Coverings 2009 took place at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, from April 21 to 24.

Despite the obvious downturn in the economy, Coverings 2009 pressed on - celebrating its 20th anniversary from April 21 to 24 at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. And while attendance figures show a significant drop from years past, show organizers report that quality attendees led to a high level of sales interest and activity on the show floor.

“We theorize that the economic shift this year helped to filter out the serious shoppers from the uncommitteds,” stated Glenn Feder, president of client events for National Trade Productions (NTP), the manager and producer of the event. Final statistics confirm that attendance totaled 22,000 at this year’s exhibition, compared to the nearly 37,000 that attended when the show was held in Chicago in 2007. Last year’s edition, which was held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, drew approximately 35,000 visitors, according to statistics.

But with the current world financial crisis, the final numbers for this year’s show are taken in stride. “Admittedly, there was some uncertainty and skepticism going into the show, but what we’re hearing repeatedly from our exhibitors and guests is that Coverings was totally up to par and exceeded their expectations,” stated Feder. “We’re confident that as the housing market rebounds in 2010, Coverings will reflect this uptrend as well, and there’s enthusiasm for the return of the show to Orlando next year.”

According to Feder, the end result was due to the dedication and support of the show’s co-sponsorships and involvement of industry trade associations. “Our partners were committed and aggressive in reaching out to their constituents about the value of Coverings, and their time and effort paid off,” he stated.

In addition to individual exhibitors, stone-producing nations were represented at pavilions such as this interactive exhibit by the Italian Trade Commission.

The exhibition, which is exclusively dedicated to showcasing the newest in natural stone and ceramic tile, fabrication machinery, tools and accessories, and installation and maintenance products, is sponsored by a number of organizations, including ASCER (Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association of Spain), Confindustria Ceramica (Italian Association of Ceramics), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). Co-sponsors this year included: AIA Chicago, ASID Illinois, Chicago Floorcovering Association, Chicago Chapter CSI, Interior Designers of Canada, IIDA, National Association of the Remodeling Industry/Greater Chicagoland Chapter, TCAA, TTMAC and USGBC Chicago.

Once again, companies from Brazil carried a strong presence at Coverings, and many companies were represented in a national pavilion.

The exhibition floor

The show floor featured exhibitors from more than 50 countries and attracted distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors and specifiers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers from all over the U.S. Throughout the exhibition, various foreign manufacturers, hailing from countries such as Brazil, India, Italy, Spain and Turkey, presented themselves as a united front in pavilions representing each of their nations.

Turkish stone producers gathered in this pavilion organized by IMMIB.

The foreign pavilions, as well as the other exhibitor booths, provided an opportunity for attendees to view numerous displays of stone and tile collections, which showcased new and innovative products. Various textures, sizes and colors of stone and tile were prominently displayed for people to look, feel and inquire about technical details. Shimmering effects of material such as Mother of Pearl tiles cut into mosaics seemed to always draw a crowd as well as exotic slabs quarried in remote locations around the world.

A range of equipment manufacturers were on hand at Coverings, and CNC technology was a featured piece of machinery at the event.

Additionally, the exhibition floor was filled with a host of fabrication equipment - from large CNC machinery to hand-held tools and accessories. Advanced technology such as laser templating equipment was also available for attendees to view. Many exhibitors even offered live demonstrations of their equipment, which not only grabbed attention but showed the capabilities of the machine or tool.

Manufacturers of stone and tile maintenance and installation products were also among the exhibitors at Coverings 2009. With green building on the forefront of design these days, many of these products are now being made with the environment in mind - offering the same benefits but without harsh chemicals or other non-environmental-friendly ingredients.

Among the materials on display at Coverings 2009, a range of backlit materials could be found on the show floor, including this exhibit at MSI.

Educational component

Coverings 2009 also served as a valuable resource for continuing education for all categories of attendees, with informative, accredited seminars and live demonstration sessions conducted throughout the four days and all free of charge. Almost 20 top-notch educational sessions were offered specifically for stone industry professionals - addressing a wide range of topics and featuring leading business authorities as well as experts from every corner of the stone and tile world.

As usual, a Fabricators Forum took place at Coverings, and it was held on the show’s final day, April 24.

