Archive | November, 2014

Fabricator Profile: Ultimate Granite Surfaces

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Fabricator Profile: Ultimate Granite Surfaces

Posted on 26 November 2014 by cradmin

Ultimate Granite Surfaces is one of the kitchen5most successful suppliers of natural stone countertops and tabletops in Western Pennsylvania. Although granite is a specialty, the company fabricates and installs a full range of natural and engineered stone, including quartz surfacing, marble, onyx, soapstone and travertine.

Chris Morrow and his father Dwight have more than 35 years of combined experience in the countertop industry, and they were two of several partners who opened Ultimate Granite Surfaces in 2002. The company, located in the Pittsburgh suburb of Gibsonia, experienced phenomenal growth, and in 2008, Chris and Dwight bought out the other partners to assume full ownership of the business. In addition, they upgraded the facilities by moving into a larger building and purchasing a new CNC machine and laser templating system.

Even though the rest of the country began to experience the effects of the recession at this time, sales at Ultimate Granite Surfaces increased by 10 percent as the company expanded into the retail segment. Later that year, Chris and Dwight hired an outside salesperson, and the following year, they increased productivity with the purchase of a second CNC machine: a Breton Fab Center.

Chris attributes the success of Ultimate Granite Surfaces to honesty and a balance of commercial and residential customers. He prides himself on the fact that if he or anyone in his company makes a promise to a customer, they always carry through with it.

Although Chris would like to handle a greater volume of business in the future, he has no desire “to become a huge fabrication shop.” He would prefer to stay a smaller fabricator so that he can continue to perform high-end, custom work. His primary goals are becoming better at what he does and increasing efficiency.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: Ultimate Granite Surfaces

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SLABlite Backlighting Installation

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SLABlite Backlighting Installation

Posted on 25 November 2014 by cradmin

We recently became aware of this excellent video depicting the installation of SLABlite backlighting panels from Tylerco. Backlighting countertops may be a growing trend in kitchen countertops, but videos detailing installation are still rare.

This particular video was produced by a homeowner rather than a professional contractor, and the installation of this backlit countertop was simply his Saturday afternoon project. John Seaman, the creator of the video, had no prior experience with the SLABlite product, and the video documentation of his first experience shows just how easy it is to install. As his countertop surface, he chose a translucent, natural-quartz material manufactured in Brazil known as Lumix, and the result of his handiwork speaks for itself.

If a layman can perform the work, there is little doubt that a countertop professional can have stellar results.

For further information about the increasingly popular SLABlight backlighting panels and to download a SLABlite Quick-Start Guide, visit the Tylerco website.

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Integra Adhesives Launches Color Matching SmartPhone App

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Integra Adhesives Launches Color Matching SmartPhone App

Posted on 20 November 2014 by cradmin

integraapp Integra Adhesives launched a Smartphone App for iOS and Android that is a reference tool to select appropriate adhesive colors from Integra. It allows fabricators to pull the company’s entire collection of color reference charts, whether online or off-line, for quick reference anytime, anywhere. It also shows images of more than 200 natural stone colors, matched with Integra Natural stone collection. Additionally, itbrings up a visual guide to the company’s 300 Surface Bonder Xi colors, allowing fabricators to not only clearly see what each color looks like, but also what are its closest similar colors.

The new app also features an Adhesive Calculator that allows fabricators to determine the required amount of adhesive for a specific job, based on linear feet of lamination, miter or deck seam, for various material thicknesses. It offers videos, product specifications and technical references. The app can be downloaded for free in the Apple App Store or in Google Play by searching for “Integra Adhesives.” A link to the app is also available on the company’s website.

