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Installments: The benefits of joining an association

By Sarah Bays

photo1According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the IRS recognized 92,331 trade and professional associations and 1,280,739 charitable and philanthropic organizations. With so many active associations within the U.S. alone, it is not surprising that you may have recently been solicited to join an association that aligns with your profession, trade or outside interest.

Associations offer a wide range of benefits for both individuals and companies providing an avenue for professional growth and brand recognition. Here are 7 benefits, in no particular order, which associations provide:

  1. Information exchange. Associations offer you the opportunity to raise your level of awareness and gain valuable knowledge from other’s experiences. As a member you are at the forefront of information. Whether it is the newest trend, cutting edge product/service or a tried and true practice, this shared information is an invaluable resource.
  2. Access to certification programs. Many associations provide industry specific certification to separate yourself from your competitors. By becoming certified in your field of expertise and continuing your education year after year you show your employer and customers that you have met standards established by a reputable program, and you are committed to quality work and growing your expertise.
  3. Network for problem solving. Having access to a network of trusted peers is important. As a business, it is essential to align yourself with like-minded professionals and build relationships in which you can learn from, seek advice from and bounce ideas around with one another.
  4. Educational and training opportunities. One of the best resources an association can provide is a venue for education and training for its members. “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” said Benjamin Franklin. Having access to educational programs also lends itself to retaining and attracting employees because it shows that you are willing to invest in their professional growth.
  5. Strengthen your competitive advantage. Take advantage of member resources including educational and networking opportunities to build a greater understanding of customer needs, gain referrals and brand recognition. By investing in an association you are investing in your company and this inevitably sets you above non-member competitors.
    6. Boost your network. When you join an association, you instantly gain a network of business associates that have similar goals and accomplishments. However, it is important to be an active member as this will significantly increase membership benefits. When available, make sure you attend association events, join committees and seek leadership roles. Associations provide you the ability to voice your opinions and share your knowledge and expertise; so make sure you don’t squander this opportunity.
  6. Gain elevated recognition and visibility within your industry. Associations exist to promote their members and the livelihood of the represented trade, profession or group interest. Assimilating with an association lends credibility to employees and the company, and contributes to your competitive edge over non-members.

Associations pride themselves on the ability to bring like-minded individuals together for the greater good. By aligning yourself and company with a reputable association, you are not only contributing your knowledge and expertise but gaining valuable connections, access to resources and experience of peer companies.


Sarah Bays is the membership & website coordinator for FCICA.

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Installments: Avoiding hollow spots in hardwood flooring

July 4/11, 2016; Volume 30, Number 27

By John Brown

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.18.45 PMOne of the most frequent consumer complaints about hardwood flooring installations is the common creaky, hollow-sounding floor that can develop once the job is complete. These hollow spots can even detract from the overall visual and essence of a hardwood floor.

Most hollow spots or loose areas in a glue-down wood floor come from not following the flooring and adhesive manufacturers’ installation specifications and limitations.

Hollow spots are often blamed on adhesives but they are rarely the cause. If a bad adhesive is used to install wood flooring, the entire installation would be negatively impacted—not just a few select areas. Most complaints concerning hollow spots make up less than 5% of the entire area that was installed.

The most common cause for hollow or loose spots in a wood floor system is not getting the concrete substrate flat to industry requirements. The National Wood Flooring Association recommendation for flatness of the substrate for an engineered hardwood floor installation is no more than 3⁄16 inch deflection or variance in the slab within any 10-foot radius of the floor. If the substrate reveals any variance greater than 3⁄16 inch in any 10-foot radius, proper subfloor preparation steps must be applied to rectify the situation. Grinding the substrate and/or leveling with a Portland cement underlayment may be required to achieve flatness. Hollow spots will occur if the installer fails to ensure the substrate is flat enough for the specific installation.

The flatness of the substrate becomes even more important depending upon the hardwood product being installed. It is imperative to have a flat substrate when installing boards that are greater than ½ inches thick and greater than 5 inches wide. The thicker and wider the board, the less likely it will conform to any deflection or variance with the substrate and thus the occurrence of a hollow spot.

Other common causes for hollow and loose spots are neglecting to apply the correct amount of adhesive or not ensuring the flooring is in contact with the adhesive during the curing process. If a board is laid into wet adhesive and raises up from the substrate before the adhesive cures, a hollow spot will occur. This can be avoided by applying weight to these areas until curing.

