I was recently on a downtown luxury condominium project involving a good deal of LVT to review some concerns expressed by the general contractor. It was a six-story condo project, at around $1 million per unit. The LVT had been installed on the sixth floor, which had no permanent heat. There were fluctuations in temperature and humidity. The floor temperature was cold due to no heat to the fifth floor, beneath which the building was without windows and doors and still in the sheetrock stage: poor lighting, heavy construction worker traffic and soil and a gypsum substrate that was supposed to be dry but was soft and dusty.

I was met by the manufacturer representative, the floor covering contractor sales representative, the installer and the general contractor job superintendent. All of which were pointing the finger at each other. I suddenly went from consultant/inspector to referee.

Manufacturer; The manufacturer was the party that made the LVT and the adhesive. The problem was a bonding, curling and scratching of the tile issue. In this case the company made both a regular adhesive and a premium adhesive; you can guess which one was used. The cheap one! There was nothing wrong with the tile or either adhesive, assuming they had been used as recommended.

Flooring Contractor; His claim was that the manufacturer never told him to use a primer on the gypsum substrate, nor did the manufacturer ever suggest that the flooring contractor use the premium adhesive. My question was, how often does the manufacturer know what the job site conditions are, and would they ever make any recommendations under those circumstances? No, but it is nice to have someone to blame.

Installer; The installer claims he was just doing what he was told. Where is his pride in professionalism?  He has to know from the beginning that this is not going to work, and even if it does, it is not going to have a very long service life.

General Contractor; The job superintendent was the least sympathetic to the problem. His attitude was, “I don’t care what you have to do get it done.  The circumstances are not going to change and if you can’t do it, I will get some one who can. I’ve a schedule to keep.”

Manufacturers don’t spend millions on testing to make their materials with specifications that are impossible to meet. The reality is, once you cross a certain temperature or humidity threshold, which depending upon materials and or adhesives is around 60°F (15.6°C), materials change: they become more brittle, more difficult to work with, more difficult to bond and subject to dimensional change.

Adhesives are just not going to work as they should outside specified temperatures. The set times and the bond integrity are compromised, both to the material and to the substrate.

The flooring contractors must like dealing with problems. They take these contracts knowing fully well what the specifications for the jobs are, then allow themselves to be coerced into the job under the threat of, “If you don’t do it we will get some one who will.”

So they go out starting the installation way too early and have to face one problem after another. I often wonder if they ever take the time to figure the cost of non-conformance, not to mention the ill will caused. The flooring contractor is also supposed to know about the various types of substrates and applications of materials to those substrates.

The installer needs to be up to date with the materials he is working with. There is all type of information available to assist in understanding adhesives, substrates and floor preparation. He will get no sympathy from me for jobsite conditions; I have had my share of run-ins with construction sites that were not ready, and I would rather have lost a day’s pay than have a tarnished reputation. That has surely changed from my era. In my day, we took a lot of pride in developing a relationship with the job superintendent and worked together to make the job run smoothly. That is all gone.

The job superintendent will get a bonus if he brings the job in on schedule, and he doesn’t care whose toes he has to step on to get there. The job superintendent of today is young, inexperienced and all he knows is hurry-up and get it done. They will let the attorneys deal with the problems later.

How about the party that is footing the bill? Do you think they’re getting a fair deal? Yes, it was a low bid, and perhaps not much can or should be expected. I was once told in a class I was taking in Germany that, “The United States construction industry has a low bid mentality, but will spend any thing to fix the inevitable problems that arise.”

Do you think this party is getting their money’s worth?  How does this reflect on the flooring industry and our industry’s future? Finally, what about the unsuspecting person who is going to lay out the hard-earned money to pay for this second-rate installation?

This is why there are so many attorneys making a fortune suing contractors and subcontractors for cases just like this; you can follow the path back to fast-track construction.