A Family Affair: TCNA’s 2024 Tile Persons of the Year

By Clare Tattersall

The Schlüter family has received the prestigious Tile Person(s) of the Year award from the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

The recipients include founder Werner Schlüter and his wife Barbara, as well as sons Udo and Marc.

“As a team, we’re truly humbled by this recognition,” says Udo. “This award carries significance for our entire family, especially for my father whose lifelong dedication to this remarkable journey has paved the way for our shared success.”

Werner’s involvement in the tile industry dates back nearly 60 years. Following a seven-year education program, beginning as an apprentice and advancing to a journeyman, Werner obtained his master craftsman’s diploma in 1966, and established his own tile installation business, Fliesen Schlüter (Schlüter Tile).

In 1975, while working on a unique bathroom project that included four thresholds, Werner identified a critical issue: exposed tile edges were susceptible to chipping and breakage. He concluded that a metal ‘L’ angle, installed prior to placing tiles, would not only serve as edge protection but also hide the unglazed edge and provide a straight and clean transition to adjoining surfaces. This led to developing, prototyping and eventually testing, warehousing and producing his first product: Schlüter-Schiene. Initially utilized for his own installations, demand from fellow installers prompted Werner to open Schlüter Systems, then known as Schlüter Schiene, as a small sideline to his installation business, with encouragement from his wife.

Ten years later, Reinhard Plank, a tile setter living in Montreal, discovered the Schiene profile on a visit to Germany. He recognized its value and sought a means to import it for his own installations. This led to the establishment of Schluter Systems Inc. in Plattsburgh, N.Y., in early 1989. Concurrently, Schluter Systems expanded its presence in Europe, establishing additional companies in France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey and beyond.

Soon after, Schluter Systems introduced Ditra, the first uncoupling membrane, the Kerdi waterproofing membrane and the Kerdi-Drain with its integrated bonding flange. This marked the evolution toward a systems approach, providing installers with comprehensive solutions. The company now boasts more than 40 product lines that encompass 6,000-plus items, including tile trims, uncoupling membranes, waterproof building panels, shower systems and thin-set mortar.

Complementing business growth was a commitment to education, evident in Schluter’s innovation workshops, which now attract thousands of tile industry professionals annually. This strategic approach, centred on installer needs, continues to drive innovation.

“Being integral to the tile community is a privilege, and our commitment to supporting installers and propelling the tile industry forward is at the core of our mission,” says Udo.

In recent years, Werner has begun to take a step back in the business. Udo and Marc have assumed greater roles, focusing on technology, processes, research and development, sales and marketing. Barbara also remains actively involved in the company.

The TCNA Tile Person of the Year is awarded to individuals whose contributions have significantly impacted the North American tile industry.

The Schlüter family was presented with a framed tile mural handcrafted by artist Barry Perez at Coverings 2024. Sons Udo and Marc accepted the award on the family’s behalf.

“Their unwavering dedication, visionary leadership and commitment to advancing the craft of tiling have left an indelible mark on our industry,” said TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan during the award ceremony about the Schlüters. “This accolade is a testament to their commitment to excellence and profound impact on the world of tile.”

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