Are all tile installer certifications created equal? The short answer is NO!
Differentiating Better Qualified Tile Mechanics
Certifying the skills and knowledge of the mechanics in many trades has become very popular.
This process provides consumers with a method to differentiate the better qualified mechanic from those who “think or say” they are. Whether it is the car mechanic who is ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified or the Certified Tile Installer (CTI), the certification entity is extremely important.
>> Discover Why Certification?
How the CTEF Tile Installer Certifications Came to Be
In the past, the tile industry has been served well by quality-minded installers who provided consumers with properly installed and long lasting installations.
Unfortunately over time, with no barrier to entry, the talent pool has become populated by both high-quality installers who deserve the work and those of lesser abilities who do not. Hence, it became apparent that certification of and installer’s tile installation abilities was crucial.
The Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Program
In 2008, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) initiated the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program which provided a method to test the knowledge and skills of experienced tile installers. This program is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge which is recognized by the tile industry.
A 2-Part Certification for Tile Installers
The CTI program has two parts:
- The CTI technical proficiency exam which consists of a 155-question, open book, multiple choice test based on the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation and the CTEF Field Manual for Thin-bed Installation of Ceramic Tile which includes references to American National Standard Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile.
- The CTI hands-on test which allows CTEF evaluators to verify that an applicant has the skills to deliver an installation that meets industry performance and workmanship standards. During this part of the program, installers must demonstrate their ability to execute a complex layout and proper installation of: vapor retarder membrane, backer board, tile (walls and floors), cementitious grout, and flexible sealant (caulk). For each installation material, the applicant is scored on the various aspects of workmanship relevant to producing an installation that will endure use and satisfy the discriminating client.
Through this rigorous, but fair testing, it was now possible to separate the qualified installer from those who are mediocre at best. The end result is a talent pool giving the consumer a choice - a better choice.
Learn More About the CTI Program
To learn more, check out these articles:
Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) Program
There's another certification program for tile installers: the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) Program. It was created to offer consumers greater confidence that their tile installers follow tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA guidelines for floor and wall.
Even more impressive is how six leading tile industry organizations came together to create the program and focus on best practices and standards for these categories:
- Large Format Tile & Substrate Preparation
- Mortar (Mud) Floors
- Mortar (Mud) Walls
- Shower Receptors
- Gauged Porcelain Tile and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs
ACT certification in each area is granted upon successful completion of a written online test - designed to measure the installer's understanding of applicable ANSI specifications and TCNA recommended methods - and a field test conducted by trained, third party evaluators who assess the installer's skills under real life conditions.
Industry Recognition & Qualifications of the Certifying Agency
However, there is another critical component of certification; the industry recognition and qualifications of the certifying agency. In the case of the CTI program, it's CTEF. As it relates to the ACT program, CTEF and the leading tile industry organizations play an important role.
The TCNA Handbook now contains language which speaks specifically to the requirements of qualified labor in architectural specifications. Under the heading, “Using the TCNA Handbook for Specification Writing,” the Handbook states,
“As with all programs, the rigor and credibility of the program must also be considered. The following nonprofit programs are well-established and recognized by the Handbook Committee (listed alphabetically): ...”
“Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer Program: CTEF tests hands-on installation skills and knowledge. Installers must achieve the minimum required score on both tests to earn the “CTEF Certified Installer” designation...."
Also included in this list (who are likewise recognized by the Handbook Committee) are:
- The International Masonry Institute (IMI) Contractor College Program
- The Journeyman Tile Layer Apprenticeship Programs,
- The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Five Star Contractor Program
- The Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) Trowel of Excellence Program
Be certain that the organization you select from which to obtain your tile installer certification is contained in this list and is a functioning and recognized part of the ceramic tile industry. Other so-called certifications operated by organizations outside the tile industry are worth less than the paper on which they are written.
Caveat Emptor, Latin for “Let the buyer beware”.
Ready to Become a Certified Tile Installer?
If you're an installer and still wondering, consider learning more about the Certified Tile Installer program.
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