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Coverings Calls for Submissions for 2015 Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards

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Coverings Calls for Submissions for 2015 Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards

Posted on 19 November 2014 by cradmin

Coverings has called for submissions to its 2015 Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards, honoring the most superior designs and installations of tile and stone. Available to architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers and installers, the CID Awards celebrate creativity and technical prowess in the use of tile and stone in residential, commercial, international and sustainable projects. Sponsored by TileLetter and Contemporary Stone & Tile Design, the program will honor winning projects at Coverings 2015, which will be held April 14-17, 2015, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

The winning projects will be announced and celebrated in a revamped ceremony, now called the CID Awards & Opening Night Celebration, which will take place at Coverings the first evening of the show, April 14 at 5:30 PM. The evening will include a presentation of the winners, along with a live showcase of the projects and a cocktail reception — allowing attendees to interact directly with the winners and learn more about the projects first-hand. The CID Awards & Opening Night Celebration is free and open to all attendees.

“The CID Awards program shines a spotlight on the remarkable talent in the tile and stone industry — these are the trailblazers and visionaries exhibiting the highest levels of creativity, craftsmanship and outstanding use of materials,” said Karin Fendrich, Coverings show director. “With more than 100 outstanding entries in 2014, this program has gained significant momentum, and reflects tile and stone’s presence in today’s impressive designs and installations.”

An independent panel of judges will evaluate submissions based on execution and installation, original usage and overall design and purpose, with special recognition given to those projects exemplifying stunning tile and stone. The Grand Prize winners of the Residential and Commercial categories will each receive $2,000 and a one night’s hotel stay in Orlando. Additional cash prizes will be awarded in each category. Winners must be present at the CID Awards & Opening Night Celebration. If winners are unable to attend, the project will be disqualified with a new winner awarded — with the exception of international projects.

Multiple entries are accepted and encouraged and there is no fee to enter. New this year, entries will be accepted digitally only via an easy-to-use online portal. For further details on the program and to submit a project, go to coverings.com/CID. Those interested may also register to attend Coverings 2015 for free by clicking here.

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MIA Fabricator Benchmarking Survey Deadline Extended

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MIA Fabricator Benchmarking Survey Deadline Extended

Posted on 18 November 2014 by cradmin

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has extended the deadline for participating in its annual Fabricator Benchmarking Survey. The new deadline to participate is December 15, and those interested may get more information or participate in the survey HERE. Participants will receive financial benchmarks and metrics for their business in comparison with other fabricators, and all information will remain anonymous. Fabricators completing the survey will also be entered into a drawing for the following prizes: a Moxie® Showerhead+Wireless Speaker by Kohler; a hand grinder and set of pads from Granite City Tool; $250 in MIA bookstore credit; a TENAX variety pack;  a WEHA variety pack; and a. $100 Visa gift card. The organization encourages all fabricators of granite, natural stone and quartz surfacing to participate. The International Surface Fabricators Association (ISFA) has also endorsed participation in the survey.

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Is the Granite Countertop Boom at an End?

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Is the Granite Countertop Boom at an End?

Posted on 17 November 2014 by cradmin

While both fabricators and contractors are still reporting robust sales of granite countertops, several media outlets say that granite may be on the way out. While I am not certainly not sold on this prediction, if true, it could mean declines in sales for fabricators dealing solely or primarily in granite, but those who offer a variety of countertop materials may simply see a shuffle in the origin of their revenue.

Benefits of Granite

One article published in News & Observer, Living Space: Are granite counters on the way out? is quick to point out that nearly everyone who already owns granite countertops love them because they are durable and visually appealing, but hold some reservations because they require some degree of maintenance. Another reason why people choose granite according to the article is that it is a natural product made of natural minerals instead of a material developed in a laboratory.

Another article that has an identical name but was published by HowStuffWorks also begins with a section on the benefits of granite. According to this article, granite is more durable, heat resistant and scratch resistant than many of its counterparts, but sales have been declining because of a limited color selection and price. Today, however, granite countertops can be found in a wide variety of unique colors and patterns.

Finally, the price of granite has fallen substantially over the past two decades. While high-quality granite and installation may still carry a high price tag, entry-level granite is now available at prices that allow nearly any homeowner to enter the market.

Is Something Driving People Away From Granite?

The 2012 Kitchen & Bath Style Report published by the National Kitchen and Bath Association states that granite use in kitchens dropped to 87 percent from 91 percent in 2011, but it held steady at 87 percent in the 2013 report. Another survey conducted by The Marble Institute found that 75 percent of homeowners intending to remodel their kitchens in 2012 were planning on installing granite countertops.

