They say it took Michelangelo a bit over four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A crack team of installers, working sporadically on weekends, needed only three years to re-do the floors at the World Floor Covering Association headquarters. Granted, the chapel job was completed almost 500 years ago by a lone worker craning his neck five stories up. So maybe the 22 installers who handled the WFCA project will not end up being studied in art schools for years to come. But I wanted to offer a tip of the hat to them, the companies that contributed flooring and, most certainly, the WFCA. What they did has significant implications for everyone in the flooring industry. And yes, the WFCA's new floors look spectacular.
The project was undertaken as part of an on-going effort by the International Certified Floorcovering Installers' Association (CFI) to remind people that flooring products are only a part of what our industry offers. Using materials donated from some of the top companies in the business, the 16-year old WFCA office in Southern California was selected as part of CFI's Installation Assurance Program (IAP). This has been a crucial undertaking for the industry. The idea is to reinforce the role of quality installation services provided by trained and certified technicians.
CFI's top guy, of course, is Jim Walker. No one is more passionate about the role of installation in floor covering and it's a good bet no one alive knows more about the subject. Clearly, Walker sees the danger signs ahead: Not enough top notch installers and too many people in flooring who don't recognize why that is a problem. He knows that floor covering specialty stores are not going to beat big box retailers on price alone-and they shouldn't have to try. It's about service, quality and pride in your work. This is what he has learned-and taught-in his 46 years in the business.
His passion and wisdom were apparent at a reception and dinner held in the Anaheim, Calif. headquarters of WFCA to showcase the new flooring-which involves just about every category and a who's who of suppliers. Nearly 100 people, including many retailers from all over the country, attended this modest event. The president and CFO of the trade group, D. Christopher Davis offered his heartfelt gratitude to Walker, who during the course of the project traveled from Kansas City to oversee installation. (In fact it was Walker and his colleague Ed Braille who personally installed the patterned carpet in Davis' office.)
Walker, always the gentleman, graciously thanked Davis and noted that under his leadership, the WFCA has been a strong advocate of the installer community. The project, he said, was a great source of pride for CFI and especially the workers who installed 9,000 sq. ft. of flooring in the facility (the remaining 3,500 sq. ft., which was not covered, will serve as a classroom for installers.) Still, he clearly has concerns about the industry he loves. He acknowledged that communicating the importance of installation to flooring retailers can be an uphill battle.
"I have traveled the world," Walker said, as the guests on hand listened attentively. "All I hear is: Those darn retailers don't care about installation." He reminded them that this mentality stands to diminish the industry as a whole.
No doubt Walker has seen the big box stores that offer free installation classes for the D-I-Y customer as surely as he has seen the number of skilled installers steadily wane. There is no question that today's flooring products are outstanding. The evidence is now readily apparent on the floor at the WFCA office-a tasteful yet compelling assortment of tile, wood, carpet and other top quality flooring. But as Jim Walker well knows, the products are only part of it.
"Installation makes it happen," Walker said. "Otherwise we have a commodity."
Editorial Comment: With its new flooring, WFCA stands up for installation
September 12, 2006