Alex Underwood, BAL brand manager, interviewed by JoBeth Phillips, Tile UK
How long was the research and development process for BAL Variset XP?
The formal, focused R&D for BAL Variset XP started about 18 months ago, although everyone in the industry has wanted to create such a product for as long as anyone can remember.
When did you originally conceive the idea for BAL Variset XP?
There has always been a demand for such a product, but the original impetus came from contractors working on a project for the London Underground. They only had a four-hour window in which to work, but drying times effectively reduced this to just two hours of fixing – this was the real impetus to focus on a solution for a problem that has always plagued the industry, on both commercial and domestic projects!
How do you see the product benefitting the domestic/contract marketplaces?
For both, it means fitting more work into the same amount of time. Contractors no longer have to delay grouting and can finish each day with a greater area ready for traffic. Other trades do not have to arrive in the morning and have to wait for the fixers to grout. The impact for contractors will be that every project can be completed earlier. For the smaller domestic jobs, such as kitchens and bathrooms, fixers will no longer be saying, “I’ll see you in the morning,” because they can grout the same day. In effect, they could gain at least an extra working day per week.
The new product takes less time to set, allowing for more jobs. However, in the current climate, do you feel that this will be of any use to tilers who may only have a couple of jobs a week, and time is not of the essence to them?
Even a fixer who has not lined up their next job will welcome BAL Variset XP. The time they would have spent waiting for adhesive to dry, and then grouting, can be spent on looking for the next project. In reality, there is still work out there and the more professional fixers are still busy. Completing a job early will only help them in earning recommendations and testimonials, boosting their chances of landing more work.
When will the new product be available in-store?
BAL Variset XP will be on the shelves of more than 500 authorised distributors, nationwide, by the end of September.
How have your stockists/distributors responded to the new product? Are you seeing increased orders?
It would be hard to overstate the market reaction. Distributors recognised the importance of the product immediately and demand is already immense, massive, huge. Pick your own superlative.
What feedback have you had from fixers, if any (I understand you run trials and tests with a select group of tilers from time to time)?
We carried out ‘blind’ trials in a handful of locations, with more than 50 fixers putting the product through its paces. Approval was instant and universal. Simply, they can not wait to start using it.
What is the cost of BAL Variset XP compared to a traditional adhesive?
It is very competitively priced. The cost per square metre will vary, naturally, depending upon the amount of retarder added. It would be on a par with a traditional adhesive, but may provide greater benefit depending on the usage wanted. The BAL Variset XP liquid can only be used with the BAL Variset XP powder, but the liquid will last a minimum of 5 sacks of powder (based on maximum usage per sack) but could be used with over 30 bags!
You have many innovative products in your portfolio with notable launches in the past year – so why does this one stand out especially?
It does not just stand out among our own recent launches. BAL Variset XP represents such a quantum leap in adhesive technology that it is hard to think of any new product, from any manufacturer, that has been so significant. Not just this year, but ever. It is certainly the most innovative product of the last forty or so years.
Will you still continue to develop and refine the formula in the foreseeable future? Are there any more challenges you feel you have yet to overcome?
BAL was originally created to raise standards in the industry, so we never stop trying to improve existing products and to create new ones. There is always another challenge to face and being first with the answer is what we do best. More specifically, I can only tell you that we have other new products nearing launch and advise you to “watch this space.”
What do you feel is left for BAL to accomplish?
BAL never takes for granted its hard-earned position as the first choice of the professional tiler, so we will continue working to remain the leader in tiling adhesives and grouts. That means showing the way forward in technology, in training and education, in services. We are as committed to continual research and development for new and better products as we are to providing fixer-focused services. As the importance of NVQ qualifications and CSCS certification grows, we will carry on investing in setting the recognised standards in training. Consumers increasingly insist upon quality tiling, so we will ensure that www.tilerworld.com builds on its position as the most useful place on the Web for both fixers and their customers. Fixers, wanting to provide a quality service to consumers, made around 50,000 calls to our free Technical Advice Service during the last 12 months. We must keep deserving that level of trust by continuing to provide the very best, impartial advice, alongside the products that the professionals prefer.
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For further advice and precise information, visit the BAL website at
or call 0845 600 1222