These surveys show that granite remains a popular choice, and very little new data shows any sign of a downturn, yet the Huffington Post Home Advisor states that designers are dropping natural stone in favor of six other materials that are less expensive, not as heavy and have greater color variety. In this piece, the author harshly urges homeowners not to “waste your kitchen remodel investment on this fading material.”

In the same vein, Today Home claims that “granite is great,” but provides a list of “eight kitchen counter options to make you forget granite.”

Alternatives to Granite

Several alternatives have been named as rising stars and are reportedly filling the gap left in the alleged decline of granite countertops. Following are few of the most popular and the reasons claimed as to why they may be moving up in the countertop market:

Quartz

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Quartz has become granite’s top rival and has been growing dramatically. It is available in a variety of colors and patterns, and it doesn’t need to be sealed or treated.

Solid Surface

Solid surface does an excellent job of mimicking natural stone and has many other color options, and in many cases it requires less maintenance than granite. It can also be less expensive than higher-end granites.

Marble

Even though marble is gaining in popularity and is very attractive, it is not resistant to staining and scratching like granite is.

Soapstone

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Soapstone is available in a limited range of colors and may become easily scratched or nicked by sharp objects, but it is stain and heat resistant.

Butcher Block

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Walnut, maple, bamboo, oak and cherry butcher block countertops are growing in popularity because they are seen by many as a green, recyclable alternative to granite.

Glass

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Glass can resist high temperatures without scorching, does not stain and it is 100 percent non-porous. Glass countertops are increasingly becoming viewed as a versatile alternative.

Concrete

New innovations in concrete manufacturing and fabrication are making this material more popular for kitchen countertops each year.

Waiting for the Results

The latest results on where granite stands after the 2014 calendar year have yet to be gathered, but if the media reports show even a sliver of truth, then granite countertop sales may have fallen. However, I’m not sure if  I would place any wagers on that at this point. I believe the jury is still out. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether granite can maintain its lead in the industry or if quartz and other surfacing materials will make gains on its top position. 

I’d love to hear from some of you as to whether you have seen any decline in granite sales and/or migration to other products, or if you believe it is all hype. Post a reply in the comment section below or email us at info@countertopresource.com.

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How Does Your Website Make Me Feel?

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How Does Your Website Make Me Feel?

Posted on 14 November 2014 by cradmin

by Phillipa Gamse

When people think about the Internet, they think about technology. When people hear that I am a website strategy expert, they see me as a “techy type.”

But for me, the most intriguing aspect of online business isn’t about the technology. It’s about human connections and how you can create these in a virtual environment.

It’s commonly understood that “people buy emotionally, not intellectually.” Even when people think they’re making a rational decision, powerful subconscious factors come into play. To sell effectively, we’re told to anticipate our customers’ needs, to demonstrate that we “feel their pain” and to respond to clues in their body language and tone of voice.

In the real world we do this very well. And we know that if we can have a direct, in-person conversation, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll close the sale or keep a happy customer.

For the online visitor, your website is the next best thing to that in-person conversation with you, your colleagues or employees. And because so many people are researching products and services on the Web, it’s critical that your site has maximum impact in persuading them to take the next step with you.

So how does your website connect emotionally with your visitors? Do they feel listened to, understood and appreciated by your Internet presence? Are you instinctively meeting their real needs? Do your existing customers feel supported and valued when interacting with you online?

Or are you failing to evoke the crucial emotional responses which can significantly enhance your response rates, sales and ongoing return on your Web investment?

The Critical Emotions for Website Success

I’ve been working with client Web strategies in a wide range of industries since 1995. Based on this experience, I’ve identified some key emotions that you need to evoke in your online visitors to create and sustain a profitable relationship.

How well your website does this can have a major effect on the visceral, instinctive reactions of your visitors and their propensity to buy from or connect with you.

