Coverings Review - June 2012

y Jessica Chevalier


Attendance was up 19% at this year’s Coverings show in Orlando, totaling over 22,000 guests. However, last year’s show was held in Las Vegas, a location that is less convenient for much of Coverings’ audience. In comparison to the last Orlando Coverings numbers, attendance at this year’s show was actually down about 5% from 23,080 attendees in 2010. Because Coverings is predominantly a distributor show, the show floor never has the same activity that a retailer show like Surfaces does. This year, however, the aisles were abuzz, and many booths seemed quite busy. 

For the first year, Coverings had a 1,500 square foot area called Coverings Central where attendees could gather to digitally interact and network. The location also served as the hub for the show’s 18 social media seminar sessions, which lasted only 15 minutes apiece. Also new at the show was a specially guided tour of the top resources on the show floor for contractors. Over 160 contractors participated in the event as part of the new Contractor Days.

This year’s Coverings was held in Orlando, April 17 to 20. Coverings 2013 will move to Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center from April 29 to May 2. 

At Coverings, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) held a press conference releasing industry numbers for 2011, and the news was good. The tile industry experienced consecutive year over year consumption increases for the first time since 2004 to 2006. By square feet, U.S. ceramic tile consumption was 2.04 billion, 1.8% over 2010. By dollar value, U.S. consumption in 2011 was $2.23 billion, up 6.3% from 2010. Consumption of domestic tile increased an estimated 9.8% in 2011 by dollar value. 

Regarding imports to the U.S., 1.41 billion square feet of tile was imported in 2010, which represents a 1.1% increase over the previous year. Mexico was the top importer to the U.S. by square footage, with a 29.9% share. China came in second with 27.8% of imports. Italy was third with 17.1% of imports to the U.S. However, by dollars, Italy took the top spot, making up 34.3% of total U.S. import value. The dollar value per square foot of tile imports to the U.S. rose from $0.91 in 2010 to $0.94 in 2011. 

One of the biggest news items at this year’s Coverings was Green Squared, the TCNA’s new “green” certification. This multi-attribute, lifecycle based sustainability certification program is an ANSI standard that looks for the usual recycled content, indoor air quality and lifecycle assessment attributes but also includes a long list of elective criteria like renewable energy usage and labor law compliance. The program was written and designed exclusively for tile and tile installation materials (mortars and adhesives, grouts, membranes, backer boards and underlayments). The consensus-based standard is certified by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), NSF and UL Environment and is in conformance with ANSI A138.1. Green Squared offers the A&D community a simple package that makes it easy to compare like products and creates transparency among manufacturers.

Several manufacturers at the show were exhibiting products with the TCNA’s Green Squared certification, including Crossville and Porcelanite. According to Lindsey Ann Waldrep of Crossville, the certification lays out the guiding principles of what’s green in tile manufacturing but allows enough interpretation for manufacturers to highlight what’s unique about them. It will be interesting to see how many manufacturers have achieved Green Squared certification by next year’s show. At this stage, companies either pass or fail the certification, but the TCNA is considering implementing a tiered (silver, gold, platinum) system. 

The TCNA also announced that it anticipated having 1,000 installers certified by the end of 2012. 

On Wednesday morning, designers Michael Johnson and Lira Luis gave a talk entitled “Tile: From Decorative to Sustainable,” which highlighted the best qualities of tile as a building material, including its economical advantage, its status as a maintenance-free product and its durability. Luis, who presented first, pointed to many recent innovations in tile that have continued to move the category forward, including slim and large format products, raised access flooring, photovoltaic tiles used as paving systems, louver tile systems, and trombe wall glazing systems that capture and transmit warmth. She pointed to a wall tile product currently in beta testing called Habitile, which can be planted with greenery to help naturally insulate and cool the space it surrounds, and it can be used quite easily to green neglected city alleys or otherwise barren landscapes. 

Johnson followed Luis by showing images of some of the projects that he has completed using tile. Interestingly, Johnson, who considers tile a building material and not a decoration, often uses the same tile across an entire installation, both inside and outside. In his montage, Johnson included a photo of an inexpensive $0.89 per square foot tile that he had used in this way, with a beautiful result. Johnson sometimes polishes the tile inside the home but leaves the same tile unpolished to reduce slippage outdoors.

