No excuses needed! Veteran installers understand that their skills are only as good as the techniques they use on the job. The installer seen here is prepping concrete substrate for sheet vinyl product to be installed in the break room of a school. In addition to using the proper equipment, he is patching cracks using MAPEI’s Planiseal MRB . (Photo courtesy of MAPEI)

In my travels I believe I have come across every type of flooring installation problem imaginable, from minor to catastrophic. I have seen holes, indents, lumps, bumps and adhesive screw-ups that would be amusing if they weren’t so costly to fix. Through it all, there is one constant in nearly every situation: excuses. No matter what the issue, there always seems to be an explanation as to why the problem is not the  installer’s fault. In fairness, human error is not always to blame. Each situation is unique and there are many factors to consider. But sadly, there is still a lot of misinformation out there. So, with apologies to David Letterman, I have compiled the following list of Top 10 Dumb Things Installers Say When a Job Fails:

No. 10: “I always use this trowel--it’s my favorite.”

Maybe it’s your lucky trowel or it’s been in  your family for years, but this one-size-fits-all approach is why the trowel is the most misused equipment in an installer’s toolbox. A trowel that is the wrong size does not have the proper notch placement, which will lead to trowel notch show-through, adhesive bleeding, indentations and other headaches.

No. 9: “I always use this adhesive-it works every time.”

This is even worst that the trowel excuse because the person is making a decision to buy this adhesive for each job. With all the changes to substrates and materials it is simply unprofessional to rely on a one-adhesive-fits-all approach. There are many adhesive manufacturers that would like to have, and are working to achieve, such a universal product. If they come up with one, I’ll let you know.

No. 8: “Traffic helps keeps a new floor in place.”

Yes, there are actually installers who welcome foot and wheeled traffic on a newly installed floor. They do not understand the importance of thoroughly rolling the floor with the properly weighted roller. It is used to apply a uniform static load to force the material into the adhesive uniformly. Bubbles are often the result of the material letting go at its weakest bonded area, usually the area that was improperly rolled or not rolled at all. Foot traffic and rolling load traffic does a lot of damage to newly installed floors. Traffic needs to be kept off the new floor or the floor needs to be protected.

No. 7: “The store opens Friday; I had no choice.”

Too often contractors and installers allow themselves to be coerced into doing something they know they shouldn’t--like installing a floor without adequate time to set. They’re afraid that saying no will create ill will, so they proceed with an accelerated schedule. Maybe they can justify this, but they are inviting trouble. 

No. 6: “Lanterns are fine for lighting--this isn’t surgery.”

It is hard enough to see the irregularities in a dull substrate with adequate lighting. Finding them in dim lighting is nearly impossible. Many complaints about subfloor telegraphing are the result of poor job site lighting. Maybe you enjoy the intimacy of soft lighting, but remember once the lights are turned on and the floor is polished the complaints are going to start.

No. 5: “Of course you can see your breath; it’s winter time!”

Too many installers are clueless about the impact of cold conditions on floor patch, adhesives and materials. Please note: they are all adversely affected when the temperature dips too low. Water used for patching compounds and adhesives is affected; drying times are extended. Plasticizers in resilient materials start to   thicken and become brittle, making the material stiffer and more difficult to handle. The optimal condition for  an installation job is usually around 65º F (18ºC).

No. 4: “I don’t need instructions. This is the real world!”

Maybe that works in their real world, but there are many good reasons manufacturers spend millions of  dollars to develop flooring materials, adhesives and installation systems. They have been designed to be installed in a precise way, under specified conditions. That’s why the manufacturers provide detailed  instructions with very specific requirements. If an installer wants to ignore the manufacturer’s instructions and work under adverse conditions, that is their choice. But they need to accept the responsibility when something goes wrong.

No. 3: “High pH? Ah, what’s pH?”

Many installers do not know how to evaluate a pH level, let alone how to test for it. Testing for pH should be left up to the professionals who are educated and trained to do that type of thing. But that doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Professional installers should know what the pH requirements are for the material and adhesives they are using and whether the test results meet those requirements.

No. 2: “High moisture vapor emission rate? What you can’t see can’t hurt you.”

Moisture is typically the biggest issue for installers working in any part of the country. As with pH levels, installers should not perform complex moisture testing. It is a procedure that requires a professional who is  familiar with proper testing protocol. But here again it is the responsibility of the professional installer to know the exact requirements of the material. If the results of the test do not meet those requirements, adjustments must be made.

No. 1: “I’ve always done it this way; I’ve never had a problem!”

By far, this is the most common (and most tiresome) excuse you’ll hear from installers. The flooring  ontractor gets a complaint and his instant response is “He is my best installer and has twenty years of experience.” That’s great, but if this installer has not kept up to date with changes in the installation world, his or her methods can become antiquated very quickly.