In total, I have 20 criteria for emotional connectedness that I suggest for any website. That’s too many to discuss in this article, but let’s look at a few highlights:

Do I Feel Recognized?
When we first meet in a business setting, we’re introduced or we introduce ourselves with some statement about what we do and why we should connect with each other.

When we talk with customers or prospects, it’s important to show very quickly that we understand their issues and needs and that we have ideas and solutions to address these.

The most important task for your home page is to accomplish this initial introduction. You’ve heard the 10-second rule about how long a visitor will stay on a site that doesn’t engage them.

So, does your home page really tell me what you do? Does it speak to me in specific terms that make very clear what services you provide and what type of customers or clients you work with? Does it use language that I’ll understand even if I don’t know the jargon of your industry or specialization?

Sounds Simple?
There are astounding numbers of websites that fail to provide basic information on the home page.

If your goal is to get the customer to visit your store, does your home page clearly show your location, and how to get there? Every time you force the visitor to make a decision, such as, “Do I click on the Contact Us page to find their address?” you open up the possibility that they’ll make the wrong choice (from your viewpoint), or worse still, they’ll just leave.

And is it clear to me whether you can – or would want to – help me? Are you geared towards commercial “bulk” buyers or consumers or both? Do you operate regionally or only in your immediate location? Will your visitors know what you mean by generic terms or should you be more specific as to what you offer?

Do I Feel Engaged?
As we continue our real-world conversation, we start to find common points of interest, whether personal or professional. We begin to feel that we can relate with each other, and this helps to build our business relationship.

So your website has to make the visitor feel drawn in – that they want to know more about your business, your products and your services – but again, from the viewpoint of their needs and interests. And you have to give the visitor a clear sense that you want to find those points of connection and to learn more about them.

If the visitor doesn’t feel invited in, if they feel left to themselves to find their way around – if they’re overwhelmed, confused, or simply not interested in your site, they’ll leave.

Does your site present a bewildering array of manufacturers, products or options without any guidance as to selecting from these? Think about the conversation that you’d have with a customer in your store or on the phone. You’d find out what they were looking for, and then, you’d ask a number of questions to help them find the right solution for their needs.

So how can you mirror this process online? You could offer a “Help Me” page that guides visitors through some Frequently Asked Questions or other choices and provides links to recommended products based on their answers. You could incorporate an interactive chat facility with a customer service agent during office hours or access to a searchable knowledge base.

Do I Feel Convinced?
If the visitor is seeing your business for the first time, they need to be comfortable that you are who you say you are and that you can deliver what you promise.

One of the most important elements in establishing this part of the connection is to show the “faces” of your business. Have you noticed how many websites don’t name any of their owners or the people that customers will interact with? It’s much easier to have a conversation when I know who I’m talking to!

Customer testimonials and other third-party endorsements are critical elements in establishing trust – they say far more about you than your own marketing statements. How many sites have we all seen that trumpet “nationally recognized” or “premier provider”? Prove it!

Include client quotes and success stories right across your site where they’re front and center as visitors are engaged in your content. If you win an award, tell the visitor what that means for them in terms of how you were evaluated.

Do I Feel Motivated?
Towards the end of our real-world conversation, we’ll hopefully close a sale, or we’ll talk about some next steps or we might say, “Let’s stay in touch.” To do that with our online visitor, we need to persuade them to buy something or to tell us who they are and give us permission to reconnect with them.

Too many Web pages tail off with no call to action or directions about where to go next. If you don’t issue a clear invitation, you again leave it to the visitor to work out what to do – and you run a big risk of losing them.

So at every point on every page where the visitor might be thinking “Tell me more” or “How do I get this?” provide a clickable link to the next step, to your shopping cart, to your newsletter subscription page or to whatever you want them to do. Don’t wait until the end of the page – they may never get there! Look for the emotional “tipping points” on every page where they’re ready to talk more with you and grab them in the moment!

Diluting the Connection

Of course, it’s all too easy to undo all the good feelings that we create by frustrating or annoying the visitor or simply by giving them a dead end.

One of my favorite bugbears is the site search engine that allows me to enter my query and then tells me “No results found. Please try again with different search terms.”

