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Certified Floorcovering Installers Association goes global

CFIForney, Texas—Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) has expanded its presence in China, according to Robert Varden, vice president. Negotiations to establish a CFI satellite operation in Shanghai have been underway since last summer.

“A year’s worth of planning, negotiating and research has culminated in a partnership with the Shanghai Chemical Building Materials Trade Association (SCBMTA),” Varden said. “Our new arrangement in China represents CFI’s first free-standing overseas operation.”

The new facility, which will be overseen by Chun Yuan Qi, director of the SCBMTA, opened its doors on Sept. 8. Qi will report Varden, who will remain based at CFI headquarters stateside. Introductory installation classes at the new facility are slated to commence in the fourth quarter.

The initial lineup of coursework will include carpet, tile and stone. All classes will be taught by certified CFI instructors who were trained by lead instructors from the United States. The Asian outpost will be offering a full slate of CFI classes in all categories of flooring by the first quarter of 2018.

“CFI has experienced phenomenal growth over the past few years,” Varden said. “We are clearly capturing the attention of the industry and making great progress toward resolving its installation crisis.”

Varden said the critical shortage of trained installers extends well beyond the United States and affirmed CFI’s commitment to addressing the problem everywhere that it exists. “We are very excited about the opportunity not only to work with and train new students overseas, but to also continue to expand CFI’s presence throughout the world.”

For more information, visit cfiinstallers.org, email clewis@cfiinstallers.org or call 816-231-4646.

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WPC: Common ways to lay it down

FCNews Ultimate Guide to WPC: July 17/24, 2017

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.52.49 AMWhile WPC-type products may be relatively new to the flooring industry, many boards can be installed using existing installation methods. Of course, installers are advised to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for their specific product lines.

Following are some tips and installation guidelines specific to COREtec plank and tile flooring. (In 2014, COREtec Plus transitioned from a drop & lock glueless profile to an angle/tap glueless profile.) The following installation instructions refer to the angle/tap profile.

Step 1. Shuffle the deck. COREtec flooring replicates the look of a natural product which has natural variations in color, texture and sheen/gloss. For best visual effect, shuffle planks or tiles from several cartons and do not install similar planks or tiles next to one another. Be sure to inspect all flooring materials prior to installation.

Step 2. Prep the subfloor. Subfloor should be dry and level to a 3⁄16-inch per 10 feet radius for best installation results. Note: USFloors’ COREtec Plus floors may be installed with a direct glue-down method on approved wooden (or) concrete substrates that are on or above grade only. Use only USFloors Cork Underlayment Adhesive (or) comparable premium multi-purpose adhesives. Please consult with adhesive manufacturer to determine if suitable for use with this material.

While COREtec Plus is waterproof, it’s not a moisture barrier. It’s still a good idea to make sure concrete is cured and tested for moisture and that a moisture barrier is installed in the crawl space and even under a COREtec Plus floor over a concrete subfloor. Moisture won’t damage COREtec Plus, but it can get in the walls and structure of the home.

Because houses and buildings, as well as adjacent hardwood or laminate floors, expand and contract, USFloors recommends to leave a ¼-inch expansion gap between the perimeter walls and any adjacent hardwood floor. Note: Do not install COREtec Plus floors as a floating floor where it will be exposed to temperatures greater than 140°F. In areas where the floor may be exposed to direct, intense sunlight resulting in excessive heat to the floor, use the glue-down method.

Prior to installation of any flooring, the installer must ensure the jobsite and subfloor meet the requirements of these instructions. USFloors is not responsible for flooring failure resulting from unsatisfactory jobsite and/or subfloor conditions.

Flooring should be one of the last items installed in any new construction or remodel project.

Crawl spaces must be a minimum of 18 inches (46 cm) from the ground to the underside of the joists. A ground cover of 6–20 mil black polyethylene film is essential as a vapor barrier. Joints must be lapped 6 inches (15 cm) and sealed with moisture resistant tape. The crawl space should have perimeter venting equal to a minimum of 1.5% of the crawl space square footage. These vents should be properly located to foster cross ventilation.

Room temperature and humidity of installation areas should be consistent with normal, year-round living conditions for at least one week before installation of flooring. Maintaining an optimum room temperature of 70° F and a humidity range of 30-50% is recommended.

In summary, all subfloors must be dry, structurally sound, thoroughly clean and level. Wood subfloors must be dry and well secured. Nail or screw every 6 inches along joists to avoid squeaking. If not level, sand down high spots and fill low spots with a Portland-based leveling patch. Concrete subfloors must be fully cured, at least 60 days old, and 6-mil polyfilm is recommended between concrete and ground.

Ceramic tile, resilient tile and sheet vinyl must be well bonded to subfloor, in good condition, clean and level. Do not sand existing vinyl floors, as they may contain asbestos.

