Sooner or later, no matter how experienced your wood flooring crew is, you will likely find yourself called back to a job because your customer is dissatisfied with some aspect of her flooring installation.
The issue can be minor, such as a small gap that has appeared due to a seasonal fluctuation in temperature and humidity that will correct itself over time, or the issue can be more involved, like cupping which has occurred due to a moisture source that is not obvious and needs to be identified. Whatever the reason, there are steps you can take to minimize these call backs, and to ensure your crew is prepared to handle a variety of installation concerns.
Training is the key. Investing in the training of your crew can save you tens of thousands of dollars with just one project by providing them with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to install the job properly, and to leave your customers with realistic expectations about how their floors will perform in both the short- and the long-term.
There are a great deal of training programs available in the industry, and the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) does its best to participate in or contribute to as many of them as possible. Some of them, however, deal with all floor coverings, and do not focus exclusively on wood. Needless to say, this is our area of expertise as it is the only floor covering the NWFA deals with at all.
NWFA’s Installation and Sand & Finish Guidelines are the worldwide industry standard for wood flooring installations. All NWFA members receive these guidelines as part of their member benefits, which will provide your crew with the most up-to-date and current technology and techniques available for wood flooring.
All training provided by NWFA is based on these guidelines as well, which can reinforce for your crew, through hands-on skills training, the information contained in the printed guidelines.
This way, when they encounter an issue on the jobsite, they can find the information they need in the guidelines, and call upon their hands-on training at an NWFA school to reinforce the skills they learned to deal with the issue.
To illustrate the value of the guidelines, I offer you an exchange the organization had with a retailer at the recent CCA Global shows this past January. A representative in our booth spoke at length with a retailer from the Northeast who had provided wood flooring product for a remodeling project related to damage done by Superstorm Sandy. The retailer did not install the product, but simply provided it to the general contractor for the remodel.
The project was a high-rise building that included many thousands of square feet of engineered wood flooring being installed over concrete slabs. A few months after the installation was completed, the floors throughout the building began to cup. An independent inspection showed the wood had not been properly acclimated, the concrete subfloors and the wood had not been properly tested for moisture, and no moisture prohibitor had been installed at the job site.
The retailer, who was being sued for defective material, came to court prepared with the NWFA guidelines, and conveyed to the court the industry-accepted standards, which showed proper job-site preparation and installation had not taken place. Within 15 minutes, the case was dismissed and the retailer was saved from having to replace tens of thousands of dollars of material. Needless to say, this information was invaluable to this retailer, and he received it as part of the benefits of being an NWFA member, along with numerous discounted training opportunities for his crew.
Taking this kind of training one step further, NWFA also offers certification programs for installers, sand and finishers, sales representatives, and wood flooring inspectors. Again, there are numerous certification programs available in the industry, but NWFA’s Certified Professionals programs are the only ones dedicated exclusively to wood flooring, which makes them unique.
To become an NWFA Certified Professional (NWFACP) requires previous related industry experience as well as attendance at NWFA training pertaining to the specific certification being sought. The training is rigorous, but fully prepares the individual for the testing required for each certification designation.
Beyond these previous experience and relevant training requirements, becoming certified involves several additional steps, depending on the certification. For installation and/or sand and finish, individuals must pass both a written test, which is based on NWFA’s Installation and Sand & Finish Guidelines, and a hands-on test to demonstrate skills proficiency.
For wood flooring inspection certification, individuals must pass a written test and submit a series of actual inspection reports that are reviewed by a committee for demonstration of hands-on inspection skills.
For sales professionals, individuals must pass a written test based on the Installation and Sand & Finish Guidelines to demonstrate wood flooring knowledge and competence. In addition to these tests, yearly continuing education is a requirement for every NWFACP certification so individuals are kept current on new industry technologies and developments. And, every three years, recertification testing is also required.
Another aspect of NWFACP’s certification program that is unique is the complaint review process. It provides an opportunity for NWFA certified professionals who have any complaints filed against them to have the grievance reviewed by a committee of industry experts to determine the validity of the claim.
In many cases, this committee has responded to the person filing the complaint that is not legitimate and the certified professional has followed all industry-accepted guidelines in the execution of his work. In other cases where the complaint is found to be valid, the certified professional is offered an opportunity to provide corrective action, and receive additional training in order to maintain his certification.
The complaint review process is not intended to identify good or bad certified professionals, its sole intent is to verify all industry-accepted guidelines have been followed, and no violations of the NWFACP Code of Conduct have occurred.
Even with all this training, testing and preparation, chances are more likely than not that during the course of a certified professional’s career—even those who are extremely qualified—will have a complaint filed against them at some time or another. NWFACP’s complaint review process provides a means of protecting the certified professional from illegitimate claims, while maintaining the professionalism and integrity of the program.
The Code of Conduct is another unique aspect of the NWFACP’s certification program. Each certification has its own code relevant to the skills required for that certification type. For example, the inspection certification Code of Conduct requires the NWFACP Wood Flooring Inspector draw his conclusions based solely upon testing, observation and related industry standards. Assumptions are not acceptable, and conclusions made without proper testing and observation are not considered valid.
NWFACP Wood Flooring Inspectors also are required to utilize a standardized procedure and format for conducting their tests, organizing their results and presenting their conclusions. This helps to ensure the tests can be duplicated, the results can be verified and the conclusions can be validated.
Getting the training you need for your crews, and providing them with opportunities to become a certified professional with NWFACP has never been more accessible. Training and testing is being offered at a variety of locations throughout the year in the U.S. and Canada. A full schedule is available on NWFA’s website, nwfa.org, under “Technical Education, Education Schedule.”
For more information about training programs, contact Tricia Swindoll at (800) 422.4556, or email@example.com. For more about certification programs, contact Sharon Schaller at (866) 418.5408, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brett Miller is the director of certification and education at the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), where he is responsible for the development, coordination, implementation and presentation of the organization’s technical training schools, workshops and online training, as well as NWFA’s certification program. Miller has more than 21 years of experience in the hardwood flooring industry, most recently having worked as Regional Manager at Basic Coatings.