In addition, both Tile of Spain and Ceramic Tiles of Italy held press conferences during the Coverings show, and both cooperatives outlined what they believe are their competitive strengths in the U.S. market. From that point, the two presenters took divergent paths. In a speech entitled, “Renaissance Reprise: 2012,” Tile of Spain’s Ryan Fasan spoke about the trends of the ceramics marketplace. He shared color trends, the impact of the artisanal movement on tile design, and the opportunities that digital technologies created within the ceramics market. Fasan’s multimedia presentation was stylish and smart. 

Ceramics of Italy’s approach was different. A panel of Italian tile experts shared information about the Italian market—the program was translated for English speakers—then celebrated the winners of its Ceramics of Italy 2012 Tile Competition: in the residential category, Fractal Construction LLC for the renovation of a Gramercy townhouse that used Sant’Agostino tile; in the commercial category, Leo A Daly for its Union Square 999 project that used Lea Ceramiche tile; and in the institutional category, RSP Architects for its Musical Instrument Museum project that used Ceramiche Caesar and Lea Ceramiche tile.

Spanish company Tau introduced five new looks at Coverings: Leño, Vesubio, Albaicín, Ónice and Kiowa. Leño is a wood look inspired by the woods of the Black Forest. The line, which includes floor and wall formats, comes in four colors and sizes 6”x24” and 6”x36”. Vesubio is a minimalist concrete look that comes is mostly grey based tones, four in total. Sizes in the porcelain line include 12”x24”, 18” x18” and 24”x24”.

 Albaicín is a terra cotta look tile that is available in three natural colors. Sizes include 18”x18” and 24”x24”. High-shine Ónice, an onyx inspired glazed and polished porcelain, is available in four colors: Marfil, Ocre, Perla and Gris. Lastly, Kiowa is a stone look porcelain tile that comes in three colors and sizes 6”x6”, 12”x12” and 18”x18”.

Crossville was at Coverings promoting its new Green Squared certification; it is the first company to achieve certification across all porcelain product lines. The fact that Crossville already had third party certification with SCS on many of its processes and products helped simplify the certification process for the company. All American-made Crossville products (accounting for 85% of the firm’s line) are Green Squared certified. 

Crossville introduced its new collection, Shades by Crossville, at the show. Shades, an organic looking collection of nine tones—including warm and cool greys, warm and cool whites and charcoal black—with a pattern that is reminiscent of birch bark or frost, is available in sizes up to 24”x24”. The mostly rectangular collection has four mosaics patterns that correspond with it, including metallics. The line is Green Squared certified (with the exceptions of the metallics) with a minimum of 20% post-industrial recycled content.

Shades was developed to meet specs for the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago. The architect on the project wanted to have new porcelain tile made from the existing porcelain tile and fixtures in the facility, originally installed in 1931—a true cradle to cradle installation. From this project, the Shades collection was born.

Kentucky based Florida Tile brought classic Hollywood inspired Cinema to Coverings. Cinema is a digital travertine look that comes in three colors: Antique Lace, Burbank Beige and Silver Screen. The porcelain line, which will be available in late summer, comes in three sizes and features two listellos and chair rail. 

Berkshire, named for the forests of Massachusetts, is a commercially rated wood look line that was introduced in May 2011. The high definition porcelain collection comes in five colors—Oak, Hickory, Maple, Olive and Walnut—and has a handscraped texture. The Berkshire pattern, available on 6”x24” planks, goes 180 square feet before there is a repeat. 

Stellar is a contemporary mix of a stained concrete with a touch of a copper-like metallic; the porcelain tile has 40% recycled content. Stellar is suitable for commercial or residential use and comes in both warm and cool tones: Nova, Zenith, Helio and Meridian. It is available in sizes up to 24”x24” and features mosaic and listello options. 

Coopertiva Ceramica d’Imola displayed products from all three of its brands—Imola Ceramica (a 50% residential, 50% A&D line), Lafaenza (a high end residential line with classic looks) and Leonardo (a line that targets the commercial market with modern styles ). In the Imola line, Beestone, a bluestone concept, comes with either natural or lappato finish and sizes up to 18”x36” and 36”x36”. The line has some interesting accents, including a worn mosaic look and a listello in 3D with ends that pop out from the wall. The three darkest Beestone colors are traditional bluestone looks, while the other two are taupe based tones. 