Step 3. Start the installation. Work from several open boxes of flooring and “dry lay” the floor before permanently laying the floor. This will allow you to select varying textures, colors and sheens, and to arrange them in a harmonious pattern. Remember, it is the installer’s responsibility to determine the expectations of what the finished floor will look like with the end user first and then to cull out pieces that do not meet those expectations.

Begin installation next to an outside wall. This is usually the straightest and best reference for establishing a straight working line. Establish this line by measuring an equal distance from the wall at both ends and snapping a chalk line. The distance you measure from the wall should be the width of a plank or tile. You may need to scribe cut the first row of planks or tiles to match the wall in order to make a straight working line if the wall is not square or “true.”

You may want to position a few rows before starting installation to confirm your layout decision and working line. Helpful hint: When laying flooring, stagger end joints from row to row by at least 8 inches (20 cm) for planks, and equal to 12 inches (51 cm or a half piece) for tiles. For plank installations, you can use the cut-off end to begin the next row when cutting the last plank in a row to fit. If the cut-off end is less than 8 inches, discard it and instead cut a new plank at a random length (at least 8 inches in length) and use it to start the next row. For tile installations, always begin a row with either a full tile or a half tile so that the joints are consistently staggered in a “brick work” type pattern. Always begin each row from the same side of the room.

 

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Installments: Offset labor shortage by seizing opportunities

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Graham Capobianco

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.03.36 PMPresident John F. Kennedy once said, “In crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity.” This memorable quote is still relevant today, particularly as it pertains to the flooring industry’s well-documented labor shortage (the challenge) vs. the growth of the overall construction market (the opportunity).

The construction industry has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. over the past decade, due in large part to the recovery of the overall economy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the construction industry will add 700,000 jobs over the next seven years, making it the largest growing industry by 2024. In fact, 89% of construction firms expect to hire additional workers in the coming year alone. Another plus: The median annual wage for construction positions is 16% above average and is expected to continue to rise. Furthermore, 56% of construction firms expect to increase base pay rates over the next few years in order to retain employees.

While this may seem encouraging, the continued demand for labor is being stymied by two underlying issues: attrition and shortages. Research shows that from 2005 to 2012, the construction industry lost more than 1.4 million workers. Worse, most workers who lost their jobs during the recession never returned; many simply retired. Statistics show skilled laborers in general are twice as likely to retire at age 65 than all other industries.

While projections show the worst may be yet to come, most construction firms are already feeling the impact of labor shortages. A 2015 study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America found 86% of construction firms are reporting difficulty filling both hourly and salary positions. Due to increased demand, 36% of construction firms reported losing laborers to other construction firms more willing to pay higher wages. Whether caused by a shift in public education toward college education or by the erroneously poor perception of skilled trades, the result remains the same: If the construction industry does not make a more concerted effort to leverage economic gains to increase training and recruitment, extend youth outreach and improve the perception of the trades, the economic potential created by the construction market will be stunted by increasing labor shortages.

Thankfully, there are some states and organizations working to address these issues. The International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL) provides valuable instruction and education in states or regions experiencing high rates of growth in construction in order to counterbalance labor shortages. Then there’s Run, Hope, Work, which conducts youth outreach via a holistic approach and construction-specific training. There is also the Ohio Strong Award, which specifically recognizes skilled trades and laborers in order to encourage young adults to pursue trade schools and vocational education programs.

If we are to continue to succeed as an industry, it is critical that we seize the opportunity to expand training, increase outreach and improve recognition within our industry.

 

Graham Capobianco, ICRI, LEED GA, is a fifth-generation floor covering professional with experience in commercial flooring sales and technical support. He is currently technical application specialist at Roppe.

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Al's column: Monitoring moisture in wood

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Scott Perron

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.12.14 PMMore than 90% of all floor coverings installed in the lower Southeast U.S.—especially Florida—are laid down over a concrete slab. That means installers need to be particularly aware of problems and potential failures related to excess moisture.

When my family’s company relocated to Florida and first began 24-7 Floors in Sarasota, we had to learn many new installation techniques related to a simple change in geography. We initially saw many issues with laminate and even sheet vinyl flooring as it related to the levels of moisture present in the concrete, causing everything from discoloration to expansion. Last year we began seeing a huge rash of hardwood flooring failures as that product category has become very popular in our region over the last several years. In recent weeks I have conducted inspections at five different hardwood installations that revealed problems from minor discoloration or bubbling to complete failure in at least three cases.

For those installers who have been putting these products down without moisture testing or applying the proper moisture mitigation solutions, you need to be aware of the potential financial repercussions.

An NWFA certified inspector openly told me most companies that install hardwood flooring materials that are glued directly to the concrete are not following the proper procedures for testing or mitigation prior to installation. Surprisingly, he said, this is not limited to the “bucket-and-trowel” guys; full-line flooring retailers are guilty as well. Too many times the dealer pins his hopes on a premium adhesive as a cure all to moisture, but the fine print changes that in a hurry. Many of the worst cases I have seen personally are the result of purchases made at supply-only outlet centers that do not take responsibility for the installation, only the sale of the product.