Using the proper flooring trowel when applying the recommended adhesive is very important. Installers’ comprehensive understanding of trowel requirements is highly recommended by adhesive manufacturers. Insufficient adhesive application may cause substandard adhesion and/or final bond strength and in many cases development of hollow spots can occur throughout the installation.

Some hollow spots require removal of the wood flooring, flattening of the substrate and replacement of the wood flooring. This is expensive and time consuming for all parties involved.

Injection repair kits are available and allow an installer to inject additional adhesive under the flooring specifically in the section where popping conditions or voids have developed. This typically alleviates the issue and causes popping sounds or creaky conditions to dissipate. These repair kits are typically easy-to-use, eco-friendly and cost effective. The more user-friendly kits are water-based, which makes them very easy to clean.

Premium grade, pressure-sensitive wood flooring adhesives will remain tacky for the lifetime of the floor and allow you to simply apply weight or walk the floor to correct the issue if proper contact is not achieved during the installation.

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Installments: Asbestos-containing products still linger

May 9/16, 2016; Volume 30, Number 23

By Christopher Capobianco

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.28.08 AMQuestions about the analysis and handling of asbestos-containing floor coverings continue to come up, although it’s been many years since they were sold. There is still a lot of this material on the floor and there is a lot of misunderstanding. Asphalt floor tile (AFT) and vinyl asbestos tile (VAT) were the primary asbestos materials, although felt backing in some sheet resilient floors and some adhesives also contained asbestos. AFT—which first came in a 9 x 9 format and then, later, in 12 x 12—was one of the first flooring materials to use asbestos and was manufactured starting around 1920. VAT came out in the 1930s and became more popular than AFT. Using synthetic binders instead of asphalt allowed the VAT to be manufactured in lighter hues with a wider range of colors.

Contrary to popular belief, tile size is not the way to tell the difference between VAT or vinyl composition tile (VCT), which came out as VAT was being phased out. This is an important consideration as many people think the 9 x 9 tile contained asbestos and 12 x 12 did not. There was a lot of 12 x 12 VAT used, so don’t assume otherwise.

The federal law mandating that asbestos be removed from building materials was passed in the late 1970s, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the new rules in 1980. Many in our industry think that any of these products sold after 1989 were “asbestos free,” but EPA gave the industry some time to work through their inventories by stating that: “manufacture, importation and processing must cease by August 27, 1990.” For two years after the product could be sold, with the “ban on distribution in commerce” taking effect on August 25, 1992. Most manufacturers stopped using asbestos in floor coverings well before this date but it was still legal to sell them. Furthermore, floor covering adhesives containing asbestos could be manufactured until August 1996 and sold until August 1997.

When considering the removal of an existing floor, it is important to be very aware of these dates and do your best to ascertain the age of the floor covering or have the material and adhesive tested. Be sure it is legal for you to remove these floors in your area; it may require a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. You should also get a current copy of Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings from the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI). The booklet contains instructions for proper removal along with the following statement: “Warning: Do not sand, dry sweep, dry scrape, drill, saw, beadblast or mechanically chip or pulverize existing resilient flooring, backing, lining felt, paint, asphaltic cutback adhesives, or other adhesives. These products may contain asbestos fibers or crystalline silica. Avoid creating dust; inhalation of such dust is a cancer and respiratory tract hazard…Unless positively certain that the product is a non-asbestos-containing material, presume that it contains asbestos. Regulations may require that the material be tested to determine asbestos content.”

Be advised that any floor and/or adhesive installed well into the 1990s could contain asbestos; assume it does unless it is tested. Remember: both 9 x 9 and 12 x 12 tiles—as well as some sheet goods and black adhesive—may contain asbestos. Bottom line: better to be sure before you rip up that floor!

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Installments: Choosing the right independent inspector

April 25/May 2, 2016; Volume 30, Number 22

By Mike Newberry

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 1.01.18 PMAs a flooring contractor, a good resource to have available is an independent company that is qualified to perform inspections and testing services. Just keep in mind that your specific needs should be addressed when you hire an independent inspector.

There are several critical things to look for when searching for an independent inspector and when it makes the most sense to hire one. Following are the primary considerations:

Obtain results that are objective. Independent inspectors can provide you and your customer with the important information needed to make decisions on how to proceed with the job. Reports provided by an independent inspector can minimize any perception of bias toward either party.

