Archive | August, 2015

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Cosentino Opens New Center in Tel Aviv, Israel

Posted on 27 August 2015 by cradmin

Cosentino-Israel-opening-ceremonyCosentino Group opened a new Cosentino Center in the city of Tel Aviv, Israel, designed to centralize the service for and distribution of its products for the whole country. The investment made by the Spanish multinational for this first phase that has been set up has reached 2 million Euros, destined mainly for the facility in the Petah Tikva district (Tel Aviv). The Center has a total floor area of ​​1,800 sq. meters for warehousing and offices, of which 250 sq. meters are devoted to the showroom and exhibition of products and design solutions. The facility can store up to 2,500 slabs.

Cosentino’s operation in this new market is headed by Itay Shimony, area manager for Cosentino Israel, and will, for the time being, lead an initial team of eight people who will be responsible for meeting the needs of the Israeli market. The inauguration of the center was attended by Fernando Carderera, Spanish Ambassador to Israel, as well as the Embassy’s Trade Office Delegate, ​​Emilio López Viñuela. The multinational was represented at the event by Eduardo Alfonso Martínez-Cosentino, global sales director of Cosentino Group among others.

“Following Turkey last year, Israel represents a new qualitative leap in the region of the Middle East for our expansion strategy based on establishing ourselves with our own assets,” said Martínez-Cosentino. “Moreover, our presence in Israel is particularly significant for us as it was one of the first markets where we distributed Silestone outside Spain in the beginning, thanks largely to the support of the Shimony family”.

Today, Cosentino Group has over 90 Centers worldwide and distributes its products in more than 80 countries, with operations based on its own assets in 26 of them, including the Israeli market.

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Fabricator Profile: Craftmark Solid Surfaces’ Common-Sense Approach

Posted on 26 August 2015 by cradmin

downloadCraftmark Solid Surfaces, headquartered in Norcross, Ga., just outside of Atlanta, built its success by taking a common-sense approach to business. After an 80 percent reduction in construction jobs during the recent recession, Larry Pulliam, president of the company, knew drastic measures would be required to make it through the economic downturn. Pulliam had been saving a good deal of profit in case of emergencies, and he was able to use it to stay afloat.

In addition to dipping into its emergency funds, Craftmark Solid Surfaces had to be drastically downsized, but all key workers were retained and cross-trained to perform multiple jobs. The company also shifted research and development into overdrive in order to generate demand by producing new products.

Craftmark Solid Surfaces was founded in 1987 as a subsidiary of AGCO, Inc. AGCO had been around since 1979 as a manufacturer of cultured marble vanity tops but later expanded into cultured marble tubs and showers. In 1985, the company became the first manufacturer of cultured marble in the Southeastern U.S. to become fully automated, and the following year, AGCO expanded again as a manufacturer and supplier of a new solid surface product: Diamonite.

Craftmark Solid Surfaces was formed to fabricate AGCO’s Diamonite solid surface, and over the next 12 years, it became one of the most popular brands in the Atlanta area. In 2000, Craftwork Solid Surfaces began fabricating granite and marble, and two years later, quartz fabrication began.

Today, Craftmark Solid Surfaces is one of the three companies located in AGCO’s 70,000-sq.-ft. headquarters, and it has expanded its market to include builders in all 15 Atlanta-area counties and parts of South Carolina.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: Craftmark Solid Surfaces

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BLANCO Adds New Color to Fireclay CERANA Sinks

Posted on 25 August 2015 by cradmin

Blanco Cerana BiscuitBLANCO added ‘Biscuit’ to its color offerings of the Fireclay CERANA sink. CERANA offers a reversible design and two different corner styles to feature either a contemporary contoured or a traditional rounded apron front.  According to the company, the sink is made of natural material that is fired at more than 2,100 degrees F. to make it resistant to acid, chips, discoloration, heat and shock. The sinks are available in a bar bowl style that measures 18-7/8 in. and two reversible apron front single-bowl styles that measure 30 in. and 33 in.

