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Why Should You Take the CTI Test? Contractors Respond

Why Should You Take the CTI Test? Contractors RespondWhy should a tile installer consider becoming a Certified Tile Installer (CTI)? We asked the community to weigh in on Facebook, so you can read about some of their reasons - in their own words - for becoming certified and Qualified Labor.

This is a classic from 2018 that is as relevant now as it was then. You'll find the responses organized into 10 themes.

10 Reasons Why You Should Take the CTI Test

Let's explore each in more detail.

1. Becoming a Certified Tile Installer Gives You an Edge

Carl TheFlash Leonard CTI #1393:   

"Gives me the edge on ANYONE I'm going up against that doesn't have it! It's kinda like having a Certified mechanic working on your Porsche vs a NON-certified! Who do you wanna go with?"

Ulas Maris CTI# 1309  

"Oh yeah you will have a rank# and separate yourself from all other uncertified installers."

"Test yourself.  You think you’re good? You have a track record?  Test yourself. See if you can pass. That’s the biggest benefit.  Also, the feedback is awesome. Finally, it is a recognized industry credential. It could separate you from a “low bidder.” 

BTW - the fail rate is huge, so this is no “rubber stamp.”

Nyle Wadford says the following statement clearly and concisely defines the purpose of becoming a Certified Tile Installer:

"Certification identifies an installer as being a dedicated and knowledgeable professional whose competence in installing tile has been verified to meet specific tile industry standards."

Ken Ballin CTI #1392

"It sets an example to others that you care about industry standards, your customers, and others within the industry. It's more than just taking a test. It's the first step in changing how we are seen and it gives us a chance to attract new blood by showing what's possible. The certification is only the first step though. It means nothing if you don't actually do something with it."
Ken Ballin CTI #1392

"Because it establishes exactly what should be the baseline of standards for anyone in the trade to uphold themselves to. Also gives the installer the confidence and credibility among peers and clients alike that the work to be performed will be completed using "tried and true" methods and procedures that have not only stood the test of time, but also are accepted by professionals across the entire industry in the United States!"


"I am doing it to set myself apart from my competitors by being able to give a customer peace of mind from the standpoint if they don’t know me but can see I have a certification it speaks volumes. But Ken (Ballin) is correct it means nothing if you do nothing with it and also Jim is correct in that it is waste of time in right to work States. I’ve asked the same thing many times over. But it a good way to test one's own abilities and benefit them personally. It’s a worthwhile decision in my opinion to become certified."

"My husband is taking the test next month at the age of 55. His physical installation days are long over. His job now is to share his knowledge and expertise with installers and customers. This certification should lend more credibility and garner more respect when he discusses installation and project specifics with both, and why we are the company to choose. We are now quoting ANSI and TCNA standards, numbers and pages in our quotes to back-up "why" we must do things this way or that way."

Mark Heinlein and Ulas Maris say become Certified Tile Installers!
Mark Heinlein and Ulas Maris say become Certified Tile Installers!

2. Bragging Rights as a CTI

Austin Lovett CTI #1412

"I'm certified. Got my certificate hanging on the office wall at the shop I work for. Myself and one other are the only ones up there. So right off the bat, I got some bragging rights. But unless you're in a city like San Antonio where there's lots of commercial work, with lots of employment options, may not be worth it.

For the self-employed, it makes playing "salesman" quite a bit easier. One of the things I wanted out of it, was to confirm what I thought I knew."

Edwardo Martinez CTI #1239

"I took the CTI for a personal validation. The benefits have been more than what I could imagine. My company has closed on many jobs from potential clients looking for a certified tile installer because they have had a bad experience. Being a commercial contractor, the doors have truly opened wide. Especially in a union town. 

It really boils down on how you use the badge of honor, it can stay in a box hidden never to be used or you can use it to its full potential on how you see fit to best serve you. Well worth the investment!"

Alex Nez CTI #1477

"Being a younger installer and CTI, I can see the benefits:
-Higher trade education creates value for the industry as a whole.
-Knowledge is powerful. And in this trade, it seems to be powerfully underrepresented.
-Being educated DOES set you apart from everyone. My skills have been tested and validated by CTEF       
-if you love what you do, and you care about how you do it, then getting educated WILL be in your future."

Mark Heinlein CTI #1112

"Do it for yourself. Challenge yourself to prove to yourself what you know and can accomplish. By extension, others will become aware of what you are capable of and will trust and respect you for your professional depth. It's a rewarding experience on many levels."

"To improve one's knowledge is priceless... don't do it for the companies that supply our industry. It's best to do it for yourself."

