For Dave Karp CTI #220, becoming a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) meant standing out as a professional tile setter. Not only did it provide him with enough confidence to open his own tile shop - Tile Fusion - but it has also set him on a path that allows him to hone his high-end, detail-focused residential tile installation business.
Dave is next in the CTEF Blog series about Qualified Labor based on articles in TileLetter.com.
>> See Certification: a standard to validating professionalism, skills and willingness to excel
Meet Dave Karp CTI #220
Dave Karp is the Founder of Tile Fusion LLC in Shakopee, Minnesota. He specializes in high-end, meticulous, and detailed residential tile installation.
Dave became a CTI in 2008 after eight years as a tile setter and has never looked back,
“[Certification] made me feel stronger as an installer, more professional, and better at selling myself.”
To such an extent that a year after becoming a CTI, Dave decided to open his own tile shop - Tile Fusion.
Be sure to visit Tile Fusion's Facebook page to see some of the gorgeous projects that Dave has completed. (Also check out the image below.)
Committed to Tile Installation Knowledge
Dave Karp takes tile installation knowledge seriously. In addition to being a CTI, Karp has received manufacturer's training from Wedi and Schluter, and is StonePeak-MaxFine thin tile certified.
Furthermore, he is currently preparing for the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) in Mortar (Mud) Walls.
He is committed to keeping up with the latest developments in tile installation standards and best practices to stay true to the demanding nature of his business specialty.
That includes membership in the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) which he joined in August 2009 after hearing former NTCA trainer Gerald Sloan speak. As Dave explains,
“(Sloan) spoke of education, technical knowledge and professionalism within the industry and how the NTCA is leading the way. I signed up that night to be a member.”
>> See Where Do You Find Porcelain Tile Installation Standards and More?
Dave is also a member of the Handmade Tile Association.
Certification and Membership Provide Value to Installers of Tile
For professional installers of tile, both NTCA membership and CTEF certification provide incredible value.
As do many of the CTIs highlighted in the Qualified Labor series, Dave Karp makes use of both the NTCA and CTI logos to distinguish his estimates and invoices from those of competitors.
Certification, in particular, gives customers a tangible proof of an installer’s expertise, as Dave explains,
“I promote certification as a standard to validating who you are, your professionalism, skills and willingness to excel.”
>> See 5 Benefits of Being a Certified Tile Installer
Dave Karp's Experience with the CTI Program
Dave Karp became a CTI at Daltile in Plymouth, Minnesota in 2008. He says,
“I found out on a Sunday night that Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) was coming to town on Tuesday. I sent emails that night and called first thing Monday morning to make sure I could get in. I felt it was a great way to separate myself from the rest of the guys in town.”
The CTI exam consists of two parts – a hands-on portion and a written-portion.
The Written Part of the CTI Test
He didn't consider the written test too difficult since it is an open book exam. To prepare, he read the CTEF Field Manual for Thin-bed Installation of Ceramic Tile several times.
The Hands-on Part of the CTI Test
However, the hands-on portion was a different story.
“I was in the same room as two of the Twin Cities’ premier installers. Legends I’d call them: Joe Kerber CTI #218 (who is now a CTI Regional Evaluator) and Jan Hohn #211. It meant the world to me to be able to show everyone what I’ve got.”
Most installers who take the hands-on test agree that it can be a stressful experience which requires both quick thinking and quick acting. In Dave's case, he says,
“The tile supplied to us was 4" X 4" white ceramic and 12" X 12" porcelain, but there were two different dye-lots. I used this as a design feature – one color for the border and checkerboard for the center.”
Gerald Sloan who judged Karp’s work was impressed by his decision to include 1/16” joints.
>> See Why Do You Need Expansion Joints When Installing Tile?
To this day, Dave is proud of having successfully completed the hands-on test:
“I still feel good thinking back on that day.”
How the CTI Testing Program Has Evolved
When Karp took the test in 2008, the entire CTI program test took two full days. In that time, students prepared, set the tile, grouted and took the written exam.
Since then it has evolved into an intense one-day hands on test, with the written portion happening beforehand at the candidate's discretion.
>> See Video Details Hands-on Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Test for perspective.
Ready to Embrace Tile Certification as the Way to Stand Out in the Tile World?
If you haven't already, consider becoming a Certified Tile Installer (CTI). As a CTI, you set yourself apart from the crowd and know how to anticipate tile installation problems before they occur. Do it right the first time and get paid accordingly.
Are you ready now to take the tests and become a CTI like Dave Karp?
Let us know in the comments.