Free up internal resources. It’s time consuming to perform inspection services properly. In addition to the time it takes to perform these services—time that has to be invested in training and continuing education—a qualified independent inspector will always be up to date with the latest changes and will have the applicable certifications.

Qualified personnel and reporting protocols. When we select the installer for our project we always want the most qualified installer to do the specific work. It doesn’t make sense to send your best ceramic mechanic to install heat-welded sheet vinyl with integral cove base. It’s not a good fit for the skill set required, and the outcome will not be the same as it would have been had you sent the trained and certified sheet vinyl mechanic to do the job. The same diligence used when hiring a qualified installer should be applied to hiring a qualified independent inspector.

A little research on the Internet will provide a number of options for locating a capable independent inspector. Almost any organization that provides training and education will also list independent inspectors and their contact information on their website. It is your responsibility to qualify the independent inspector.

A good place to start your search is an organization such as the National Institute of Certified Flooring Inspectors (, which has members from most all of the certifying bodies. Paul Pleshek, president of NICFI, provides insight into some best practices for hiring an independent inspector.

  • When interviewing independent inspectors be sure to inquire about their certifications. For instance, look for certifications from organizations such as the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), Flooring Consultants and Inspection Training Service (FCITS), National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and International Certification Registry (ICR).
  • Check on the independent inspector’s activity in the industry. An independent inspector’s commitment to continuing education is an important consideration when hiring one.
  • Be sure the independent inspector you select has a thorough understanding of all facets of flooring.

Unfortunately most of us will hire an independent inspector for the first time when we have an immediate need for their services. The good news is that once you have found one you should consider other ways to use his expertise to help you avoid issues and significant costs in the field.

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Installments: The evolution of moldings

February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Bill Treiber

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.55.10 PMFor many years, ¾-inch solid wood flooring was seen as the primary leader of hard surface floors. Back in the 1600s, many of these hardwood floors were installed directly on dirt and the need for transitions did not exist. It wasn’t until the introduction of the International Building Codes (IBC) in the early 1970s that states began to adopt concerns for transitions on flooring. These codes quickly followed the carpet industry’s emergence into the residential markets, which exploded in the 1960s. Until that time, many of the transitions on the market were done on the jobsite by the flooring installer. And with carpet’s rapid growth came many changes to the industry. In addition to rolled vinyl, laminate flooring was becoming more and more popular. Since these products were primarily made of plastic, transitions were also becoming available.

Let us fast forward to today; we now have a plethora of sizes, shapes, species, materials and designs in moldings that cover tile, stone, luxury tile, luxury plank, laminates, porcelain and engineered woods. One of the newest inventions, waterproof laminates, is about to make a bigger splash than many recent upgrades in technology in our industry. With this large selection of surfaces to offer, we have created a growing need for more moldings in a greater variety of shapes and sizes.

Before the need for transitions experienced tremendous growth, there were four primary profiles: ¾-inch solid wood sand and finish on-site reducers, T-moldings, stair nosings and square nosings. Square nosings were introduced to accommodate the edge created from carpet and, eventually, laminate flooring.

I remember having contractors come in and ask for landing tread material back in the ’80s and ’90s when I was working for true hardwood distributors. Then five minutes later, another contractor would ask for bull nosing. They were essentially asking for the same thing. Yes, the bull nosing could have meant only the

1½-inch nosing portion used for adding to treads which are to be installed on an open stairway. I share this piece of information because terms and variety of profiles available to the flooring industry has grown just like the number of products being made.

Due to growing demand, profiles of moldings are taking on a more modern look. Tight radius-edged profiles will include names like square-edged stair nosing. There are countless thicknesses being introduced including variable height profiles like an adjustable mini stair nosing or a multi-height stair nosing. Because of many 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, and 5mm thick products, mini T-Moldings, mini square nosings, bi-level reducers and flush LVT/LVP stair nosing products will enter the market with different mediums. You will definitely see more wood locking stair nosing and locking cork wrapped flush stair nosing in the near future.

You should continue to look for upgrades in ingenuity and function from flooring accessories. Look for better custom blending to evolve into the moldings manufacturer sector. The ability of a manufacturer to blend a highly functioning molding in the flooring industry today has undoubtedly separated the old moldings of the past with more modern, less obtrusive, yet highly functioning profiles we have now.

As the flooring industry continues to grow, so does the flooring accessories segment. Make sure you are receptive to change and open to new ideas. Rest assured that your experience with the new surfaces will continue to expand as the flooring accessory business grows in response to conscious expertise.