"My son, Michael McConnell CTI#1439 ...We heard about a test only 550 miles away - that's close for us frownI talked him into becoming CTI - VERY STRESSFUL!!! He studied HARD for the online test for a (from what I remember) couple weeks then took the 4-5 days off to take the drive, take a "class" sponsored by ARDEX to get a free room during his stay, and took his test on the last day there ... IT'S NOT JUST THAT EASY!!! Many fail their testing; my son assumed the worst and considered his trip a failure until the test results were released and announcements were made. 

The professionalism that he learned and put into practice took me YEARS to accomplish - he has exceeded my technical knowledge of 38 years within that few weeks of study and testing. And above all, he has gained respect and friendship from MANY of his peers." 

Jotile Jotilecom - Joseph Abdella CTI #760

"For me, it was giving me confirmation that I was executing my craft/skills correctly. I will always be learning new things as this industry changes, but the CTI test made me feel that my knowledge/work experience, had me on the right path. I believe it was one of the best things I did for my career."

 Jotile Jotilecom - Joseph Abdella CTI #760

3. A Reason to Raise Rates and Close More Jobs 

Jason Hamilton CTI #1365

"Since I have gotten my CTI, I have raised my rates significantly and close more jobs because of it. I am in a market that is flooded with low skilled workers and It helps separate my company from the rest. Especially when you tell people there are only about 1500 in the entire country. It's all in how you sell it. If you think the CTI is worth nothing, go try it. There is a reason it's a 40% fail rate. It's the hardest 25 sq ft you will ever tile."

Tim Christopher 

"By becoming certified, an individual instantly has a point of difference to other unqualified labor. They have a substantial reason why they can ask for higher rates of remuneration. By remaining unqualified a tile setter remains in a large pool of workers that may be of dubious levels of ability. You only have your own word that you are able to complete the whole job properly. The client has an additional level of assurance the tile setter can do the job, etc."

"It should also be a way to justify the cost of installation. Bucket and trowel installers charge less for many reasons. A CTI installer should charge more."

4. It's a Certification that Has Meaning

Joe Lima CTI #1487

Joe Lima CTI #1487

"I took my CTI test in July. I started setting tile in the union back in 2001. You would be surprised what you don't know."

John Martin CTI #1303

"I learned more taking the test than I have with any other means of learning... it's a great experience and motivator... it's also the reason I'm going to take longer and cost more compared to anyone bidding against me... it's my favorite and most productive tool I've invested in... and I had to take the test twice."

Bradford Denny CTI #1190
"In a vacuum, we can only be challenged by ourselves. Maybe in your local market you network extensively with your competitors, but that's usually not the case. You have to get out of your comfort zone to be challenged.

Keep in mind too that the NTCA, CTI, and ACT are the closest entities to real avenues of Professional Development in our industry. Every industry has this, ours should be no different."

Pasha Starykov CTI #1480

"I used to be a spot-bonding tile placer until I started reading articles written by Scott Carothers with CTEF. Those articles brought me into the world of truly professional tile and stone installation and completely changed my mindset.

In 2017 I became a member of NTCA and this summer I passed the Certified Tile Installer test. Last year I made a decision to not use spot-bonding at no circumstances. By studying NTCA and CTEF articles I have learned how to prepare and flatten literally any substrate whether it is an uneven floor or wall making it ready for tile installation by industry standards.

Now I know there are so many incredible materials to achieve that! In the process of estimating I educate my customers about the right way of setting tile and am ready to see them standing right next to me while I am working on their project with an open TCNA, ANSI or NTCA handbook checking my installation process:) I have nothing to hide from them or to be ashamed of! 

Thank you, Scott & Co! You, guys, do amazing work by educating us about the right and narrow way of how to install tile & stone!"

TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation


"My husband and partner, Lee (CTI #1454), was a union setter for 20 years prior to his additional 15 years as a non-union contractor. His motivation in taking the CTI test had more to do with his passion for enhancing the professionalism in the trade and in modeling the importance of lifelong learning for our apprentices and younger setters. He never felt he "needed it" to market his skills to our clients.

But here's an interesting tidbit for those interested: He said it kicked butt! He's a real pro like many on this site and he was pleasantly surprised at the level of challenge and the high standards of the CTI hands-on test. The workbook and online sections were not actually difficult if you are that experienced but a good review and reminder, and they did take a time commitment."

5. It's About Improving the Tile Industry Because That Helps Installers

Brent Trammel 

"IMHO, it’s not about what the industry can do for me. It’s about what can I do for the industry. Because improving the industry DOES help me. If we take pride in what we do, educate ourselves and our customers, and raise the standards for installation, it will only benefit each of us. 

