If you've spent any time in the tile industry, care deeply about quality tile installation, and embrace installing tile according to industry standards, you will have heard of Scott Carothers, director of certification and training for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF).
And, if you follow the CTEF Blog, you’re surely familiar with the ‘Ask Scott’ article series.
However, if you're new to tile and just exploring tile installation certification, Scott is someone you will soon encounter and quickly appreciate for his deep knowledge, high standards and intense passion. Not to mention his firsthand involvement in certification, both for the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program and the Advanced Certifications for Installers (ACT) program.
Meet Scott Carothers, CTEF Director of Tile Installation Certification and Training
CTEF: Scott, what is your background? How did you get started in the tile business?
SC: I walked into a local tile store to get a price on the tile work for a residential remodeling project I was bidding for the general contractor where I was working. After small talk, the owner asked, “Why don’t you buy this place?” I said thanks, but no.
About a month later, I was back in the same store for another bid when the owner asked, “Would you buy this store if I financed it?” Two months later, I was in the retail tile business.
CTEF: What is your role with CTEF?
SC: I am the Director of Certification and Training at CTEF.
CTEF: What inspired you to take on the position?
SC: Through my involvement as a Board member of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Bart Bettiga, the Executive Director, called me asking if I would be interested in running CTEF. I was honored by the offer, but still had things I wanted to accomplish in my retail and installation business.
Later, Bart called again with the same question, but this time I said yes. Four months later, we moved to South Carolina.
I always had a passion for teaching and promoting the best way to get things done. Joining CTEF was a perfect fit which I still enjoy twelve years later.
CTEF: You've been active with many tile-related organizations; how and why did you get involved?
SC: I received a personal invitation from Jack Vogel, the owner of Conestoga Tile, one of our primary suppliers, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to attend an NTCA Workshop in the mid-eighties. I foolishly told Jack I was too busy to attend and didn't have the time. He said, “You really need to come to the Workshop, listen to the presentations, and join this fine organization.”
How could I say no? I might even learn something. I did attend and joined shortly afterward.
I enjoyed over twenty years on various committees and offices of the NTCA. I have often said that if it had not been for Jack and the NTCA, I would not be in this position today.
>> See NTCA awards Carothers with Ring of Honor, 12/18/2013
I got involved in the NTCA for a selfish reason. I could learn how to install tile the right way, the first time.
After buying my store, I remember my Mother asking, “You are going to put showers on the second floor. Aren’t you afraid they will leak?" I said, if they do, I’m dead.
That was the driving force to find the best way to get it done.
CTEF: How many training and certification sessions do you average in a year?
SC: On average, we have done about thirty per year.
However, this number is trending upward and will continue to grow with additional Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test Evaluators strategically located across the United States.
CTEF: What are your favorite things about tile?
SC: I enjoy being able to transform a plain surface into a work of art that is both functional and long lasting.
On the technical side, it is satisfying to help craft industry standards and establish best practices that ultimately help all qualified tile installers do a better job in less time and make more money.
Scott and Michael Whistler with Bill Fergison, Daltile Architectural rep, Tim Evans, LATICRETE rep, and Kevin Sebesta with Daltile. Bill and Kevin organized this certification hands-on test that had 19 installers!
CTEF: What are your biggest frustrations about tile?
SC: The constant barrage of complaints and failures provided by poorly trained individuals. I can’t even call them “installers”, because they do not have the ability to properly install tile and the associated products. This scenario gives the entire tile industry a black eye.>> See Why You Need to Eliminate Spot Bonding When Installing Ceramic Tile
The problem is that the next time the unhappy consumer, be they residential or commercial, has a choice for floor or wall products, they will select something other than tile for their project.
CTEF: What are the biggest trends happening with tile and tile installation materials? How does that affect installation?
SC: Since the downturn in the economy has ended, the tile industry has grown and continues to provide new tile and installation materials.
Currently, everyone is busy and has more work than they can handle. Much of this work includes new tile products that enter the market daily. The installation product manufacturers have met the challenges of how to install these new items in fine fashion.
- One of the latest tile additions has been Gauged Porcelain Tile and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs, more commonly known as GPTP. It is becoming a real player in the commercial market while also becoming popular residentially. This product has all the features and benefits of porcelain tile that varies from 3 mm to 6 mm in thickness while ranging in size from 1M x 3M to 1.6M x 3.22 M and beyond.
- The Large and Heavy Tile (LHT) mortars replace what was previously known as medium bed mortars. They provide the ability to install: Large Format Tile (LFT), tiles larger than 15” on one side, tiles that are irregular in thickness such as Indian Slate, tiles heavier than five pounds per square foot which is the case with many natural stone tiles as well as the GPTP mentioned above.
An installer who meets the requirements of qualified labor as found in the TCNA Handbook, such as a CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) knows what these products are and how to use them correctly.
An installer can no longer rely on the age-old statement of, “We’ve done it this way for 20 years and never had a problem.”
Technical advancements are coming rapidly and will require the tile installer to stay current and well informed. Without doing so, these uninformed “tile placers” will continue to soil the tile landscape and “problem” may become their new middle name.
CTEF: What advice would you offer someone wanting to become a CTI?
SC: I would first congratulate them for seeking certification and encourage him or her to register to take the online knowledge test and the warehouse-based hands-on test as soon as possible. Their customers deserve a better choice when selecting a tile contractor for their job.
The middle names these installers have are “Qualified Labor” rather than the previously mentioned, "Problem” installer.
Certified Tile Installers are that better choice.
CTEF: How should one prepare to become a Certified Tile Installer?
SC: Four steps.
Step 2 - Explore the Free Online Training Course videos on this website.
Step 3 - Read the CTEF Blog.
Step 4 - Then go to Upcoming Events on our secure website to register or call Cathey McAlister at the CTEF office at 864-222-2131.
If you don't see a date or location that works for you, simply register for:
"CERAMIC TILE INSTALLER (CTI) TEST / CTI CERTIFICATION SELF-STUDY WRITTEN TEST"
(it's the first option on the page) so you can get started with the written test.
CTEF: Any parting words of wisdom?
SC: Gather as much information as you are able and apply it to your daily tile installation work routine.
Treat your customers with honesty and respect while providing the best quality possible.
CTEF: Thank you, Scott!
Note: We originally published this article on July 19, 2016 and have refreshed it.