January 6/13, 2014; Volume 27/Number 18
By Louis Iannaco
While properly installing any type of flooring can be a daunting task, many believe a ceramic job is often the most difficult to successfully complete. Which mortar and grout to use in a given application are always concerns, as is condition of the subfloor and general product knowledge. A number of installers seem better suited for working with carpet, resilient and hardwood than ceramic tile.
Because of the lack of widespread ceramic knowledge, it has become increasingly important for those skilled in ceramic tile mechanics to be recognized for their skills. Likewise, they should be given the opportunity to learn even more about industry standards; that’s where the new Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) certification program comes into play.
The ACT program was created through the combined efforts of five leading organizations in the tile industry: Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), International Masonry Institute (IMI) and International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC). The intent of the program is to provide a level of consumer confidence for tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA guidelines for floor and wall.
ACT is not a training program; rather, it evaluates the skills and knowledge of tile installers and offers certifications in four specific areas of tile installation: large format tile and substrate preparation, shower receptors, membranes, and mortar (mud) floors and walls. An installer may choose to become ACT-certified in one or more of these areas.
Certification in each area is granted upon successful completion of a written online test, designed to measure the installer’s understanding of applicable ANSI specifications and TCNA recommended methods. A field test, conducted by trained third-party instructors to evaluate the installer’s skills under real-life conditions, must also be completed.
Installers wishing to become ACT certified must be pre-qualified in one of two ways: as a certified tile installer (CTI) through the CTEF or as a journeyman tile setter who has successfully completed the apprenticeship program conducted by the IUBAC.
According to Bart Bettiga, NTCA’s executive director, by developing specific programs that address key installation skill sets, ACT has created a way for project owners to ensure companies hired for jobs has qualified employees. “The [ACT] written test and study guides assist the qualified installer in learning more about our industry standards and enhances overall knowledge of the trade,” he said.
Developed during the first half of 2013, the ACT program is steadily garnering interest among industry professionals. As Bettiga noted, while ACT is still in the early stages of development, “we have five certifications ready to go.” Meanwhile, instructors who will monitor the testing are also completing certification requirements, helping “ensure credibility of the program. The study guides and written tests are complete, and the modules are being built for conducting the tests around the country.”
Bettiga believes 2014 will be a critical year for the ACT program to launch, and trade shows like Surfaces/TileExpo and Coverings will be used to help spread the word. NTCA is also incorporating some ACT preparation training into its workshop program.
Another ACT proponent is Scott Carothers, director of certification and training for CTEF. He has already hosted several program certifications and believes the industry has many qualified installers. “We just have to boost them to the next level so contractors will use certified installers, thus eliminating the black eyes the industry gets from those who are not qualified.”
TCAA president Jennifer Panning believes ACT certification will help promote quality installations by ensuring competent installers and companies are following approved standards. “All industry partners have worked together diligently, and the excitement continues to grow. Momentum is growing in labor, manufacturing and distribution as everyone sees the value in quality.”
Similar to Panning, many people in the industry who have worked closely with ACT cite its value and what it will mean to the ceramic segment moving forward. NTCA president Dan Welch noted ACT’s intent is to build a talent pool capable of installing tile and stone correctly. “Along with CTEF’s Certified Tile Installer program, ACT will spearhead qualified labor in the tile trade.”
Welch was part of the first group of installers to complete the inaugural ACT testing at Coverings 2013, where union and non-union installers worked side-by-side to install the program’s four advanced modules for task-specific certifications. “Make no mistake; this program is not a cake walk. Participants must complete [several projects]. It all took three and a half days to complete, with ACT evaluators watching every move. All the comments following the event were positive.”
In conclusion, Bettiga noted that perhaps the most significant benefit thus far in developing certification is how much installers and other ACT participants learn about ceramic industry standards and the changes that continue to impact what they’ve been taught over the years.
“During the certification process, installers interact with each other, share techniques and tricks of the trade, etc.,” he said. “Even though we created certification as a test, early results indicate a tremendous training benefit is being realized as well.”
For more about ACT certifications, call 864.222.2131 or visit tilecareer.com.