Also in the Imola line is the new Concrete Project, the company’s most technologically advanced collection, which is produced in a continuous flow process, allowing Imola to allocate different portions of a run to different sized tile. With this process, the company can make up to a 48”x48” tile as well as rectangular formats. Concrete Project comes in eight colors and four finishes (honed, bush-hammered, matte and structured). The rectified tile can be used indoors or outdoors, and it comes in grey tones, from light to dark.

At Coverings, Imola was also demoing its Cliptile, a no grout installation product ideal for both permanent or temporary installations that can be installed in a space overnight, eliminating costly downtime for retail locations. The clip installation system creates a seal that is impermeable to liquids, yet flexible enough that broken tiles can be readily removed and replaced. Though the concept is new to the U.S. market, it has been available for some time in Europe. Cliptile products are available in a variety of sizes up to 20”x20”. One of Cliptile’s advantages is that it can be removed from an installation and reused in another location with no compromise to the integrity of the product.

Mexico producer Porcelanite/Lamosa came to Coverings with a wide array of new products, quite a few of which were Green Squared certified. Under the Porcelanite line, Villazzano, available in late 2012, is a grey and cream toned marble look product made with digital technology. Villazzano comes in 16”x16” squares. Orion Blue, another Green Squared digital product, is a mottled grey, blue and cream stone look with some polish in the crevices to create dimensional texture. 

One introduction under the Lamosa line was Sucre, a marble look with a matte finish. Sucre comes in one color, Café, and is available 22”x22” squares. It can be used both indoors and outdoors.

From the company’s Firenza line comes Piedra Dorsal, a look inspired by a stone unique to Mexico. The rustic look, in grey and dark grey tones, has a matte finish and comes in a 16”x24” format. Another rustic look, Slate Imperial, features the blue, grey, orange, green and maroon tones of natural slate. The product has a matte finish and comes in a 16”x24” size. Slate Imperial has a physical texture. 

Lastly, Madera Cortex is an end cut wood look with a matte finish made using digital technology. Madera Cortex comes in three colors—all light tones—and a 24”x24” format. 

Eliane, the leading Brazilian supplier to the U.S. market, came to Coverings with three new product collections. Driftwood is a rustic barnwood look that comes in 6”x26” or 6”x48” planks and three different tones (Birch, Chestnut and Hickory). The glazed porcelain product is microbeveled on all four sides for a more realistic wood look.

A rustic sandstone look, Sedona comes in four colors, all of which have grey undertones. The glazed porcelain product is produced using digital technology and comes in three sizes, both rectangular and square. Both Sedona and Driftwood have a 0.60 or greater coefficient of friction rating.

Odeon is a straightforward two color series (Ivory and Beige) that comes in one size, 20”x20”. Odeon resembles a travertine with a “fleuri” cut—a mottled effect seen in stone and marble cut parallel to the bedding plane. 

Marazzi had three new product collections at Coverings. The company added to its Essentials line, which is a collection of six neutral tones that can be used alone or in combination to create a neutral backdrop for a space. Colors range from Basic Black to Wondrous White and include taupe and grey tones, and sizes are up to 24”x24”. 

American Heritage is Marazzi’s new rustic wood look tile. Made in Florence, Alabama and suitable for the residential market, American Heritage comes in three colors—Saddle, Spice and Natural—and is a color-body rectified tile made with inkjet technology. American Heritage comes in 6”x36” and 9”x36” planks.
Another inkjet product, Silk, is a glazed porcelain suitable for either commercial or residential use. The pattern looks like a cross-cut travertine, and each pattern comes in three colors, all brown based tones. Silk is suitable for both the commercial and residential market.

Marazzi’s sister company, Ragno, was at Coverings promoting two new lines—Cambridge Oak and Vesta—both of which are made in Florence, Alabama. Vesta is a quartzite look made with inkjet technology. The porcelain line comes in three colors and square formats up to 20”x20”. Vesta has a pillowed edge. 

Cambridge Oak is a rectified wood look made with inkjet technology. Cambridge Oak is available in 6”x36” and 9”x36” planks and comes in three colors. The line is suitable for both commercial and residential use. 

Vitromex rolled out four new collections at Coverings: Mikonos, Volkan, Stonehenge and Heritage. Mikonos is a travertine look that comes in three colors—Multicolor, Caramel and Coral Sand. The product has 16 different faces and comes in both square and rectangular formats. The porcelain product is created with digital technology. 