How is that supposed to make me feel? What was wrong with my keywords or my parameters if the search page allowed me to select them? Am I being stupid? Or do you really not want to help me?

Your visitor is clearly looking for something, and has taken a step towards connecting with you. So how about a results page that lets them know that you can’t immediately answer their question, but offer a link to your contact form so that they can send a question or some tips or suggestions on how to find more information.

The ultimate customer service feature is an opportunity to interact with a live assistant – if your site offers this utility, the search results page is a perfect place to maximize its visibility.

So How “Emotionally Connected” Is Your Website?
I hope that I’ve sparked your curiosity enough to take a fresh look at your website.

Think about specifically why visitors are coming to your site, what might be on their minds and review your copy and navigation accordingly. Think about new customers and existing ones, employees, media – everyone who might have a reason to visit. Are you doing everything that you can to create an “emotionally connected” experience for everyone?

The right mix will gain you significantly higher time spent on your site, more calls from pre-qualified leads, more signed contracts, happier repeat customers, attention from new markets, offers of strategic alliances and collaborations and insights into creating successful new products and services.

About the Author

Philippa Gamse helps her clients develop e-business strategies and maximize their use of technology to gain sustainable competitive edge. She has extensive corporate experience both in Europe and the U.S., ideally positioning her to interpret our increasingly global market place. She brings to her clients and audiences a continuously growing body of knowledge about emerging technologies, their integration with existing “real-world” strategies, and their effect on marketing, public relations and customer service techniques.

Copyright© Philippa Gamse. All right reserved. For information contact FrogPond at email susie@FrogPond.com.

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StoneTalk Episode 4: Russ Berry

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StoneTalk Episode 4: Russ Berry

Posted on 13 November 2014 by cradmin

In this episode of StoneTalk, produced by Moraware, host Patrick Foley chats with Russ Berry, President of ASST, a commercial fabricator and manufacturer based in Pennsylvania. Not only is Berry a past president of ISFA, his company is know for creating beautiful, sculptural surfaces for its customers. Berry also has a Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture and a reputation for hiring great people.

Listen to this episode to learn:

  • How selling services can lead to selling products
  • The role of craftsmanship in artistry
  • How different customer types have different expectations for product lifespan
  • Why commercial jobs require even more efficiency than residential
  • How designers lead the market in material selection

 

A transcript of this episode is available Here.

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Blu Bathworks Hires New Director of Market Development

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Blu Bathworks Hires New Director of Market Development

Posted on 12 November 2014 by cradmin

HOUZER Ken Hans Houzer photoBlu Bathworks, a Canadian designer and manufacturer of bathroom sinks and other bath products and accessories, has hired Ken Hans as its director of market development. Hans, who has worked in the kitchen and bath industry for more than 15 years, with premium brands like Toto, Dornbarcht and Gebrit, will be responsible for further raising the company’s profile in new and existing markets across North America. “We are very excited about Ken’s commitment to the brand and are confident that this new appointment will drive sales for the brand and our retailers and further raise Blu’s profile,” said Michael Gottschalk, the designer who founded Blu Bathworks and is president of the company.

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Domain Industries Offers 5 New Santa Fe Stone Sink Models

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Domain Industries Offers 5 New Santa Fe Stone Sink Models

Posted on 11 November 2014 by cradmin

Domain Santa Fe Edges vessel sinkDomain Industries, Inc., introduced five new stone sink models to its Santa Fe collection of handcrafted stone sinks. The new models, which meld modern design aesthetics with functionality, include several new stone types, including Blue Stone limestone, Guangxi White marble and Galaga Beige marble. These different stone options give the new sinks one-of-a-kind design characteristics all while showcasing a handcrafted look and feel. The new models include: Revolution, Lareve, Tureen, Charleston and Edges. These vessel-mount style sinks are constructed with generous bowl depths and sizes that create a dramatic feel while accommodating various water flow requirements. Part of the new lineup is the “Edges” model (pictured here), which is constructed from Galaga Beige marble and has a base of chiseled and ribbed grooves around the exterior of the sink.

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