Among some of the offering at this year’s show were “Smart Growth Strategies: Becoming a Fully Digital Fabrication Shop,” a guide to analyzing how “going digital” in fabrication can impact business; “Stone Trends 2009,” a look at how the use of natural stone is booming in the U.S.; and “Emerging Technologies and Trends in Stone Fabrication,” which provided an overview of the latest technologies from the fabrication forefront. In addition, a “Fabricators Forum” brought industry leaders together with attendees to address the problems faced in both residential and commercial contexts.

This year’s keynote address, “Radon & Radiation in Granite - Reality and Perspective,” explored the important initiatives underway to counter the most aggressive attack the natural stone industry has ever faced: the challenge to the safety of granite countertops. It also showcased the latest scientific information about granite safety, and offered advice for assuaging customer concerns.

A range of quartz surfacing was on display at Coverings 2009, including Pokarna’s new Quantra line.

Due to the difficult economic times facing stone and tile professionals - as well as the rest of the country - Coverings 2009 also offered an educational series entitled “Surviving 2009.” This program, which included a total of 11 seminars, was meant to provide solutions and tools for coping with the business challenges faced by those in the industry in the year ahead. They were led by experts from across the industry and dedicated to teaching show attendees strategies and tactics for riding out the current economic situation.

Exotic materials were also on display at Coverings, including materials from Granitex.

Awards program

Honoring excellence in design was also a part of Coverings 2009, as the exhibition held its annual Prism and Spectrum Awards competition - recognizing, respectively, outstanding and imaginative use of natural stone and ceramic tile. This year’s competition drew 176 entries, a record field that made the judges’ job of deciding the winners more challenging than ever before and testifies to the prestige of the awards, according to NTP. Paige Rien, designer for HGTV’s top-rated “Hidden Potential,” emceed the awards ceremony, presenting a total of $21,000 in prize money.

Three Prism award-winners were cited for their exceptional use of natural stone in design. Holzman Moss Architecture received the top prize in the Institutional category for Jefferson Hall, an USMA library and learning center at West Point (right).

Three $2,000 Prism award-winners were cited for their exceptional use of natural stone in design. In the Commercial category, Walker Zanger won for 25 Bond Street, a multi-family dwelling in Manhattan’s trendy NoHo neighborhood. Additionally, Holzman Moss Architecture claimed the top prize in the Institutional category for Jefferson Hall, an USMA library and learning center at West Point. In the Residential category, stone and masonry experts at the Gallegos Corp. won for the Highlands Pond Residence, a custom single-family home in Aspen, CO.

In the Commercial category, Walker Zanger won for 25 Bond Street, a multi-family dwelling in Manhattan’s trendy NoHo neighborhood (left).

Three $1,000 Prism Awards of Merit in those same categories were also presented. Carnevale & Lohr won in the Commercial category for the Maguire Lobby - 355 South Grand in Los Angeles; David M. Schwarz Architects received the award in the Institutional category for Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center; and Executive Stone was honored in the Residential category for the Brentwood residence.

In the Residential category, stone and masonry experts at the Gallegos Corp. won for the Highlands Pond Residence, a custom single-family home in Aspen, CO.

Moreover, two $1,000 “Design + Detail” Prism Awards were presented this year. Waterjet Works! was honored for the Hunt Corporation Headquarters - Foucault Pendulum in Dallas, TX, and the other award went to Rugo Stone, LLC, for Our Lady of Pompeii, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, DC.

In 2010, Coverings returns to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. The dates are scheduled for April 27 to 30.

Sidebar: Touring the exhibits of Coverings 2009

As always, suppliers of stone, technology, installation products and sinks relied on Coverings to showcase their latest products. The following is a look at some of what was on display in Chicago, IL:

Stone Suppliers

American Slate Co. - promoted its new color collections as part of its “Adding Natural Beauty to Your World” brand positioning; the collections contain more than 60 colors and textures that connect to the natural world and are tied to some of the most beautiful locations around the globe

Antolini Luigi & C. - the Shellstone Collection, which is created and totally realized in Mother of Pearl and produces iridescent effects that shine from green to light blue, from yellow to pink, from silver to black and the various shades and hues within those ranges

Bestview International - introduced its latest product, Mother-of-Pearl, which is available in various patterns

Bramagran - Esmerelda, which has pastel tones of dark green and maroon

Carmel Stone - offered Calacatta marble - the same stone that Michelangelo used to carve the statue “David” - in a variety of shapes and sizes, including slabs, tiles, mosaics and trim pieces

Cold Spring Granite - promoted its Pacific finish, a combination of the company’s antique and polished finishes that creates a smooth surface - highlighting the soft waves of the antique and polished textures