You may also be interested in this article about Laufen expanding its bathroom sink line.

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New Striata Sustainable Surfacing Panels from TorZo

Posted on 24 August 2015 by cradmin

Striata small imageStriata and Striata Fusion architectural panels are two new products that TorZo added to its offerings. The Striata panels are manufactured using 100 percent Northwest Douglas Fir structural beams that are responsibly harvested and  SFI-certified. The aesthetics of the wood is changed as it is infused with colored acrylic that is also designed to increase durability. Striata is also available in an ‘Un-infused’ version. The eight color-infused options available are: Amethyst, Cocoa, Copper, Natural, Onyx,  Ruby, Sapphire and Turquoise.  According to the company, the panels are suitable for high-traffic and demanding installations, such as countertops. They come in thicknesses ranging from ¼ in. to ¾ in. and sizes of 48- by 96-in.; 47- by 95- in.; and 36- by 96- in.

You may also be interested in this article on Antolini’s Precioustone surfacing material.

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Has Caesarstone Shot Itself in the Foot by Ignoring Fabricators?

Posted on 21 August 2015 by cradmin

combine_imagesCaesarstone has been making big news in the world of finance after its stock plummeted by more than 25 percent this month, most of which occurred on two key days: August 5 and August 19. This has left many professionals in the countertop industry, myself included, wondering whether the company’s aloof business model, which practically ignores fabricators roles in the sales equation, is ultimately to blame.

Caesarstone was founded in 1987, is based in Israel and has a large U.S. division headquartered in Van Nuys, Calif. It is known as one of the pioneers of quartz surfacing, putting quartz aggregate through the patented Bretonstone process. It is the only publicly-traded stock for a company exclusively dealing in quartz surfacing. Stock in the corporation is  traded on the NASDAQ as Caesarstone Sdot-Yam Ltd. (CSTE).

Overall, the last year seems to have been one of the company’s best to date. In May, the company opened its first quartz surfacing manufacturing plant in the U.S. just outside of Savannah, Ga., and it includes some of the most advanced technology available for producing engineered stone, as well as a showroom/”community center” for displays, events and meetings. Much of the company’s recent success, however, is attributed to a 2013 deal in which Caesarstone partnered with Ikea US as the exclusive supplier of non-laminate countertops in its retail stores.

Second Quarter Financials Released

On July 31, 2015, Caesarstone stock hit an all-time high when it closed at about $72 per share after remaining in the $60s range for most of the year. However, the company released its Q2 2015 financial statements on Aug. 5. By the time the market opened in the United States, the stock had already dropped by more than 6 points, and at the end of the day, it was down by more than 25 percent at 52.57 with 3.6 million shares changing hands. After another heavy day of trading on August 6, the stock closed even lower at 49.59.

On the surface, the results of the Q2 2015 financial report do not seem too bad:

  • Revenue increased by 9.9 percent to a new high of $127.5 million.
  • S. revenue increased by 19.2 percent to $57.1 million.
  • Diluted earnings per share (EPS) rose by 27.5 percent to $0.65.

“We are pleased to report another quarter of solid financial results,” said Caesarstone CEO Yosef Shiran upon release of the Q2 financials. “Each of our major markets is healthy, even with the headwinds from currency exchange rates, and continues to present significant opportunities. We look forward to capturing those opportunities to continue driving long-term growth and value for our shareholders.”

A snapshot of Caesarstone stock performance over the last 30 days

A snapshot of Caesarstone stock performance over the last 30 days. Click this image to see a larger, more readable version.

After the stock price plummeted, financial analysts pointed out that top-line results were much lower than expected. Even though revenue increased to $127.5 million, investors were expecting it to be closer to $134.2 million, and management had cut revenue guidance by $20 million to a maximum of $505 million while analysts had projected the figure to be $521.5 million. Travis Hoium of the well-known Motley Fool stock-centric media outlet explained the drop in stock price to be a result of expectations getting ahead of performance, claiming there is “nothing to panic about for long-term investors.”

