• Rachel

I Am Thrilled to Announce...

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

I am officially a Certified Tile Installer!

When I first began looking into starting a tile installation business, I came across the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). In addition to offering some of the only training available in the U.S., they hold a certified tile examination. To earn the certification, you first take a written test that covers industry standards, methods, and specifications. You then have a nine hour hands-on portion where your skills are closely evaluated. It is an extremely intense nine hours with a 42% pass rate for the cumulative test.

CTEF Training Courses in Pendleton, SC

Holding this certification would communicate to my clients that I am committed to providing quality tile work and growing my business. I immediately made the goal to earn my CTI (Certified Tile Installer).

There were additional motivating factors as well. I have only been in this industry for two years, and installing full-time for one. With very few women in this industry, people automatically assume I am either a designer, office manager, or work in a show room. The majority of people I’ve interacted with are extremely supportive, but there are certainly some that do not take me seriously. I thought that becoming a CTI would help people see me for the quality of my work rather than my gender.

So I started the process to prepare. Some tilers say it’s better to not prepare, just go into the test like it’s any job. But with my personality I wanted to be sure I was clear on all testing parameters and expectations; I had to know exactly what to expect.

I began by registering for a week long training at CTEF headquarters in South Carolina. The training is an extensive introduction and hands on application for tile and industry standards. It also allowed me to pick the brain of Scott Carothers, an extremely knowledgeable figure in the tile community. Coming from the business world and not having any formal training, I learned skills and information that will help me tremendously as I continue this career with tile. I also learned that there were only six female CTI's out of about 1,550. Six.

From there I began studying for the written portion of the CTI exam. Perhaps over studying, because that’s just who I am. I took the test the first day the kids went back to school so I would have a calm and quiet environment, and felt I did fairly well. One down, one to go.

My anxiety over the hands-on test steadily grew as the weeks went by. People who have taken the test openly share about it’s difficulty. Many, many excellent tile setters have failed. I began to think that maybe I needed more time, maybe I needed to study under a well seasoned setter first. I talked quite a bit with a friend and mentor who was also taking the test, it helped for me to walk through my thoughts and ask her questions. I made a plan, detailing out my approach step-by-step. I realized halfway through the hands-on test that I hadn’t even looked at my plan. I had spent so much time thinking my way through that I didn’t need to refer to it.

The calm before the storm

On the actual morning of the test I was quite calm. It had been a chaotic week already, staying busy with work and lots of home-improvement projects happening on my own home. I didn’t have much time to be nervous, until I got to the testing site Saturday morning.

As I was looking over the tools I had set up the night before, I had to remind myself to breathe. Nine hours does seem like a long time, but you would be amazed at how fast it goes. The added pressure of having a time constraint works well to heighten the stress.

The test started off smoothly, but then I made a few avoidable mistakes. I was definitely over analyzing. By the time I finished the floor layout and made my cuts, I was back on schedule. That is until the clock approached 3 PM. The test ended at four and I hadn’t started grouting. That may be the fastest I’ve ever cleaned a job to prep for grout.

At 3:50 pm I announced I was done (required to declare it before 4pm). I hadn't left my testing module the entire day.

When it was my turn for the evaluation I started coming down from the adrenaline that had kept me going all day. I don't care who you are, if you are wholly invested in this certification, it gets emotional. As the evaluator began going through each item, I could feel myself breaking down. Not because I could see him marking low points, but because it was over and I could see the many flaws I would never leave in a client's home. So many items I wish I had taken more time on. But if I had, would I have finished in time?.

This business is important to me. I've changed my whole work and family life to pursue it. I am committed. It's my hope that when clients hire me, knowing I am a Certified Tile Installer, they can see my drive, my love for the work, and my commitment to the industry as well as to their personal projects I'll have the pleasure of working on.

Now there are 8 female CTIs. Two more in the right direction. Great job Paige Pomerene! I know I couldn't have grown this much so quickly without you!

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