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Installments: Acclimation- Foundation for successful installations

Jan 4/11; Volume 30/Number 14

By Christopher Capobianco

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 3.44.46 PMAs we approach colder months, it is wise to think about the way we work in times of extreme temperatures. Acclimation is the process of getting flooring materials to a jobsite in advance so the temperature of the space and material are the same during installation. While this is common practice in the wood and laminate segments, it is often ignored in resilient and carpet.

If you have ever handled cold carpet, you know it can be stiff as a board. But if you get the material on site a day or two ahead of time, it becomes much easier to install, and since cold carpet tends to “grow” as it warms after installation, you will have fewer complaints about buckling.

Resilient flooring is no less difficult to work with when cold and can react after installation if temperature conditions are not suitable. For example, installing resilient floors that are warm can lead to shrinkage problems later on, and cold materials are harder to work with and tend to expand when the space goes from cold to warm after installation.

Wood underlayment tends to expand slightly when it goes from cold to warm, or shrink going from warm to cool. In either case, this could cause joint telegraphing or worse if flooring is adhered to it.

Adhesives and patching materials are also temperature sensitive. When planning to acclimate your floors, don’t forget the sundries. Freeze/thaw stability refers to an adhesive’s ability to work even if it is frozen and then thaws out. However, even if it doesn’t freeze, workability, open time and cure time can vary widely when it is extremely cold or warm. I find adhesives like epoxy and polyurethane are much harder to spread and take much longer to cure when they are cold. On the other hand, they set up very fast when warm, so you have to spread the adhesive all at one time.

At this time of year, winter acclimation is on my mind. However, if this were early summer, I’d be no less concerned. I worry about vinyl flooring and accessories most of all when the weather is hot. I have seen significant problems with rectangular products such as wall base, edgings and vinyl plank. These products are easy to stretch during handling. Even carrying cartons over your shoulder and allowing the box to bend, or pulling warm material out of the end of the carton can stretch vinyl plank or wall base ever so slightly. Vinyl edgings are easy to stretch end to end as you are setting it into the adhesive. Whether the installer stretches it or it has expanded slightly from the heat, material installed in this state will look excellent with tight seams until the temperature cools. The gaps that show up are thought of as shrinkage, but if you measure it, the material is actually returning to its original size. If you ever notice a vinyl flooring installation in which flooring, reducers or wall bases are gapped, it is probably because the job was done in the summer and the material was not properly acclimated.

Of course, none of this matters if you arrive at the jobsite and there is no climate control. If that is the case, decline the job. The good news is many construction workers understand that temperature is important for interior finishes, so the use of temporary climate control systems is becoming common on construction sites.

All flooring materials have acclimation recommendations as part of the installation instructions, but these are often ignored. Following them avoids some common issues and eliminates complaints.

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Installments: Getting the big picture from adhesive test data

Aug. 3/10; Volume 30/Number 4

By Graham Capobianco

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.26.39 AMOf all the floor coverings used today, wood is the most demanding when it comes to adhesives. Wood flooring adhesives must be able to sufficiently bond to plywood or concrete, and must also be flexible enough to hold the wood while it goes through dimensional changes over the course of its lifetime and maintain a strong bond with the substrate as the flooring goes through these changes. All the while, it can’t exert too much strain on the substrate because that might cause it to fail. While many adhesives on the market illustrate their ability to withstand these stresses, some leave out one very important factor—elastic modulus.

Elongation at break, or elasticity, is the ratio between the initial length and final length after breakage of a test specimen, often expressed as a percentage. This testing is performed by applying a nominal load to a test specimen and stretching it at a defined speed (stress) until the specimen breaks or cracks. The speed and load used are based on minimum values, though the load increases over time and until break.

With wood flooring adhesives elasticity is important, as wood flooring is susceptible to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Without an HVAC system constantly monitoring and controlling temperature and humidity levels, it is impossible to prevent wood flooring from experiencing these changes in most environments. If an adhesive is too rigid, these dimensional changes may exert enough force onto the substrate to cause a cohesive substrate failure. If it is too elastic, it may not be strong enough to hold wood.

Some adhesives have a reported elasticity of 150% or more, which make wood flooring prone to gapping, cupping, deformation and bond failure if they are not strong enough to handle the strain the wood can exert on it. These complications are exacerbated when wood experiences quick and dramatic changes in temperature and humidity during de-acclimation, home vacancy, power outages or HVAC equipment malfunction. To ensure adhesives can resist these effects while remaining elastic, it’s important to understand the elastic (e) modulus.