Caesarstone Under Attack

In the two weeks that followed, Caestarstone stock remained stuck in the low 50s, but on August 19, a prominent market-research firm, Spruce Point Capital Management, LLC., issued a scathing 54-page report accusing the company of manufacturing substandard products, lying about the quality of its quartz countertops and propping itself up on an unstable business model.

The report also states that it is Spruce Point’s belief that Caesarstone will continue to fall short of its goals to grow sales by 15 percent and maintain its share of the market among the rising competition in the quartz surfacing industry. The firm also notes that Caesarstone’s controlling shareholder has reduced its ownership from 79 percent to 32.6 percent.

Spruce Point went even further in its analysis by stating that it estimates the true value of Caesarstone stock to be in the range of $15 per share, which is 79 percent lower than its July 31 high. According to Spruce Point, the firm had Caesarstone quartz surfacing independently analyzed, and it claims the product contains less quartz than advertised, so rather than demanding a premium price, the company should be selling at a discount.

Shortly after this report was released, Caesarstone stock plummeted again, this time to $39.77, the lowest it has been since October 2013. By the end of the day, however, it had regained a couple of points to close at $44.61.

Caesarstone Issues Weak Response

Caesarstone responded to the attack the following day, stating that the Spruce Point report is misleading, includes inaccuracies and draws false conclusions.

“We stand by all of our previous public statements, regulatory filings and presentations,” said Shiran. “We are proud of the honesty and integrity with which we have operated our business and categorically reject any suggestion to the contrary.”

“We are a strong company with a powerful brand that produces high-quality and innovative products through an efficient operation and state-of-the-art infrastructure,” Shiran continued. “This has enabled us to consistently produce excellent business and financial results and we believe in the Company’s capability to continue to do so.”

Fabricators Influence Countertop Selection

We here at believe that Caesarstone may have pushed itself off a cliff by limiting fabricators’ roles in its business model. The company has, so far, relied heavily on celebrity endorsements and its exclusive contract with Ikea. While the company does work with spec reps, architects and designers, some claim it has seemed to largely ignore the fabricator.

Caesarstone’s largest competitors, Cosentino, DuPont and (dare I say Cambria, who seems to be losing favor of some fabricators as well for opening its own shops that compete with former customers), all work closely with fabricators. And according to the results of our 2015 Countertop Survey, the furthest reaching of its kind that we are aware of, our audience agrees that fabricators are influential in the decision-making process.

Even though we have yet to fully analyze and release results from our recent industry survey that received more than 500 responses, we thought one question was pertinent enough to share here. We asked, “How much influence do you feel fabricators have over what materials their customers choose for their countertop purchases.” Respondents had this to say:

  • 3.4 percent said fabricators just sell customers what they ask for.
  • 14.1 percent said fabricators have a little influence over what countertop materials their customers buy but mostly just sell them what they ask for.
  • 28.9 percent said the influence of a fabricator can sometimes sway what countertop material is used.
  • 26.2 percent said the influence of a fabricator can often sway what countertop material is selected by a customer.
  • 26.5 percent said fabricators have great influence over what countertop materials a customer chooses.
  • 1 percent said customers will almost always choose the material that the fabricator suggests.

According to these results, nearly 83 percent of respondents believe that fabricators are important to the decision-making process when it comes to material selection. Again, our opinion as an organization joins others that believe ignoring this may be adversely affecting Caesarstone, and any other company who fails to take the role of the fabricator into account. However, we can’t help to believe that it is also a little something more, as we have discovered the company has an abysmal F rating with the Better Business Bureau, an organization most companies do all they can to appease.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below, or drop me a line at [email protected]

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Zinc Countertop Reactions with Food

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Zinc Countertop Reactions with Food

