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Installments: Gross vs. net charges

by David Stafford

The question of what is right, correct or an industry standard in charging for flooring products and installation keeps coming up. As a former dealer and flooring contractor with retail, commercial and government work experience of over 22 years, I’d like to offer an answer.

Carpet, resilient, hardwood, laminate, ceramic, stone or other manufactured products are all made to a certain size. It is pure coincidence if a product fits the space where it is to be installed. You can bet that during installation minor or not so minor trimming must be done for a quality installation. In fact, most products are made with the idea that trimming must be done. For example, we have the selvedge edge of broadloom car- pet or cutting hardwood for a room that is not square. Within the fashion industry—whether flooring, wall covering, lumber or a brand new suit—trimming, cutting fitting and pattern matching must be done.

When one advertises installation prices, he must allow for the usage or wastage factor. It is typical when carpeting a room with a net measurement of 11 feet 2 inches x 10 feet 9 inches to end up supplying broadloom carpet 12 feet x 11 inches and charging installation based upon the gross amount of carpet, whether by the square foot or the square yard. The driving factor in this is the manufacturer’s standard of 12-foot-wide broad- loom and allowing several inches for cutting in along a wall. In the case of hardwood, there is a further usage factor for culling out short pieces or imperfections in the wood itself. A similar situation exists with ceramic where breakage is an issue.

A professional installer must trim or cut and discard some part of what he installs to industry standards. In the flooring industry, the standard is to look at the gross materials required to install the job according to the best practices of the trade and specific manufacturer’s instructions.

Sometimes a client will ask for extra product for a possible future replacement. When extra materials are provided but are not part of the installation process, no installation should be charged. However, if there is left- over carpet due to room sizes, it is part of the installation process.

Usually, the question of installation charges comes up with the retail residential client. He has carefully measured and calculated that he needs 402.7 square feet of carpet and says, “I’m not paying for anything over that.” In cases I have encountered over the last 25 years, this objection is quickly answered by explaining what I have related above. In some cases, I have found that a close review of their measurements, our measurements of the same area, and how the products will be installed opens their eyes.

In one case, I was told, “Your competition said he would charge me only for the net amount.”

I replied, “Has my competitor put in writing the amount he is charging you for the net installation? Bring it in and I will show you the amount we propose to charge on what we are installing.” When the customer found my competitor had significantly boosted his net installed price, we got the job.

Next time the gross vs. net question comes up on a flooring job, show your client this article. I have talked with experts in our industry and the consensus, with my years of experience, make a compelling case that gross is the industry standard, not net.