We have all walked into a commercial or residential space, looked down at the floor, and thought, “that doesn’t look quite right.” It becomes immediately apparent when an installation team is unqualified, untrained or has simply cut corners, and while the finished product may look fantastic and beautiful at first, facility managers and homeowners alike soon have to deal with a floor that is buckling, cracking, fraying or separating in front of their eyes.
Remember the film “Misery,” based on Stephen King’s book of the same title? Acclaimed author Paul Sheldon, played by James Caan, is rescued and nursed back to health by a stranger who found him alone and severely injured after a horrific car accident. Sheldon believes he has found his savior, someone to brighten his day and provide relief and/or peace of mind.
Much is the same for a people who decide to spend thousands of dollars to have a new floor installed—they believe the retailer or installer they have selected is competent and will complete their beautification project in a timely manner.
However, what Paul Sheldon and the owner soon find out is these prospective saviors are more like their worst nightmares. Sheldon’s adoring stranger soon begins terrifying his every waking day, and without a proper installation, your floor covering project could become your own frightening experience. When this happens, a project that was supposed to be an investment for the future becomes “Misery.”
Specifically, this irritating situation can occur when your untrained installer decides not to honor his work and fails to install the flooring properly the first time. The issue is then compounded by the installation company refusing to correct the problem, leaving you, the owner, with expensive repairs and disruptions to your daily activities.
We see it time and again—a new floor will begin to look and feel cheap and tired after just a few months of traffic. This happens despite the use of high quality flooring, although selecting poor quality often accelerates the process. Not only is this frustrating, there are major concerns regarding safety and long-term costs that come along for the ride.
While the average person may not see some of the “invisible” installation mistakes and poor planning that lead to things like moisture damage and premature wear and tear, they will absolutely notice the side effects of an improperly prepared subfloor, for example. Loose areas of flooring, squeaks, too much deflection and other annoyances can sometimes appear within days or weeks. These often get worse over time, and when moisture, expansion and other common issues are thrown in, it only goes downhill.
As annoying and expensive to fix as these things are, we industry professionals see and deal with much more. We see unqualified contractors and installers giving the industry a bad name, we see product manufacturers taking the brunt of criticism when in reality their flooring was improperly installed, and we deal with the lasting effects of poorly designed and executed projects.
When the idea for INSTALL (International Standards & Training Alliance of Floorcovering Professionals) was started in 1990 for example, manufacturer, retailer and consumer confidence in floor covering professionals was at an all-time low. This was primarily due to a shortage of qualified professionals in the industry, which led to improperly installed flooring systems, a hike in customer callbacks and increased repair costs.
While these issues were and still are 99.9% preventable with the right training, we continue to see the side effects 24 years later. Admittedly things have gotten much better, but we have more work to do.
Much of this comes down to changing consumer demand, expectations and perceptions through highly trained and certified installers. When a company or homeowner needs to reduce up-front costs of renovations and new building design, they shouldn’t have to choose between quality and price. A floor is the literal foundation of your space, and it needs to be treated as such.
I have been on both sides of the industry, and have seen my fair share of these flooring installation problems. Working on the corporate side, I have also come to understand that businesses and consumers need affordable options and the least expensive installation possible.
However, many people don’t look at long-term costs. If someone is going to make the investment in a new floor, they need to find a balance of the absolute best product and installation services they can afford. And they should follow any recommended maintenance plan.
It doesn’t hurt to use common sense either. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you are uncomfortable with the expertise or experience of your installation team, don’t use them. That being said, you should never settle. While this might sound like dating advice from a lifestyle guru, you have to treat the relationship with your contractor or installation team like a partnership.
Your installers should be timely, professional and expert communicators. They should understand your needs and wants in a flooring system and treat your home or business with respect. The failure to meet these expectations should be enough to make you second-guess a project’s future success and long-term quality and durability.
This is where superior contractors and certified installers enter the picture. When choosing a flooring installation team look for past performance and installers who are certified and up-to-date with the most recent industry standards and training; you are selecting someone who knows and understands how to complete a project correctly, the first time. There is a value and confidence that is unmatched in this, and I believe that every project, big and small, deserves it.
In an industry where floor covering specifications change more rapidly than your 6th grader’s love interest, it is important to secure an installation team that values quality and has the certification background to prove it.
Certification goes beyond simple training and learning by application. Certification provides an objective measurement of the installer’s knowledge and specific skills for any given flooring material and/or product.
So, how should a homeowner, facility manager or any other individual looking to beautify their surroundings go about substantiating one contractor and/or certification program from another? While many manufacturers offer certification in specific products, several organizations have taken the certification process one step further:
• Certified Floorcovering Installers (CFI) offers training and certification courses in carpet, hardwood, laminate, resilient and ceramic tile installations. Ultimately, CFI’s goal is to help raise installer standards in the floor covering industry.
• The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) offers education and certification for installers working within the ceramic tile and stone industry. The comprehensive program is officially known as the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge when it comes to ceramic tile. Most importantly, CTEF promotes industry standards in its mission to raise the quality of ceramic tile installations.
When someone is in the market for a new hardwood floor, they can choose from installers that carry a certification from the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) or Armstrong. These organizations provide training for all facets of the hardwood flooring industry and these certified flooring professionals are competent, highly skilled, and have passed both a written and hands-on test in order to earn their certification.
Last, but certainly not least, INSTALL is the premier third-party training, certification and warranty program that truly puts its money where its mouth is. INSTALL offers training and certification in hardwood, resilient and carpet throughout the U.S. and Canada. This training is consistent in its nature, meaning that whether you are in Kansas City, Mo., or Boston, each installer will receive the same educational information and hands-on training, using best practices from healthcare, green building and retail installations, just to name a few.
With the support of hundreds of major mills and flooring manufacturers, INSTALL is so confident in its installation certifications, it recently unveiled a groundbreaking Warranty on Labor. This $10,000 warranty covers both residential and commercial applications and is only available when you select an INSTALL Warranty Contractor. In addition, by selecting an INSTALL Warranty Contractor, you can rest assure you are selecting the most highly skilled, best capitalized and most professional contractors in North America.
Currently, the BSR-IICRC S600 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Installation is available for review and comment by visiting iicrc.org/standards/iicrc-s600. These installation standards provide information about the proper installation methods and create a program for installers to maintain a professional level of competence.
The document allows users to stay abreast of the newest developments and technologies used in the carpeting industry. When installation teams follow the recommendations of S600, owners can rest assured their new floor will not be “Misery” for years to come. In fact, when owners chose a certified third-party installation expert, they can be comfortable knowing their experience should be pain free and provide them with years of carefree maintenance.
There is an inherent value and confidence that comes with choosing a certified flooring installation team. Architects, contractors, facility managers, business owners, homeowners and anyone else going through the process deserve the best-of-the-best, and a flooring system that is installed correctly the first time.
In many instances, you can’t put a price on perfection, but when it comes to flooring you can. INSTALL, Armstrong, NWFA, CTEF, CFI and other organizations pride themselves on helping clients save money and time, while bettering the reputation of the industry.
Jon Gould is a representative for INSTALL Mid-West and based in St. Louis. He is a member of IFMA, AIA, APIC, and ASBO in Illinois/Missouri. To contact him, call (618) 980-8051 or firstname.lastname@example.org.