Posted on 20 August 2015 by cradmin

Metal countertops have come on the scene, and they have moved well beyond the stainless steel you may think of in a commercial kitchen, such as a restaurant. Nowadays both copper and zinc have made their way into the mix. This video, produced by Mio Metals, takes a look at what happens to zinc countertops when various food items are exposed to them. As is also the case with copper countertops, zinc countertops are known to take on a “patina” of stains, etching, dents, etc. over time that lovers of the product (and fabricators of it) like to think of as character. Certainly no two countertops made of this material are alike and in most cases, the countertops can be restored somewhat to their original look by a sound polishing. However, it seems few owners mind the ever-changing look and go through the work of heavy polishing. In this video, wine, lemon juice and other various foods are placed on a zinc test kitchen countertop just to see their effect.

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Respiratory Protection Part 2: Countertop Fabrication and Silica Dust Exposure

Posted on 19 August 2015 by cradmin

silica-dust Last month, we took a look at general respiratory protection in the countertop fabrication industry, and this month, we expand on that topic by exploring silica dust exposure and silicosis. Silica dust is the number one airborne contaminant in countertop fabrication shops, and it may exist anywhere stone, quartz surfacing or concrete slabs are being cut.

Silica has recently become a hot topic among countertop fabricators since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a proposal to decrease the allowable limits for silica exposure. Although this proposed rule change has caused quite a stir in the industry and very few fabricators agree with it, the proposal has already had an impact by raising awareness of the issue.

Silicosis Cases Decline but Still Common

The problem with excessive exposure to silica dust is that it can accumulate in the lungs and cause a potentially fatal chronic disease known as silicosis. Although cases of silicosis have fallen and the mortality rate from the disease has decreased over the past 50 years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that approximately 100 people die in the U.S. every year from complications associated with the disease, and from 2011 to 2013, 12 of those people were under 45 years of age.

In addition, 2015 marks the first time a countertop fabricator in the U.S. has been diagnosed with silicosis, joining the ranks of Italy, Spain and Israel. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the man was exposed to silica dust from quartz surfacing for 10 years. Quartz countertops are 70 to 90 percent crystalline silica, and with the material’s surge in popularity, excessive exposure must be addressed in fabrication shops. However, it is important to note that silica is also present in nearly all types of natural stone, including granite and soapstone, and concrete.

Protecting Employees and Ourselves

OSHA3768aCountertop fabricators can take several steps to control silica levels in their shops and limit exposure to workers. The first step in the process is monitor the air in order to determine just how much silica dust is present. This will not only help protect the health of anyone present but will also help you stay in compliance with federal and state regulations. If levels above what is permissible are found, employers are mandated to take corrective action to reduce worker exposure.

The methods that can be used to reduce silica exposure fall into three categories: engineering controls, work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE). Each of these categories should be considered part of a hierarchy. If engineering controls do not sufficiently lower silica levels, changes in work practices must be attempted, and if levels are still too high, employees in the area must be fit for and provided with appropriate PPE.

Engineering Controls

  • Employ water-spraying systems to keep dust from becoming airborne.
  • Use remote-controlled saws and other tools to keep people out of the exposure zones.
  • Modify handheld grinders to deliver water to the point of contact.
  • Replace dry grinders with wet-edge routers.
  • Use tools under a shroud and vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Install local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems.
  • Use combinations of the above.

Work Practices

  • When cleaning, use HEPA vacuums or wet sweepers rather than dry sweepers or compressed air.
  • Replace filters frequently.
  • Increase flow on water systems.
  • Wet slabs before fabricating.

When cutting, grinding and polishing countertops onsite, control silica dust exposure by performing as much work as possible under controlled shop conditions, and use LEV systems when wet methods are impractical. In addition, try to use tools equipped with dust shrouds, and clean up all dust with a HEPA-filtered vacuum as soon as possible.

