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First SFA Workshop of 2019 attracts largest crowd-to-date

The first Stone Fabricators Alliance (SFA) workshop of the year, which was graciously hosted by James Donaire of Perfection Connection Marble & Granite, Inc. in Carson City, NV, attracted the largest crowd in the history of the organization’s workshops. Around 200 people attended the event, which was held from June 20 to 21.

“This is the largest turnout we’ve had for a workshop so far,” said Israel Reynolds, member of the Board of Directors for the SFA and president of Legacy Marble and Granite in Findlay, OH.

More than two dozen companies sponsored the event — Absolute Black, BACA Systems, Blick Industries, Bonstone, Brothers in Granite, CMS, Crossville, Daltile, Defusco Industrial Supply, Easy Stone Care Inc., Fabstone, Florim Stone, Gmm, GranQuartz, Helix Professional Tools, Intermac, IPS Adhesives, Laser Template Inc., Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co., OHM International, Quail Leasing, Sasso, Schluter-Systems, StoneApp, Tenax, UltraTuf Adhesives and Water Treatment Solutions — which were onsite each day with new products and live demonstrations.

“It’s amazing to see how many people come out to these events,” said Aatif Markar, president and CEO of Laser Template Inc. in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.

The two-day event merged stone and tile worlds by offering attendees live demonstrations of waterproofing and self-leveling underlayments for tile installations, since fabricators are beginning to see more requests for these types of projects. “We are trying to bring fabricators into the tile world,” said Terry Hall, technical field representative at Ardex Americas in Aliquippa, PA.

Hall, alongside another Ardex representative, showcased Ardex K 60, a rapid-setting, latex smoothing and leveling compound with moisture resistance, which can be used to smooth interior concrete, wood, terrazzo, ceramic and quarry tile, steel, select epoxy coating systems and non-water-soluble adhesive residue on concrete prior to the installation of finished flooring on-, above- or below-grade.

Shannon Huffstickler and Justin Reed from Schluter-Systems North America also provided a hands-on demonstration of waterproofing a shower using Kerdi-Board, a multi-functional tile substrate and building panel, which can also be used in bonding waterproofed assemblies with tile. Huffstickler, territory manager for Northern New Jersey, explained how to effectively install all components in the Kerdi system, while Reed, territory manager for Oklahoma and West Texas, completed the demonstration for attendees to observe firsthand. “All of these components are designed to work together so you’re not pulling from all different manufacturers to build a recipe that you hope works,” Huffstickler explained of the “quick-to-build, integrated assembly.” “This comes together way quicker than a traditional system. What we’re trying to do is minimize liability and the margin for error.”

The workshop also placed a focus on large-format porcelain tiles and slabs, which have been a growing trend in the industry and are being specified by more designers, architects and homeowners for both residential and commercial projects. Several demonstrations from sponsors explained how to handle and transport the material, cut the material, bond the material to different substrates and even how to install it in moisture-prone areas.

Stanley Jensen, representative for Beno J. Gundlach Co., Montolit Tiling Tools and FEIN Power Tools Inc. US, showcased how to handle, transport and cut 5- x 10-foot porcelain tiles. To begin, Jensen and Mark DeFusco, manager of DeFusco Industrial Supply, used a vacuum pad lifter that is made in Italy and distributed through DeFusco Industrial Supply to handle and transport the material. Requiring six suction cups to cut 5- x 10-foot panels — and only four if using material that is 5 x 5 feet or smaller, which is what the standard tool comes with — Jensen demonstrated how the contraption is used. “It requires at least four men to safely operate if handling material this large,” he said.

Jensen then utilized an innovative cutting tool from Montolit Tiling Tools, the Flash Line, to cut the human-sized tiles, which attendees were also able to test out themselves. The relatively easy process, which takes less than 30 seconds to complete, is very similar to cutting plastic wrap with the slide cutter located inside of the container.

Attendees also got the neat opportunity to see some impact testing on the large-format material using different weights that mimicked everything from a falling soup can to a frying pan. The material withstood every test, with the exception of a 10-pound boulder SFA members acquired on the cuff “just for fun,” which only left a nick when dropped from about 4 feet high — an impressive feat, to say the least.

“The event went very well,” said James Donaire, owner of Perfection Connection Marble & Granite. “Our primary goal was to familiarize the stone world (pardon the pun) with proper waterproofing and setting procedures, and for the tile setters, machining, as well as different handling methods. I think that, with the sponsors and our combined effort, the SFA achieved that goal, and our other expectations were met.”

Donaire, who has been a member of the SFA since its inception, says the knowledge he has gained from the organization and its members has been priceless. “The SFA will always be at the forefront,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we do and what we bring.”

The next SFA workshop, which will also have a large focus on large-format porcelain tile, is slated for August 1 and 2 at Sambor Stone Ltd. in South Holland, IL.

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