Elastic (e) modulus is the ratio of tensile stress to tensile strain of a test specimen, typically measured in n/mm2 or PSI. It is the amount of pressure an adhesive can withstand while being stretched before breaking. This test is performed using equipment similar to elasticity testing, but the test specimen is usually exposed to maximum speed (stress) and load (strain) values. The applied load and strain are measured at break or at a specific elongation percentage in order to calculate the amount of pressure the test specimen can withstand, usually measured at 25% elongation.

The important criterion of this test is the load; though 25% may seem low compared to elasticity data, 25% elongation can represent a real world scenario. Even the most unstable wood species will only experience a maximum dimensional change of 11% to 12%. Even if we doubled the maximum dimensional change, this would still fall under 25%.

Though adhesives may be advertised with high elasticity results, adhesives with a high elasticity modulus are better suited to handle dimensional changes in wood.

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Installments: Bamboo accessories: Trends, tools and tips

April 13/20, 2015; Volume 29/Number 1

By Bill Treiber

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.58.46 PMBamboo accessories (moldings, treads, risers and vents) always follow bamboo flooring trends. Today’s popular trend—woven, strand woven or stranded bamboo construction—differs dramatically from horizontal and vertical construction. Instead of gluing strips of bamboo together in a uniform way, strands of bamboo fibers are compressed under intense pressure to form the floorboards.

Part of the appeal of woven bamboo is its unique visuals. Manufacturers can create exotic looking flooring, blending colors and lengths of bamboo strips. Strand woven bamboo floors can be highly designed, including handscraped, wire brushed, antiqued, distressed visuals, in addition to being stained almost any color.

Woven construction is the most environmentally friendly form of bamboo flooring because it uses very little adhesive. And it’s considered the most durable of all the bamboo flooring due to the intense pressure used to create it.

Continuing the “green” theme, oil finishes are the latest trend to hit bamboo flooring and accessories. These natural finishes contain no VOCs and enhance the depth and beauty of the floor. The finish bonds with the cells of the wood to give a no-gloss appearance that is appealing to many customers.

Different colors, sizes and thicknesses of accessories are now available to complement trending bamboo products. It is important to maintain consistent coloring for both flooring and accessories such as moldings, vents, treads and risers. With all types of bamboo, color changes from season to season, harvest to harvest.

Many contractors are not aware that bamboo moldings, treads and vents can be made from the same type of bamboo used for a flooring job (except engineered bamboo). Bamboo accessories need to adjust to the climate of the installation room, so they should be left in small piles for a few days. In addition, samples of the flooring should be sent to the accessories manufacturer to ensure an exact color blend.

Installing strand bamboo moldings can be more difficult than moldings made of other materials. The strand woven material in particular is extremely dense and installers will need to either pre-drill these moldings and then nail them, glue them in or use a nail gun that can fire a 1”-long micro thin nail.

Glue transition moldings down as opposed to nailing them. The same adhesive or an alternative product can be used to glue down flooring as long as the manufacturer recommends it and instructions are followed. Once the pieces are installed, the moldings need to be weighted to ensure a solid bond. For transitions, blue painter’s tape will help to hold the molding in place while the adhesive dries; a weighted object may have to be placed on top of the molding to hold it down.

For installing bamboo stair treads, both nailing and adhesives will be needed. A stair jig for scribed ends and nail guns strong enough to nail through a 3000- plus Janka hardness is needed. The proper construction adhesive is critical to proper and long term performance. Due to the moisture transfer from the sub tread and riser, be it wood or concrete, a water permeable adhesive is necessary. All other recommended methods of install for treads apply. Bamboo treads are made 12 inches wide which typically requires a length cut on the square edged side, further complicating the install. An experienced installer should talk with the manufacturer and get additional recommendations before installing bamboo treads.



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Installments: Add to your bottom line with hardwood accessories

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Bill Treiber

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.58.46 PMBuying, selling and installing accessories can sometimes be a challenge for floor covering professionals. Moldings, vents, treads and adhesives are often difficult products to handle, let alone ensure profitability from sales.