Respiratory Protection

hydfrac_hazalert_12When engineering controls and work practices have failed to lower silica dust levels, employers are required to provide respirator protection to employees, but this means much more than simply making PPE available. Employers are required to create a respiratory protection program that meets the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). Such programs include the following requirements:

  • hydfrac_hazalert_11Selecting the proper respirators
  • Fit-testing employees for respirators
  • Completing medical evaluations for all employees required to wear respirators
  • Training employees how to properly use respirators
  • Observing that employees are using and maintaining respirators properly

When respirators are required to be worn in areas with high levels of silica dust, at minimum, the PPE must be a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator. When silica levels are higher than 10 times the limit, half-face respirators may not be used. Instead, you must use respirators that offer more protection, such as full-face respirators, which are effective in environments that are 50 times higher than the current federal exposure level. Another option is to purchase powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), which are more comfortable and easier on the body than pressure-demand respirators are.

For Further Information

Further information on silica dust exposure and silicosis can be found in a variety of ways. A great deal of current information is available online, and you may also tap into other resources, including state and federal OSHA offices, which provide free consultation services for small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs). You can also contact trade organization, such as the Marble Institute of America (MIA), which has been recognized by OSHA for making comprehensive training resources available.

A few of the helpful materials you can access online are as follows:

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Groves Inc. Introduces New Heavy Duty Stone Lifter and Transporter

Posted on 18 August 2015 by cradmin

Groves ST-1 The new Heavy Duty ST1 Stone Lifter and Transporter is now available from Groves Incorporated. According to the company, stone slabs weighing up to 396 lbs. and measuring from 25- to 48- in. tall by 60- in. wide can be raised and lowered with its patented silent winch. The possibility of damage to the stone or injury to an employee is lessened by the lifting mast that encloses the steel lifting cable and rubber pads on the carrying brackets. The 16- in. puncture resistant wheels are designed to make job site transportation easier and safer. Materials can be pivoted 90 degrees on the axis of the mast to fit through doorways with a shift to the side function. For ease of installation the material can also be lifted to a maximum height of 63 in. and rotated 360 degrees.

You may also be interested in this article about countertop installation.

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Marmomacc 2015 to Hold Stone Industry Leadership Reception

Posted on 17 August 2015 by cradmin

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) announced that it will host a Stone Industry Leadership Reception, along with Stone World magazine and Informa Exhibitions, at Marmomacc 2015 in Verona, Italy. The reception is Oct. 1 at the Verona Exhibition Center. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with stone professionals from around the world, find out about upcoming trade shows and hear about new projects. There will also be a wine tasting, courtesy of Tommasi Family Estates and hors d’oeuvres will be served. There is no charge for the reception. However, registration is required by Sept. 15.

Those interested can visit for more information.

You may also be interested in this article on the Coverings trade show.

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Marble Institute and Building Stone Institute Seek 2-Year Consolidation Agreement

Posted on 14 August 2015 by cradmin

MIA BSI logo comboThe boards for the Marble Institute (MIA) and Building Stone Institute (BSI) voted to ask the memberships to consolidate their operations for two years. A vote is anticipated toward the end of the year. This action concludes a year of discussion between the two organizations about their similarities and duplication of efforts to serve the stone industry. The recommendation to enter into a two-year joint venture came from a task force including representation from both organizations.

“The threats we face each day and into the future are not from the natural stone industry, or its many associations. It is from well organized alternative materials with huge marketing campaigns focused on our markets,” said Coldspring’s Dan Rea, 2015 MIA president. “It’s time to create a unified effort to not only defend but actively promote natural stone.”

“Most importantly, we need to become preemptive as it relates to competing products and our own threats in not taking action,” added Dee Brown Company’s Rob Barnes, 2015 BSI President.

After two years, both memberships can decide to fully integrate or remain independent. The combined group will be called: “MIA + BSI – the natural stone institute.” “Uniting resources creates enormous leverage that, simply put, gets things done,” said Rea.

“We believe this consolidation is additive, and strongly feel the combined equity will provide additional value to the industry and our members with continued relevance as the world’s premiere natural stone association,” added Barnes.

Both organizations have created web pages to inform their respective memberships why they believe the consolidation should take place.

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