCNA’s Samulski, ‘and they don’t necessarily meet A1371 performance criteria in the TCNA Handbook. We do have some information in the handbook, but we advise caution because these products are so new there are no firmly established standards yet.’ Bettiga at NTCA agrees. ‘We want to make sure they go into applications that make sense. We need to educate ourselves and go slowly,’ he says.

Both organizations are interested in third-party certification. For sustainability, they look to the Green Squared certification system. ‘There are several mandatory and elective requirements to get certification,’ says Samulski. ‘We are educating show exhibitors on how to provide sustainability information correctly.’ When it comes to installation standards, the NTCA and the TCNA have teamed up with the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) to modify its Certified Tile Installer (CTI) testing program, which provides a means for good, knowledgeable installers to verify their skills. For the first time, qualified attendees at Covering 2013 will be able to take the test live onsite. In addition, the NTCA has established the Five-Star Program, a certificate of excellence awarded to contractors who can document their commitment to quality tile installation. ‘There are no regulations or obstacles to becoming an installer,’ says Samulski. ‘So these certification programs help determine if an installer is properly qualified to perform the scope of the work specified.’
High-Definition Digital Inkjet Printing
Advances in digital inkjet printing technology featuring enhanced high-definition reproduction now allow porcelain tiles to mimic stone, wood, fabric, leather, metal, and other materials with amazing precision and realism. Unlike conventional screen and roller printing, inkjet performs flawlessly on textured or relief surfaces, too, making it possible to reproduce both the visual and tactile properties of a material with hyper-realistic dimensional tiles. ‘We now have the ability to duplicate so many types of wood, for instance, it’s mindboggling,’ says CTDA’s Yarborough. ‘The resulting tiles, which are very appealing to the American market, can be installed next to real wood without a visible difference.’ Some companies, like Spain’s Aparici, have even mastered the look and feel of timeworn reclaimed planking, a stylish and in-demand effect. ‘Their Sonar collection looks exactly like weathered boards,’ says Tile of Spain’s Fasan. ‘With real wood and stone, you’re limited to what exists in the actual world,’ notes TCNA’s Samulski. ‘But the new technologies let you imagine something not found in nature–blue limestone, for example–that nevertheless appears totally authentic.’ Tile can also replicate manmade materials such as textiles and fabrics–a fashion-inspired trend that the Italians, for one, have embraced. ‘For instance, Marazzi’s Silkstone line of decorative ceramic wall tiles is inspired by Indian saris and Japanese kimonos,’ says Ceramics of Italy’s Abbate. ‘And Cerdisa’s Archistone collection includes Pizzo and Damasco, tiles that overlay limestone with intricate lace patterns.’
Antibacterial & Self-Cleaning Tile 
While ceramic tile is naturally hygienic and contains no VOCs that release gas prior to, during, or after installation, manufacturers continue to innovate and partner with biotech companies to offer products that actively contribute to good health and well being. There will be many antibacterial, antipollution, and self-cleaning ceramics at the show. Crossville Inc. will introduce Hydrotect, an optional invisible coating with antimicrobial, self-cleaning, and air-purifying effects; available for most of its porcelain collections, it’s fired on separately from the glaze so it will not wash or wear off. Casalgrande Padana has adapted nanotechnology by TOTO to create a self-cleaning, anti-bacterial, pollution-reducing photocatalytic tile treatment it calls Bios, which can be applied to all the company’s products, including those designed for exterior applications. Fincibec has developed Antibact, a proprietary antibacterial technology that can be applied to all its ceramic products, producing significant sanitizing effects without the necessity of sunlight. Technica, a LEED-compliant porcelain tile collection, is the first Fincibec line to feature the new technology.
Other trends in evidence at Coverings 2013 will include:

Planks Tiles in the shape of planks?some up to six feet in length?in stone and concrete designs as well as wood.
Mix and Match Single collections comprising tiles in multiple sizes, colors, materials, and patterns, intended to create patchwork compositions.
Encaustic and Majolica Looks Tiles that use dimensionality and inkjet printing to bring traditional majolica motifs and encaustic inlay up to date.
Glass Tile The range of styles, looks, colors, and textures, and the breadth of applications continues to expand exponentially.

For the full exhibitor list and conference program go to

About Coverings
Coverings is the largest and most important ceramic tile and natural stone trade fair and expo in the United States. It features exhibitors from more than 50 countries and 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 segments of the industry, with more than 70 informative, accredited seminars and live demonstration sessions throughout the show, all free of charge.

Coverings attracts thousands of distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors, specifiers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers, as well as journalists and bloggers who cover this vital and dynamic industry.

Sponsors of the show are The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Tile of Spain/Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER), Ceramics of Italy/Confindustria Ceramica, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and The Tile Council of North America (TCNA). The show is managed by National Trade Productions.

Coverings 2013 will be held April 29-May 2, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information visit or contact National Trade Productions, Coverings Show Management, 703-706-8257.