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     Behind the Surface Podcast Episode 33

Enter to Win an ISFA Award: Now Accepting Submissions Through July 31

ISFA opened its annual awards program, the ISFA Awards. The program honors excellence in application design, fabrication and installation of projects using surfacing materials across seven categories. The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2024.

The ISFA Awards are open to all ISFA fabricator members representing successful applications. Associate members may submit entries or nominate ISFA fabricators for consideration. There is no cost to enter. 

Five of the awards are project-based; the categories are:

  • Commercial Excellence in Projects Under $100K.
  • Commercial Excellence in Projects Over $100K.
  • Residential Excellence in Projects Under $20K.
  • Residential Excellence in Projects Over $20K.
  • Sustainable Project of the Year.

Additionally, two awards are given to individuals or companies that excel in the industry:

  • The Fabricator of the Year Award.
  • The ISFA Hall of Fame Award

“Fabricators founded our association to provide growth opportunities for surfacing industry professionals,” said Marissa Bankert, executive director of ISFA. “The ISFA Awards program is designed to create awareness around the wide array of innovative surfacing materials on the market today, but above all, it’s a platform for our fabricator members to gain recognition and elevate their businesses by showcasing the outstanding work they do every day.”


Got an issue in your business that's weighing you down? Tell us about it and we'll consider adding your topic to an upcoming event, virtual or in-person.

ISFA aims to provide the tools and resources you need to break down barriers in your business. If you've got a problem, we've got answers!


Fabricators Heat Up Their Skills in Pennsylvania with ISFA's Training Program

Fabricators from across the country gathered the first week of June in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, for ISFA’s second Solid Surface Fabrication Training event of the year. The hands-on, two-day session is designed to provide attendees with skills in all facets of the fabrication process, including layout, templating, seaming, support, sanding, edges, cutouts, backsplashes, finishing, installation and more.

Participants completed a vanity application with an integral bowl sink, built-up edge profile, edge inlay and examples of coved and set-on style backsplashes. This week’s session, hosted by ASST, also included an expanded lesson on thermoforming. Known for their innovative, patented thermoforming technologies and product designs, ASST takes on project challenges others avoid, and the team there was happy to share their knowledge and experience to help others find success fabricating solid surface in an endless array of applications.   


The next Solid Surface Fabrication Training session will be August 6-7 at Gecko Solid Surface Solutions in San Antonio, Texas. 


OUT NOW: The Latest Issue of Countertops & Architectural Surfaces Magazine

Countertops & Architectural Surfaces Magazine Q2 2024 CoverIn this issue of Countertops & Architectural Surfaces, we’re calling for Seamless Integration: From streamlining production and improving efficiency to empowering your employees, discover ways to optimize your workflow to maximize your business’s potential.

We cover making the most out of production capacity, troubleshooting machinery to improve efficiency, innovations in heavy machinery that keep fabricators on the cutting edge, employee engagement and retention strategies and a fabricator in Pennsylvania with a remarkable legacy spanning more than four decades.

Find all this and more in this issue of ISFA’s Countertops & Architectural Surfaces magazine.



On Hold: California's AB 3043, the Silicosis Prevention Act

Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley) held Assembly Bill (AB) 3043, the Silicosis Prevention Act, last week. This legislation was introduced to protect workers in the fabrication and countertop industry from contracting silicosis, a fatal lung disease caused by inhalation in silica dust from cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing these engineered stone slabs.

AB 3043 would have required the state to create a public website of fabrication shops operating in California to track their compliance with recently developed state regulations. This bill sought to create a statewide industry standard to prohibit dry cutting, establish a licensure system for fabrication shops and require workers to undergo silica safety training.

“I have decided to hold AB 3043, which I introduced to protect workers from contracting silicosis," stated Rivas. "When I introduced AB 3043 in February, 95 silicosis cases had been reported in California, and 60% of these cases were in my district. Between 2019 and 2022, 52 stone workers were diagnosed with silicosis, 51 of whom were Latino immigrants. Twenty of these patients had advanced stages of silicosis, ten individuals died, four workers received lung transplants and five were under evaluation."

