Hello. This is Mike Chmielecki, editor of Floor Covering Installer and senior editor of Floor Trends. We need to have a little talk. As editor of FCI, I have met with concerned installers at tradeshows, discussed the industry with them urgently on the phone and responded to their increasingly worried emails. One overriding theme to these conversations has emerged in the past year—the installation crisis is not going away without concerted effort from all sides.

I’m sure you’re well aware of the crisis. It’s been covered constantly by the trade media (including FCI), and has become the focus of many well-attended seminars. It also has more than a few businesspeople worried in the short-term about their jobs and in the long-term about the future of the industry. I’ve lost count of how many installers have told me they caution their children to get into any trade but flooring installation. The hours are long, the labor wears and tears at the body, and very few feel like they are truly appreciated for their efforts. That’s where you come in.

If you are one of the retailers/dealers out there who truly celebrates your installers, explains the benefits of professional and qualified installation to your customers and—this is a big one—pays your installers fairly, then congratulations. You are to be commended for understanding the value of your entire team.

If you, however, are not boasting about your installers, may I ask why? If you’re afraid to bring them up because you know they’re unqualified, you have a lot more to worry about than just an unhappy crew. You’re almost guaranteed to end up with an unhappy customer, too. I understand the downward pressure of big boxes that make it important for retailers to find cost savings wherever they can. However, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why so many have decided the place to skimp on is installation, a technically-demanding field that requires fast thinking and hands-on experience.

I purchased my first home with my wife and young daughter a few years back, and as I was signing the papers, I spoke to the builder about a hardwood flooring job he was doing for another realtor. When I mentioned to him that you should never slop mop water over a hardwood floor because the wood will suck up that moisture and cause lots of problems, he said, “Huh, you learn something new every day.”

That’s how I feel when I see yet another installer undervalued and underappreciated. Sure, you can hire pretty much anyone off the street to slap some boards together. But there’s a difference between slapping boards together and actually installing a hardwood floor. Want to reduce claims and increase customer satisfaction? Find good installers, and treat them with respect—before they’re all gone.