Volkan is another digital porcelain with 16 different faces. The slate look comes in two colors and sizes including 13”x13”, 20”x20” and 12”x24”. Stonehenge, a linear look slate, has an appearance suited for more contemporary décor, especially if installed all in one direction. Stonehenge comes in three colors—Earth, Dark Earth and Grey. 

Heritage is Vitromex’s new wood look product. The line is available in Oak Cherry, Oak Honey and Oak Walnut tones. The porcelain planks are 6”x24”. 

Both Stonepeak and sister company Fiandre were at the show, and both introduced very large format porcelain. Fiandre’s product, under the Maximum name, is available in either 3mm or 6mm thickness and comes in three colors. Stonepeak’s tile, with a 6mm thickness, has three colors as well. The 6mm product has the strength of 10mm tile—because of its malleable nature, it’s durable on slightly uneven surfaces—and both brands offer sizes up to 5’x10’. While the product can be used for floors, it is more commonly used for cladding at present. 

Under the Stonepeak brand, Crate was a new introduction. Crate is a weathered reclaimed wood look made with inkjet technology, available in 8”x48” and 6”x24” planks. It comes in three colors: Whitewashed, Grey and Brown. Another Stonepeak introduction, Land, is created using four screens to create color complexity. Fossil is an inkjet product with the look of natural stone. It has a fossilized, textured appearance, is available in three colors and comes in sizes up to 24”x24”. 

Fiandre added new colors to two of its existing lines. Silk road has three new colors: Soft Silk, Natural Silk and Raw Silk; and Link has four new colors: Sheer, Ginger, Hazel and Penny.

Florim introduced several new lines, all made in Clarksville, Tennessee. Limestone comes in three designs—brown/beige, white and grey—and both the brown/beige and white have two colors each. The porcelain line has sizes up to 24”x24”.

Ethos is a new veined travertine look that is available in three colors and has a corresponding hexagonal mosaic. Ethos is available in squares up to 24”x24”. Ecowood—available in Noce, Avono, Wengeé, Gioglo and Multicolor—is featured in a 6”x24” plank format. And Galaxy, a color-body product for the commercial market, comes in six colors. Forest is a 6”x24” plank barn wood look that has five tones; it is suitable for indoor or outdoor use.




The most significant product trends at this year's show were really extensions of what has been happening in the marketplace over the last couple of years. Realism is the order of the day. Coopertiva Ceramica d'Imola had its Eramosa marble (which is sourced from northern Canada), and the two samples were literally indistinguishable, a truly impressive imitation. Unlike a trend in the European market, where two looks are often blended into a stylized other—like a stone and hardwood mash up—designs in the U.S. market typically hold more to replicating real materials. And it's getting to the point that these replications can be done really well.

Many of these realistic designs are made possible because of digital inkjet technology, which continues to revolutionize the industry. Using the technology both by itself and in conjunction with other techniques, stone and marble looks are ever more realistic. These looks, for the most part, are more affordable than the real material and don't pose the same problems with regard to chipping and the like. In addition, one of the most significant style trends at the show, the wood look, is reaching new levels of realism because inkjet technology has the ability to project ink onto tile with a physical texture akin to real wood, including rustic or handscraped textures.

Speaking of wood look tile, nearly every booth that we visited had a new introduction with this look. Generally, these were planks that range from 6" to 9" in width and 24" to 36" in length, including some cross cut looks. A real cross cut wood floor would be an expensive proposition, but in tile it costs no more than any other look. For that same reason, you would expect to see a lot of tile made to look like exotic woods, as we have seen in the LVT market. Surprisingly, that is not the case so far. Most manufacturers offer fairly traditional wood looks (oak, hickory, maple, etc.) in tones that are popular among real woods. It seems likely that ceramic manufacturers will begin offering more exotic looks as they settle into the wood look market.

Greys are still popular in flooring, and many tile designs now use grey undertones, rather than taupe or brown undertones, even if the end result is not an outright grey product. But there are a fair number of grey tiles too, from light, airy greys to charcoals—in wood looks, in concrete looks, in stone and marble looks, as both a backdrop tone and a subtle statement.

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Coverings, CERAMICS OF ITALY, Crossville, Marazzi USA, Mohawk Industries, Florim USA, RD Weis, Stonepeak Ceramics