This week, submissions for Coverings Rock Stars – An Emerging Leaders Program officially closed. While our judges deliberate before announcing the winner on April 18th at Coverings 2016 in Chicago, we touched base with one of last year’s winners: Installer Eric Tetreault of EJT Contracting, on his experience in the industry, favorite projects and advice for newcomers:
What does it mean for you to be selected as a Coverings Rock Star in 2015?
It’s a huge honor. At first I was flattered. I’ve been working tirelessly the past 10 years to be the best installer I could, and it was nice to have others acknowledge and celebrate my hard work. My experience at the show was definitely more than I expected – I felt the Rock Stars were really celebrated, and we received a positive reaction on the show floor. With the additional write-ups, winner spotlights, and other recognition that came with it, it was really much more than I had expected.
As for everyday life, my customers and prospects are quite enamored with the award. When they understand who gives the award, what Coverings is, what it means to be selected, and the reasons I was selected, many prospects will pick me as their installer. I’ve been lucky this past year having customers who will choose an installer for reasons beyond budget.
Tell us about your work in the tile and stone industry. Why are you passionate about this industry?
When I started working in construction right out of high school, I was working with a great builder who got me involved and experienced with all of the trades. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the more I installed tile, the more I seemed to enjoy it. Today, although I work in many parts of residential remodeling, I’ve really carved out a good niche in tile work, and I’m known for my tile work far more than any other trade.
I suppose one reason I enjoy this industry so much, is because tile work is a fine craft and extremely difficult to get “just right” unless it’s done by someone who is absolutely passionate about the finished product – not just in how it looks, but how it lasts, how it performs, how it maintains, and how it makes an overall impression on the design and feel of a room. It gives me great satisfaction to be part of the process and have my work adored for years and years to come.
Do you have a specific project or moment in time when you were particularly proud of your work?
In this past year, I was contacted to tile a basement floor in a high-end remodel. The concrete was in place, and the architect called for a hydronic radiant heating system installed under the tile – but with height limitations. Insulating the slab for efficiency was also a huge request, but the architect had no idea how to get everything done with such little room for buildup. After much research, I was able to implement a system, designed and approved from Wedi, to install a 3/4″ foam core cement coated building panel on the floor, route out channels in the foam to install the tubing, and tile directly on top of the building panels. In one step, we had insulation, a tubing system, tile underlayment, and after the tile was installed we had less than 1-1/2″ of buildup- a full inch less than the next best plan. This was a challenge for me, and one I am particularly proud of because I took a project that was “impossible” to others, and found a way to make it happen for the customer.
Another example was for an NYC-based designer who wanted to install large thin porcelain panels on a TV and fireplace surround. The condo was on the 19th floor, and the panels were too large to fit into the elevator. She had exhausted all of her resources trying to figure out how to get the project done, and asked the manufacturer for the name of someone who had experience in this type of material, as well as a willingness to accept the challenge. The manufacturer gave her my name, and I assessed the site. Thanks to the help of the building supervisor, I was able to develop a plan to get the panels up to the 19th floor and installed to perfection. These are moments that make me particularly proud of my work.
Is there a mentor or other professional that you turn to for career advice?
This industry has some of the best people I’ve ever met in my whole life. I don’t have a single mentor, but a huge network of mentors who will help me with anything I ever need, without hesitation. The first resource that helped launch me into the industry years ago was the John Bridge Forum. Beyond being able to chat with other professionals and find useful and relevant information, the John Bridge Forum will occasionally host “group training seminars” where members can gather at a central location to learn about a specific topic. Industry manufacturers will often host the event in an unbiased format for the greater good of the industry. I’ve attended a few of these, and met countless professionals who are always more than happy to pass on their knowledge, experience, trials, and “secrets”.
Soon after joining the John Bridge Forum, I joined the NTCA, which has also been an invaluable resource. The people who run the NTCA are again, always more than willing to go out of their way to help their members just because they enjoy the industry as much as I do.
Please share some advice for young professionals getting started in the tile and stone industry.
Younger people are the future of this industry, and we need as many as we can get. There is a big shortage of labor, which is a shame because it is one of the best trades in my opinion. It also opens up windows of opportunity everywhere, and opportunity is undeniably scarce in most other lines of work. It isn’t hard to find a mentor, and if you start out and learn the tile trades well, it can be very rewarding. It is not always glamorous and it isn’t always easy, but the support I’ve seen from the industry is second to none, and there will always be demand for good tile setters.
You can meet the 2016 Coverings Rock Stars at the Opening Night Celebration on Monday, April 18 from 5:30-7:00 PM at McCormick Place. Sign up now when register for free for Coverings 2016.