Rivas goes on to say that the roadblock is in creating the tracking system to identify licensed fabrication shops. "While community outreach to educate employees on their rights is important, it is insufficient as the sole mechanism to safeguard workers. My legislation would have guaranteed compliance by only providing manufactured stone to licensed fabrication shops that train workers on safe cutting methods and enforce worker protections. Therefore, I have made the tough decision to pull my bill so that future legislators can continue to monitor the effectiveness of these regulations."

“Preventing silicosis and protecting workers is a high priority of the stone manufacturing, distribution and fabrication industry," stated the Silica Safety Coalition. "Our industry is strong and economically thriving when our workers are valued and protected. While AB 3043 will fall short of the finish line this year, the efforts, partnership and collaboration won’t be lost as we collectively continue to look for opportunities to support the industry in a way that protects our valued workers. There is simply too much at stake to not redouble these efforts in the coming months.”


Cutting Edge Countertops Acquires L.E. Smith Company

Cutting Edge Countertops, a premier countertop fabricator for the Midwest with five showrooms and three service centers across Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, recently announced the immediate acquisition of L.E. Smith Company, a third-generation, family-owned business known for being a leading laminate fabricator since 1950. The acquisition expands Cutting Edge Countertops’ ability to serve the commercial market through the fabrication and installation of hard surfaces, while also expanding the product offering with laminate and solid surface in multi-family commercial work. 

“L.E. Smith appealed to Cutting Edge Countertops as part of our strategic growth plan, similar company values and deep roots in the commercial space, said Brian Burns, Cutting Edge Countertops’ co-owner and founding partner. “We are excited to have finalized the acquisition and welcome the L.E. Smith employees to the Cutting Edge Countertops family.”

“Cutting Edge Countertops is a perfect fit for L.E. Smith,“ commented Mari Ivan, L.E. Smith CEO. “Our current offerings of laminate and solid surface will be enhanced with hard surface materials including granite and quartz to further serve our combined customers and their growing needs.”

Cutting Edge Countertops has experienced steady growth since opening its doors in 2006. The company expanded its service area through a strategic acquisition in 2016 to include locations in Noblesville and Indianapolis, Indiana, and Wixom, Michigan. This was followed by an additional acquisition in 2022 in Delaware, Ohio, to expand its footprint into the Columbus and Dayton markets.

Growth in the commercial space continues as young families are starting out and empty nesters downsize, demand for multi-family housing has increased to 31% of all U.S. housing, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Multi-family homes are providing a more affordable housing option that often include communities complete with fitness centers, community pools and other often sought after amenities.

The acquisition adds 65 L.E. Smith employees to Cutting Edge Countertops’ workforce. L.E. Smith will continue to operate under its current name, as a subsidiary of Cutting Edge Countertops.

Silica Safety: ISFA Weighs in When Forbes Asks, 'Are America's Favorite Countertops Going Away?'

For years, designers and specifiers have been recommending quartz countertops as way to elevate any space. Writer and Designer Jamie Gold, who frequently covers wellness design and housing trends, looked beneath the surface to discover that engineered stone has a dangerous side. Are America's favorite countertops putting those who fabricate the material at risk?

According to the American Lung Association, approximately 2.3 million U.S. workers are exposed to silica in the workplace, including 2 million in construction. Gold said she wasn't aware of the risks to fabricators when she was recommending the material to her clients.

Now she wonders, "As designers and homeowners — particularly Millennials and Generation Z — weigh human issues more than ever in product selection, this becomes a powerful consideration. It is too for regulators here and abroad, as new worker safety rules and even a national ban go into effect."

Gold reached out to ISFA to learn about safe fabrication practices and how the industry creates regulations that protect fabricators from the risk of silicosis while manufacturers innovate safer materials.