Last week, I took part in a meeting of the Education Advisory Council of Surfaces | StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas, the annual trade event that showcases virtually all aspects of the floor covering industry -- including stone and tile. This council is a virtual "who's who" of technical professionals from our industry, and the two-day meeting is an intensive session where all of the challenges in our industry are discussed at length.Surfaces | StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas

As a journalist covering the stone and tile industry, I have an opportunity to bring up some of the challenges that I am seeing among our readership, and I also get the chance to hear the thoughts and opinions of this panel of technical experts.

I've been attending this session for eight years now, and the one thing that strikes me each time is how the topics we discuss are precisely in line with industry trends. The discussions -- and subsequent education session topics -- are right on point with new issues being faced in the field.

Of note, there were discussions on two current product trends -- textured tile and large-format tile -- and how they would be addressed from the standpoint of installation and maintenance. The council discussed practical issues such as the potential for grout haze on textured tile -- particularly wood-look products -- as well as the practicalities for installing and maintaining tiles that are sized larger than ever before.

It has been said over and over again that a tile project is only as good as its installation, and that also applies to long-term maintenance. Whether you are a designer, supplier or  installer of these new products, it is critical to understand that there are inherent challenges and considerations that go along with new formats. In a crowded marketplace, you can set yourself apart by knowing these solutions as early in the process as possible.

By attending these educational sessions -- and keeping abreast of the latest installation and maintenance products being showcased in Stone World, Contemporary Stone & Tile Design and TILE Magazine -- you will find yourself ahead of the learning curve.