As long as our foresight is blinded by selfish reasoning, as long as we believe that education has no benefit to our business, the door will always be open to those less than stellar installers that want to come in and low-ball our wages.

I have never understood why guys would be so opposed to education. If they are even half the salesman most of them claim to be, they should easily recognize the marketing opportunity it presents."

Metin Gungor 

"First of all, it means a person is dedicated to educate themselves on the path they have chosen for their profession and how serious they are. Interpretation of ANSI standards in actual hands on exam! By people who sets standards or have knowledge who has passed.

We all learn from someone who may have been doing wrong ways who perhaps learned bad habits from their masters. TCNA is here for the purpose of keeping all of us in business going forward because failings will result in poor consumer confidence in "TILE" and that void may push us out of our services!"

ANSI Standards for the Installation of Ceramic Tile

"I think Ken Ballin hit the nail on the head. Quality doesn't come from a pay check. It really comes from passion. Tile and stone are an art and most successful artists aren't successful because they need to pay their bills. They are successful because they truly invest themselves into a craft. It doesn't matter what state you live in caring about the craft and the customer will always set you apart."

Jane Pattee Callewaert and Lee Callewaert CTI #1454

• Professionalism in the industry. Many other skilled trades have certification and credentialing requirements. 
• Reducing the number of low-quality tile jobs is good for the consumer and for the industry. We see WAY too many failed or flawed installations by low-skilled workers.
• Provides motivation for newer apprentices and setters to strive for a higher level of knowledge and skill.
• Pride and achievement.
• Senior setters gaining certification set an example for the younger workers by taking their continued learning and development seriously. 

(We are in a right to work state, but since most residential contractors are not union, we don’t see a correlation. Our wage rates are comparable to the union wage rate.)

 10 reasons to become a certified tile installer

6. Provides Access to Education and Current Installation Information  

Paul McConnell (father of Michael McConnell CTI #1439)

"I started installing in 1980 because a local store lost their installer due to an accident. I was a full-service gas attendant and the flooring store owner appreciated how I took care of my customers - his family members being a few of those. I was thrown on a commercial project as my first install. Thousands of S/F of VCT, 4x4 wall tile and mosaics in a rec center gang shower/locker room over a mud bed.

I learned from ANSI standards, plumbing codes, building codes, manufacturer instructions printed on the bags/boxes, manufacturer reps, manufacturer tech staff, architects, specification details and GC supervisors. I was always hungry for correct information. I continually had close contact with all reps - there were NO classes, NO certifications, NO easy to obtain educational materials, NO free long distance calls to reps on a phone with a rotary dial and a cord that was not detachable - and still no mention of any TCNA Handbook until around 2000 ... Up until TCNA, ANSI, building and plumbing codes were my guidelines to choose the correct materials in completing all my projects.

So - I ONLY learned from MY mistakes. 

With TCNA education and the CTI program, I've found the current installation methods are simplified compilations of ANSI standards, plumbing codes, building codes and manufacture recommendations to come up with proven installation methods.

In summary - read the instructions on what you are using, trust the printed manufacturer methods over what others may say worked for them for over 20 years. Since the CTI program works closely with manufacturers to teach methods best suited to give long-lasting results for the end user, I see only huge benefits to become CTI as soon as possible."


"When we first moved to this area nearly 10 years ago, less than 10% of the new builds and remodels included a tile shower - plastic one piece instead. Hard surface floors were wood, click wood, vinyl or click tile. Not common to see actual tile in new installs. More than 50% of new (I'll guess 90%) that was actually tile were set up to fail, for example, tile directly over OSB.

It took a while, but we've helped educate an entire community into knowing tile really does last - plastic surrounds in million dollar homes are getting less common here.

If I were a CTI, that process would not have taken as long with supporting documentation of methods that work. Now my son is a CTI. Very proud of him wanting to know what is right and what is wrong and how to actually install something for someone that will last them a lifetime.  Education is key. Being a CTI gives you access to current and accurate information."

Brad Denny CTI #1190
Brad Denny CTI #1190

"Consider, too, that other industries require formal education and expensive continuing education to be good at it. If you've ever met an architect or designer that thumbs their nose at CEUs and gaining new knowledge, that individual is usually hard to work with and they run out of the knowledge fuel in their own tanks causing their value in the A&D industry to diminish. We need challenges to keep us sharp. The investment into developing yourself in the tile industry is rather small. If your pricing is right, you use the tools you gain wisely, and look for ways to get sharper...you can easily see a positive ROI."

"Does being certified mean you are not a good installer? No. but taking the time to go get your certification shows your customer that you keep up with the latest methods the industry puts out. It shows how much you care for what you do. It can help you with a way to make more money on your jobs. It puts the dot on the eye on what you do."

