No one in the floor covering industry is immune from claims, and it’s important to know what the warranties are on the flooring materials you sell. Typically, warranties don’t cover what you may think they do, such as simple appearance change, wear or other physical characteristics or changes in the material. And rational or not, they often link coverage of any warrantable issue to something else as well, such as the installation.

What would the installation of a flooring product, relative to the adhesive used, for example, have to do with an appearance change on the face of the product?  Nothing, but the warranty may tie the two together.

There are several things to consider today when working with any floor covering product. First, make sure you read the warranties and the guidelines for installation even if you think you know what they are and have installed the product a thousand times before. Remember this: if you have a problem arise and you’re asked, “Did you read the warranty or review the installation instructions?” ignorance is an excuse that will not hold water.

This is important, because manufacturers are holding installation as a reason to deny any claim on the product. That means that if you did not use the manufacturer’s adhesive in the exact way they say to, and if every single step and practice dictated was not followed to the letter, they can and will deny a claim. Whether or not the alternative adhesive you selected was actually better than what they specified, or if you had to change a technique to have a successful installation is irrelevant; it certainly could be argued that what you did was correct, but if it’s contrary to what the manufacturer specifies, you’re out of luck.

Second, you can no longer just thinkyou know what to do; you have to take the time to read what the instructions say. This can be a very difficult thing for men to do, especially those who have the practiced, solid mechanical skills of installers, because they think they instinctively know how to execute the installation, i.e. we’ll often figure it out as we go and make the adjustments later.

Well, you just can’t do that anymore. This keeps coming up more and more, and especially if the complaint reaches the point where legal action is initiated. The plaintiff’s attorneys don’t care how skilled, experienced or knowledgeable you are. If they ask, “Did you read the warranty on the product and the installation instructions?” and you say no, you may as well just tape a bull’s-eye on your chest.

Even if reading the warranty has little or nothing to do with installing the product – and it may or it may not – if you don’t read it, understand it and comply with it relative to installing the product, you may be liable for any failures of the product or installation. This not only goes for the installer, but the flooring dealer or contractor as well.

If you’ve never done this before, or felt you didn’t have to and think you have nothing to do with the manufacturer’s warranty by selling or installing the product, think again. Things are no longer the way they used to be. There are conditions which affect installation and performance that didn’t exist or have the influence they do before. There are more products made more creatively than ever before, and there have been changes to flooring products, adhesives, floor prep materials, the installation environment and the speed at which things are done, that didn’t exist before. You truly do have to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what will influence the success of your installation and the product on every job, every time.

No matter your personal preference or feelings, use the manufacturer’s adhesive applied the way they tell you and under conditions as directed. If you encounter a problem, notify the manufacturer immediately and document everything you do. Don’t leave anything to chance, memory or trust. If you need them to send someone to the installation site, tell them. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you need to have an installer on site with a certain skill level dictated by the warranty, installation instructions or specification, do it.

If you don’t think this is important, try notdoing it and, if a problem arises, find out just how fast you’ll be in trouble. Some of you may have already experienced the pain of this.

The bottom line is, do exactly what the instructions say, read everything that has to do with the product and its installation, and use only the materials and techniques directed by the manufacturer. If they aren’t working, notify them immediately, document everything, take photos, save samples and, if you really get in a pickle, call me. You should be able to stay out of trouble on your own but if you step in the slop and need a hand, let me know; there’s no reason for you to flounder around when there are answers and help available.