Cosentino - SenSa Granite, which has been treated with the company’s “SenGuard” protection and features a 10-year warranty; the SenGuard process lowers the maintenance requirements for the granite, and protects countertops from staining

Decolores - Bronzite, which is characterized by its golden bronze tone

Diamond Tech - introduced its travertine and glass mix, which comes in 12 mesh-mounted colors that are both frosted and glossed. Sheets are available in 1 x 1 or 12 x 12 inches

Dimpomar - displayed an array of Portuguese limestone varieties, including Crème Regina limestone that can be used for both residential and commercial applications

Gallos Marmoleria - Rumi travertine from Peru, which has tones of deep gold and tan

Gramic - Giallo Ornamental granite, which has a traditional golden color with black and brown accents

Gramil - Azul do Mar quartzite, which has a cool blue tone with waves of light green

Granite Mart - introduced River Gold, a sand-colored material with variations of golden waves, as well as Colonial Cream, a cream-colored material with specs of darker browns

Granitex - Casanova, which has tones of light and dark brown, along with gray/blue accents, all of which are combined with unique patterning - available in leather and polished finishes

Granos - Arezzo quartzite, which has a light brown tone with white accent patterning

JMS - a full line of Jura limestone from the Bavarian region of Germany, available in a variety of colors and surface finishes, including tiles and detailed architectural cut-to-size work

La Ponte Marmi - introduced Princess White, a quartzite from Nambia that has a white background with light green and blue veins; as well as Wasabi Green, an exotic material that is green with black and brown veins

MSI - showcased its engineered stone line, “Q,” which is available in 16 colors; also featured backlit semi-precious stone slabs

Magnitos - Vogue, which has tones of deep rust and maroon and includes jasper and basalt, with natural crystallization

Marble Systems - introduced several 1- x 1-inch blend mosaics for floors and walls, which come in 12- x 12-inch sheets. Some of the featured collections are Milano, Florence and Verona, which are all different blends of black, white and gray shades

Marbrasa - its own variety of Ubatuba/Labrador Green granite, which has a dark background with golden spots

Marcolini Marmi - Setai onyx, which has tones of honey and red, with white crystallization; Rond Noir marble, which has a rich brown tone

Michelangelo - Crema Michelangelo marble, which has a light tan hue with darker brown accent waves

Pemagran - Ibere Mari Blue, which has a soft black background with white veining and blue highlights

Planeta Pedra - Crema Cabana marble, a yellowish material with translucent qualities; Sedna granite, which has tones of gold, rust, black and white, available in a leather finish

Primestone - currently creating onyx using a vacuum process that allows any fabricator to cut it, the company reports. Described as a high-end and expensive material, the onyx is processed in Italy, and Primestone reports being the source of it

Tec-Tear - Black Marinace granite, which has a black background with a broad range of earth tones as accents, creating a unique pattern

Tracomal - Ciantus, which has shades of blue, silver and rust

Vermont Quarries Corp. - promoted its Montclair Danby marble, which the company is now offering direct wholesale pricing for; Montclair Danby makes for an excellent kitchen countertop material given its low absorption rate, reports Vermont Quarries.

Fabricating Equipment, Tools and Accessories

Bavelloni - Glaston North America - promoted the Egar 315-4 CNC stoneworking center, a multifunctional working center designed for any type of processing such as drilling, milling, edging, creating artistic and geometric bas-reliefs, and writing and engraving operations

Beckart Environmental, Inc. - promoted its water treatment system for fabricators that have CNC equipment; the system can allow fabricators to recycle and reuse water, which can lead to a reduced water bill, the manufacturer reports

Breton - the Levibreton One for polishing the surface of granite, marble and engineered stone slabs; the machine has a single 15-kW head that travels along a mobile bridge for optimal honing/polishing performance

CMS/Brembana - The Falcon, an automated 5-axis interpolated CNC bridge saw with a built-in “A.R.M.,” (Auto Robotic Manipulator), for loading/unloading of slabs and specially for the manipulation of pieces within nested slabs; the A.R.M can be programmed to separate pieces and make space for the blade to complete a cross cut

Cemar Electro Inc. - featured its CL-800B Series bridge saw lasers, specifically designed for the stone-cutting industry; available in 10, 15 and 30 mW, the series features a bar mount, a waterproof panel mount connector, 90 to 240 volts power supply and direct-to-panel wiring