John Roberts CTI #1278

"As a Certified Tile Installer, CTI#1278 and a Regional Evaluator for the CTI, it's all about education. I learned a lot about industry standards and the proper way to install tile. It lets my customers know that I care about the right way to install tile. They also put us on a national locator website, that allows customers to search for a CTI. I have gotten nice paying jobs, from the website.

All were failures, so the customers did their due diligence and searched for a qualified installer. It actually pays to become a Certified Installer. The CTEF actually sends out $1250.00 worth of coupons from manufacturers that buy materials.

After spending 36 years in this trade, it's one of the best things I have done to further my career."

7. Teaches You How to Access Tile Installation Standards and Methods 

Dirk Sullivan, proud employer of CTIs:

"Truth is the written test teaches you how to get important information. Don’t have to memorize standards just know how to properly look them up. As well how to properly use standards for your protection. You don’t know what you don’t know. Guys who think they already know everything are almost always humbled by the CTI. 

My company, Hawthorne Tile, uses it as the bare minimum of passing the 3 year journeyman apprentice program. The test is also the greatest time management puzzle there is. Period. It looks easy, it is easy but you have to get it right. Understand and apply movement joints per EJ171, get your coverage correct and finish on time."

Bill Evans CTI #488

"I learned some things from studying for the written test. I am a more knowledgeable and better installer because of that."

 Dirk Sullivan, Scott Carothers and CTI #1000 Vladmir Blashchishchin
Dirk Sullivan and Scott Carothers with Vladmir Blashchishchin CTI #1000 

8. It's the Future of the Tile Industry

Dirk Sullivan

"First thing I ask a new applicant that says they are journeyman level is. “Are you CTI Certified?” If they are not I won’t hire them as a journeyman. Luckily we have more opportunities in our area (Portland, OR) now that we have Regional Evaluators.  This my friends is the future of our industry.  

And.. it’s just an entry level test. The ACT modules take it a step farther and prove mastery of specific disciplines. Without proper training, education, and certifications the future of our industry is screwed."

Ashley Andrews CTI #1367

"The main reason I took the CTI is that I wanted to prove to myself that I could pass it. I heard about how challenging it was and wanted to know for sure I had the skills. 

After passing it I have enjoyed the marketing benefits and have been referred for jobs just because of the certification.

After being certified for over a year my thoughts have now moved to how the CTI can be used more effectively to educated installers but more importantly how can it be used to slow down the amount of hackery that is going on in our industry. Maybe in the future proof of some type of certification will be required to pull a permit or have a shower pan tested. 

I think it is just a beginning into professionalizing the trade much like electricians and plumbers."

"I've seen contracts that require it."

"The short answer is, times are a changing whether you like it or not. You either move forward or get left behind. It’s really that simple. A CTI opens up many opportunities. As Ken (Ballin) said it, it’s up to you what the limits are with a CTI and whatever other feathers you can stick in your cap."

Jeremy Tigano CTI #759

"So, you can know what you're talking about. Apprenticeships are becoming a thing of the past and just because someone is teaching you tile, doesn't mean you're being shown correctly. The things I learned really improved the quality of my work. I also learned the fundamentals that these new shower systems base their standards on."

 Jeremy Tigano CTI #759

9. Avoid Tile Installation Failures 

Paul McConnell 

"Having current updates on installation methods and putting those methods to use, a Certified Tile Installer avoids installation failures. "

Be sure to read How Not to Install Tile on Floors, Walls and in Showers.

As well as these other CTEF Blog article resources:

>> The Tile Installation Experience with Scott Carothers at Coverings

>> Want Credit Card Grout Joints? First Check Tile Industry Standards.

>> Why Do You Need Expansion Joints When Installing Tile?

>> Why You Need to Eliminate Spot Bonding When Installing Ceramic Tile

10. Tile Installation Validation for Open Shop Tile Setters 

Craig Harimon CTI #1255

"I have some thoughts about the CTI.  The CTI is the tile industry's recognized validation of personal competency for nonunion tile setters.   It is not a comprehensive skills test rather it is a test designed to quickly evaluate if an installer possesses various necessary skills needed to successfully prosecute a tile installation...

Its value comes from being a standardized test that is quantifiably evaluated. It has a high failure rate which shows to interested outside parties that the test is legitimate."

What's Your Reaction to These 10 Reasons for Taking the CTI Test?

Let us know by leaving a comment below. Your perspective helps those who haven't taken the test.

Thanks for reading. 

Learn More About Becoming a Certified Tile Installer Click Here to Download the CTI Kit. 
Note: We originally published this article in 2018.