Last month, I attendedCoveringsin Atlanta, GA, where there was a lot to take in during the event's four days. Being an international tile and stone exhibition, there was a plentiful amount of displays of the latest product lines -- everything from large-format porcelain to artisan tile to exotic stone slabs. But in addition to all of that, it was evident that the show had an underlying message about the importance of a quality installation. Through the Coverings Installation & Design Award Competition (CID), the Installation Design Showcase and an area set up on the show floor to certify the first class of the recently developed Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program, Coverings 2013 illustrated the necessity for architects and designers to work hand-in-hand with installers to complete a project with successful results.

Now in its second year, the CID Awards celebrate creativity and technical know-how in the use of tile and stone in residential and commercial projects. The CID Awards honored contractor/designer teams who, respectively, demonstrated the talent and skills to bring to life an exceptional aesthetic vision. The whole idea of the competition is to emphasize the importance of teamwork to achieve a positive design.

The Coverings Installation Design Showcase was a live-action demonstration and exhibit that spotlighted the crucial role first-rate installation plays in the successful realization of a design. The Showcase matched four Atlanta-based design firms with four of the nation's finest installation teams. The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), a Coverings co-sponsor that helped originate the Showcase four years ago, initiated these designer-installer match-ups. To participate, installers were required to have NTCA Five Star Recognition, the association's highest ranking, and be certified by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). Construction began two days before the start of the show and was completed by the third day of the exhibition. Attendees were able to monitor the progress of the designs throughout the event.

ACT was developed by five of the largest organizations representing tile contractors, installers and manufacturers. Partners in the development initiative are: Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), providing training and certification for any installer; Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), representing IUBAC signatory tile contractors; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC), whose members are skilled tilesetters who have completed multi-year apprenticeship as well as other trained masonry craftworkers; International Masonry Institute, which provides professional and technical training for union masonry contractors; and National Tile Contractors Association, with membership open to all tile contracting companies. ACT addresses four technically challenging installation areas of current importance:  Large-Format Tile Installation and Substrate Preparation, Mudwork, Shower Pans and Membranes. A specific certification will demonstrate the installer's skill in each of these four segments. During Coverings 2013, the first class to receive ACT certification was diligently working on their installations on the show floor.

All of these different programs reinforce the importance of quality. While inspiration and creativity are the drive behind beautiful stone and tile designs, an experienced installer is necessary to bring that design to life. Another example of this can be found in the Project Spotlight of this edition of the Stone and Tile Design Insider. The installation crew at Midland Marble & Granite (MM&G) relied on technical support from Mapei and Daltile when installing SlimLite large-format porcelain panels on the exterior facade of Legends

Honda's dealership in Kansas City, KS. Though the company has an established a reputation for tile setting, this was its first experience with the large-format thin tile panels. When MM&G won the bid, they knew they would need strong technical support to ensure a successful installation. Working with Daltile, Mapei sent a team of technical specialists to train the installers -- demonstrating all the components needed to do the job effectively. Everyone got a chance to work with the large tile panels and get answers to their questions about handling and installing it properly.

Especially with the continual advances in technology, it is important to get the word out there about working with qualified tile installers. For this reason, you will continue to find us pointing out these new developments in upcoming editions of our eNewsletter as well as in the pages of our print magazines and Web sites.