We have compiled a library of pictures that show these failures, and we are educating each of our customers on the proper procedures for installation whether we provide labor or just materials. We discuss the proper process for testing, mitigation and adhesives, and we inform the customer we will not put these materials down unless the process is followed the correct way. We learned our lesson the hard way: One of our only installation issues happened on a job that failed in 13 months due to moisture. Prior to the installation, I decided not to test this home because it already had glue-down wood in the main living area so when we removed the old floor and added the adjacent areas we thought we were in the clear. As it turns out we were wrong; there were signs of excessive moisture in the other perimeter rooms. As a result, I promised the customer a full replacement. To my surprise, the customer was very understanding and actually added more areas which helped offset our claim.

A hardwood flooring manufacturing executive I know shared a few failure stories of his own regarding situations where his company’s products were improperly installed in some sizable projects resulting in the flooring contractor being sued and ultimately forced to close his doors. Being the low bidder in that scenario was deadly.

Although this is a challenge we feel will be a growing concern as we move into the future, it spells opportunity for a quality contractor to supply, install and correct the various issues that may arise.

 

Scott Perron is the CEO of 24-7 Floors based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also a motivational speaker. He can be reached at scott@24-7floors.com.

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FCICA doubles down on educational initiatives

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.24.55 AMSan Antonio—FCICA, the flooring contractors association, commemorated its 35th annual convention here by refocusing on its principal values: education, training and enhancing the skill sets of its core constituency—the professional installation manager.

“From what I have seen over the last six years, I think this group is as healthy as it has ever been—not just financially but in terms of great member retention,” Mike Newberry, chairman of the FCICA, told FCNews. “There is a renewed commitment and energy here, and we have a laser focus.”

The FCICA’s flagship program, what Newberry calls the group’s “cornerstone,” is the Certified Installation Manager (CIM) program. This eight-module curriculum provides training tools and assessment for qualified professionals within the commercial flooring space. To date, 29 have successfully completed CIM and there are 102 currently enrolled in the program. In addition to technical issues, installation managers learn “soft skills” such as how to professionally handle irate customers and deal with other issues that require strong interpersonal skills.

James Bissler of Texan Floor Service, Houston, said he became CIM certified because he wanted to separate himself and his company from the competition. “I have certified installers so it made sense to take the next step.”

Newberry said there is strong momentum for the CIM program, which is in its third year. “Being a member is great, but when you have non-members who want to participate in the training program it says a lot about its value. Internally we feel CIM is the only program of its kind in flooring that is training the project/ installation manager, which is a term we use interchangeably.”

Kelly Fuller, director of education, said the CIM program has information installation managers cannot find anywhere else. Best of all, it is all accessible online. “It is a program that is constantly evolving.”

The CIM emphasis comes at a time when the installation trade is being challenged on all fronts—from a dearth of qualified installers to the question of where and how to recruit the next generation of an aging workforce. Larry Chandler, commercial sales director for William M. Bird, a top 20 distributor, is chairman of the FCICA’s Member Benefits committee. He told members that educational opportunities like CIM are imperative. “Margins are getting squeezed all the time that it is almost impossible to go back out on a job site for a second time [without losing money on the project]. The job needs to be done right the first time.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.26.16 AMThe focus on continuing education carried over to the vendor trade program where product demonstrations were included during and after the four-hour trade show that featured 48 vendors. “Any organization willing to promote more training, the better off we all are—and FCICA is big in this area,” said Daniel Tallman, strategic business manager for Schönox, who conducted a product demonstration of the company’s newest synthetic gypsum self-leveling product. “We are a big proponent of getting the proper knowledge in the hands of the people who are going to be handling our material.”

Cathy McVey, customer service manager for Ceramic Tool Flooring Transitions, said she appreciated the interaction with the flooring contractors. “They made a point to come by and visit with us. All you want is a little traffic, and we had plenty of that.”

On the rise

This year’s convention featured 42 first-time attendees and eight new associate members. FCICA now has 201 members—108 contractors and 73 associate members (mostly suppliers).

One first-time attendee, Greg Epperson, technical services manager for Chilewich, which supplies carpet tile, broadloom and carpet mats to the commercial trade, noted, “I have been to some shows where the contractors come around and barely show interest in you. Here the contractors have genuinely been interested in our products and their uses.”

Of the 154 people in attendance in San Antonio 24 were considered “successors,” those less than 40 years old. Graham Capobianco, chairman of the Successors Committee, said his group plans to hold successor-specific programs to spur membership and promote greater involvement within the organization. “We are trending upward with successor involvement,” he told members. “We want to grow with existing members first.”