In addition, accessories are notoriously difficult to buy in the right inventory quantities—just ask distributors who try to stock them profitably. This is often due to the inability to accurately forecast sales. To add another layer of complexity, each sale has different molding profiles, species and accessory requirements. Given these challenges, here are some tips to consider:

Find the right supplier. Made-to-order accessory manufacturers are a great source for the best price. Many of these manufacturers can ship moldings within three days; helping to deliver customer satisfaction and profitability. Some points to consider:

  • Some manufacturers ship directly to the job site.
  • Use a single source for convenience, speed and future pricing leverage.
  • If you own multiple stores, hire a central moldings/accessories buyer to save time and money.

Sell the total package. Accessories are often afterthoughts, creating delays and costs post sale. Package pricing offers opportunities to add profitable items and services to the sale.

Avoid quoting a price for the job and adding the extras afterward. To alleviate installation problems, encourage the customer to order the flooring and moldings at the same time. The customer will be more likely to purchase a total package if she believes there is inherent added value, making it harder to exclude accessories at the time of initial purchase.

There are margins in moldings. Accessories have wider markup ranges, enabling the salesperson to “sharpen the pen” in additional areas rather than just destroying profit margins in a single product area. If the salesperson is truly excellent, then larger profit margins are always evident in a total package with no discounts. Salespeople should ask as many questions as possible about the proposed job, including:

  • Are transition moldings or wall base moldings required?
  • What trims are currently in the room?
  • What kinds of rooms adjoin the installation area?
  • What vents are currently in the room?
  • Are stairways part of the room or adjoining rooms?
  • What are the measurements of the doorways and steps?
  • How many steps are there in the stairway to be installed?

Minimize reorders. Quality accessories help guarantee a longer life and higher performance when installed in a proper setting plus, they will outperform and outlast any plastic, MDF or overlay products in the market.

Don’t forget about customer service. The more knowledgeable your salesperson is, the faster the customer is educated and the faster a sale gets closed.

Work with a manufacturer that provides accessible and “live” customer service reps to get the best results and save time. Also, accessible and accurate online product information is a tremendous time saver.

Be sure to use professional marketing and sales tools to build your credibility in your customer’s eyes.

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Installments: Sweat the small stuff

February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16

By Christopher Capobianco

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.23.02 PMI began working in this business in 1971 as an installer’s helper and since then have seen several sides of the floor covering process as a retailer, a manufacturer’s rep and an inspector. On the other hand, I have been a homeowner for almost 30 years so I have also been on the customer side of home improvements.

In recent years I have hired contractors for projects and the results have been mixed. My willingness to do business with contractors again or recommend them is not usually about the quality of the work, but about the details, as I learned from several recent experiences that inspired this column.

A multi-thousand-dollar roofing project was ruined for me because the trim came out badly, and a contractor on a siding project let me down because he left a mess at the end of every day. Floor covering installers often make the same mistakes. Small details stay with a customer even if she loves the floor covering and the installation is otherwise perfect. This kind of dissatisfaction will prevent her from recommending you to her friends.

Assuming that the customer knows what’s coming when she signs the contract for a floor covering project is mistake No. 1. What is common sense to those of us in the trade may not be so common to someone who has never had a flooring job done before. If the job starts with an angry customer saying, “I wasn’t told I’d have to move my furniture,” your company may never win that customer back, even if the installation is perfect and she loves her new flooring. Customers are often surprised when they hear that they have to stay off floors until the glue dries; don’t assume your customer knows how the process works. The same holds true for the question of how long an installation will take. Try to be realistic and honest with the customer, or you will risk being in a difficult situation and having to meet deadlines that can’t possibly be met.

The specifics of the actual installation are also important to review. It is common for a customer to say, “I didn’t know I would have a seam,” or “The salesperson said I wouldn’t see the seam.” These claims put enormous pressure on the installer and on the product to deliver on these promises.

The solution to these communication breakdowns is to be honest about what the product will do and to be sure the customer knows what’s going to happen when the installers arrive and after they leave. I’ve known installers and dealers that call a day ahead to confirm the time of arrival and review details. If material is delivered a day or two ahead of time, not only will the product acclimate to site conditions, but also the installation team can see what the scope of work is while reviewing details with the customer so she knows what to expect.

When the job is complete, double checking all the finishing touches is also important, be it a frayed edge of carpet in a doorway, a gap in a seam or the trim and molding work. It’s often rushed so installers can get out the door.

The point is that these finishing touches are very visible. Even if a customer complains and you come back to fix it, the negative impression is still there. A lot of times she has a busy schedule or other reasons that prevent her from calling back the installer, so she just “lives with it.” But it still bothers her and her impression of the entire job will be negative forever.