Comandulli - featured its Omega 100, an automatic multi-spindle belt polishing machine, which has thicknesses from 20 to 100 mm and is able to perform calibration, straight edge, bevels, upper and lower groove, sloping cuts, quirk miters, bullnose and more

GranQuartz - announced its partnership with Water Treatment Technologies - the manufacturer of the EnviroSystem; offered an assortment of tools and accessories, including the Diarex® Machete blade with pattern diamond and segment layering technology for faster cutting speeds on granite, engineered stone and other natural stone materials

Laser Products - the LT-55 XL Precision Laser Templator, featuring Samsung’s Q1 Ultra TabletPC, completely rewritten software, a larger screen, digital camera, wireless Internet capabilities and a physical keyboard

MC Machinery Systems/Mitsubishi - the Suprema waterjet powered by Mitsubishi, which has a 5- x 10-foot worktable and runs on four axes; the unit offers advanced programming capabilities that are an ideal complement to saw cutting and routing

Moraware - now offering customers to subscribe to its JobTracker system online, which means users can get started without installing any software; the system is a scheduling and job management software, designed for businesses that want to avoid time spent looking through paperwork

Northwood Machine Manufacturing - introduced the NW 138 Limestone CNC stoneworking center, which is a versatile machine that can do the same as the standard 138 Northwood CNC stoneworking center, but is specifically designed for cutting limestone

Marmo Meccanica - offered a range of equipment, including the LTT 621, a rectilinear continuous processing polishing machine for flat and rounded edges up to 6 cm in thickness

Park Industries - the Titan 1016 CNC Countertop Stone Center with 96- x 192-inch worktable that allows for multiple parts to be set up so that many parts (even an entire kitchen) can be processed with unattended cycle time; tool changer holds 52 pockets of tools in two magazines and allows for six different profiles and eight other tools to be stored in the machine ready for action

Prodim USA - featured its Proliner and Procutter Plotter, which, when combined, can simplify the CNC process, the company reports; measurements can be done with the Proliner directly at a jobsite, then converted with a CAD program and finally cut with the Procutter Plotter

Salem Stone - introduced the Breva 3-axis CNC sink cutout machine, which features a 15 Hp ISO 40 electro spindle, automatic tool exchange with 12 tool stations, brushless servo motors with digital drivers, pre-loaded ballscrew and precision linear bearings

Water Treatment Technologies - the EnviroSystem, designed specifically for each facility, which can accommodate shops of varying sizes - from operations that range from one to two kitchens per day with demands as little as 7 gallons per minute to shops that demand over 500 gallons per minute, producing over 50 kitchen per day

Stone Maintenance/Installation Products

Fila - announced its line of Green Care products that will be available in several months; products in this line will be water based and VOC free

Miracle Sealants Corp. - 511 Kleen & Reseal, a spray-and-wipe cleaner and re-sealer for ceramic and porcelain tile as well as polished or unpolished natural stone surfaces; the product is formulated to remove dirt and soil and reseal in one step, with no rinsing needed; the neutral pH is safe for all surfaces

Pearl Abrasive Co. - introduced its Tuscan Leveling System, which is a two-piece system that virtually eliminates lippage during tile installation

Tenax - Epoxy Foam, a two-part epoxy that offers strength for thin slabs; Brioaction, a line of products to remove mold and dirt from exterior and interior stone; Polyfast, a new polyester glue for color-matching seams and laminated edges


AmeriSink - introduced its 18-gauge 316 sink model, which is undermount, has a brushed finish and is sized at 35.5 x 18.5 x 9.5/9.5 inches; also introduced its 18-gauge 322 and 323 models, which are both handcrafted, have a brushed finished and are sized at 33 x 22 x 10 inches - the 323 is double mounted

Artisan Manufacturing - displayed its undermount 29-18-D10 sink that is 10 inches deep and features new advanced laser-welding technology; smooth corner welding makes the sink easier to clean and it doesn’t trap soil

Chemcore - introduced its new “Royalty” product line of 18-gauge sinks that offers thicker sound spray insulation as well as thicker sound pads on all flat sides of the sink than the company’s Leonet product line

Domain Industries - introduced its Lexicon granite composite sinks, which are made of 80% natural granite and are scratch, chip and heat resistance up to 535 degrees Fahrenheit; offered the Bella series as a package that includes the sink, a protective grid set, strainer basket and bamboo cutting board