My recap of Total Solutions Plus


Novita PR snaps a shot of the registration booth before the check-in madness.

As my tile travels continue, my most recent stop was in San Antonio, Texas to attend the NTCA, TCNA, CTDA, and TCAA conference, Total Solutions Plus. This was my first time ever attending the conference, and it was great to see many familiar faces from the industry while there! While I was there, I attended several educational sessions and panel discussions, the keynote speech, “TCNA- Standards, Science, Education, Advocacy- Today’s Critical Industry Issues,” as well as “Tile & Stone Maintenance Strategies” and “Best Practices of Successful Tile Contractors,” that I wanted to report back on.

Eric Astrachan, Executive Director of the TCNA, gave the keynote, which provided updates on the steady growth of the industry, and critical industry issues such as standardization (both international and domestic), sustainability, research, methods and best practices. He also noted all of the new changes to the TCNA Handbook, including new methods for curbless showers, and radiant heat flooring.

The Tile & Stone Maintenance Strategies session was presented by Rod Sigman, CTC, CCTS of Custom Building Products. This session reviewed opportunities for increasing growth and profit in the industry, as well as tips and best practices for maintenance. As a designer who specifies stone often, the session was informative — it’s valuable to understand proper maintenance and to be able recommend products that prolong the life and protect the customer’s investment. There were a few great takeaways from the session, including the fact that for every 100 bags of grout sold, only one gallon of sealer is sold! This means that 1 out of every 10 jobs that should be sealed actually get sealed, which is shocking as sealing is so crucial for preventative maintenance.

We also learned more on different methods of sealing, and what surfaces they are most useful for. One example included pre-gouting sealing, which is good for multi-colored slate when an enhancer is being used. This method not only protects the stone or tile from grout staining, but it makes clean up easier for highly porous stones. Some other tips:

  • It’s important taking the time to do a mock up sample,
  • When in doubt- ASK! Technical reps, sales and architectural reps are trained to be able to give you the information on the products you are using
  • Take time to know the products you are using —  it can prevent potential costly mistakes in installation and application — which is tremendously valuable.

I also attended a panel discussion of Best Practices of Successful Tile Contractors, with James Woelfel, Dan Welch, Brad Trostrud and Jennifer Panning. This was an interesting discussion, and as a designer I always enjoy hearing about the installation side of all that we specify. It’s so important to have that synergy between all involved parties on a project. One panel made that I wholeheartedly agree with, is encouraging tile contractors to let your GC’s know why your work is best to use Certified Tile Installer, and why it is worth the cost. Allowing the GC to truly understand the role of a good tile install and why it actually saves money on the back end is crucial. The panel suggested taking the time to educate architects and contractors about the tile trade with informal events such as Lunch and Learns. They also recommended partnering with local suppliers to offer Continuing Education programs. Education on what certified tile installers can bring to the job is key.

Beyond the educational sessions, the Table Top event at Total Solutions was a nice preview of some of the new and intriguing tile introductions from major American manufacturers such as Daltile and Crossville, as well as installation materials and tools from Mapei, Custom Building Products, and Schluter to name a few. Of course, the highlight of Table Tops for many of the attendees was the Coverings Photo Booth! Everyone seemed to be having a blast taking pictures in advance of the 2015 show in Orlando, FL.

My time in Texas was brief yet educational and fun! I had a wonderful time at Total Solutions, meeting many new people and catching up with those I know. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again in April at Coverings 2015 — fingers crossed, there will be another photo booth!