Should tile installers become certified?
If you are serious about your calling as a tile installer, yes, you should become a Certified Tile Installer (CTI).
If you aren't, chances are high that you aren't reading this article or even asking yourself the question.
Certification Signals Qualification
Wouldn't you agree that the image above displaying one company's tile installer achievement is impressive?
Certifying the skills and knowledge of the mechanics in many trades has become very popular and expected by consumers.
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, the certification entity is extremely important.
Certification Separates You from Tile Placers
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 installer’s abilities was crucial. That's how CTEF became involved.
In 2008, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) launched the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program which provided a method to test the knowledge and skills of experienced tile installers.
Through this rigorous, but fair testing, it was now possible to separate the qualified installer from those who may be mediocre at best.
The end result is a talent pool giving the consumer a choice - a better choice than having to live with a failed installation that never should have been installed!
Not Just Any Certification Will Do
Not all tile installer certifications are created equal.
Be certain that the organization from which you select to obtain your tile installer certification is contained in the TCNA list below and is a functioning and recognized part of the ceramic tile industry.
Other so-called training events which loosely include the word certification operated by organizations outside the tile industry are worth less than the paper on which they are written.
Consider the Latin phrase "Caveat Emptor" for “Let the buyer beware”.
Tile Industry Recognized
Critical to a certification being reputable and worth pursuing is that it have industry recognition and that the certifying agency have the right qualifications.
The TCNA Handbook now contains language which speaks specifically to the requirements of Qualified Labor in architectural specifications.
Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Programs
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:”
“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 Tile Installer” designation. Contractors that employ CTEF Certified Installers are listed in the CTEF Contractor Directory found on the CTEF website.”
In addition to the CTI program, CTEF offers the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT).
Other Recognized Programs
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
What About the ACT Program?
The next level of tile installation certifications available beyond becoming a CTI is the Advanced Certifications for Installers or ACT which will be ramped up in 2020. These are in-depth evaluations of skill and knowledge relating to seven specialized areas of tile installation. An installer may choose to become ACT certified in one or more of these areas:
- Gauged Porcelain Tile and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs
- Large Format Tile & Substrate Preparation
- Mortar (Mud) Floors
- Mortar (Mud) Walls
- Shower Receptors
Interestingly, ACT represents a collaboration between six leading tile industry organizations who came together to create the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program:
- The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF)
- The International Masonry Institute (IMI)
- The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC)
- The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA)
- The Tile Contractors' Association of America (TCAA)
- The Tile Council of North America (TCNA).
As with the CTI, ACT certifications offer consumers greater confidence that their tile installers follow tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA Handbook guidelines for floor and wall.
Similarly, 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.
Do You Doubt that Tile Installers Should Become Certified?
Do you scoff at calls for certification of tile installers? Perhaps you feel you don't need one and/or don't have the time. Okay, I understand.
But some comments on social media are misleading. Statements such as,
“The CTI test is outdated or antiquated. Nobody installs 4-1/4” tile anymore.”
While it is true that 4-1/4” tile is waning in popularity, it still requires the testing installer to be able to maintain proper fit and finish. All grout joints must align both horizontally and vertically while exhibiting ANSI standards for balanced cuts left/right and top/bottom.
The CTI test was developed to test the installer’s skills, not to train them in the popular tile of the day. If the principles required for the proper installation of 4-1/4” tile are applied to the ever-increasing popular large format tile (LFT) products, the quality of tile installation will move upward.
All of us who care about and make our living from the installation of ceramic tile should want all tile installers to be CTIs. Join in the fight to raise the bar of installation quality. Aren’t you tired of bidding against the poorly trained and failure-ridden tile placers that overpower the installation field today? Do something about and help us move forward…..in a positive fashion.
If you are a quality-oriented tile installer, what is stopping you from joining the best tile installers in the country? Give it a shot, you may learn something new.
Thanks for reading.