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INSTALL, Roppe partner at NeoCon 2018

Glassboro, N.J.— At NeoCon 2018, INSTALL and Roppe will emphasize the value of certified installation through live, daily flooring demonstrations. As the largest commercial interiors show in North America, NeoCon 2018 will be held at Chicago’s historic Merchandise Mart from June 11-13. The INSTALL and Roppe demonstrations will be located on the 7th floor at the Interiors + SourcesMaterials Pavilion # 7-1000.

This series of dynamic demonstrations will occur throughout the day June 11-12. Through INSTALL’s floor covering expertise, a fashion-forward design using Roppe rubber sheet and tile products will be brought to life. INSTALL and Roppe will showcase new and innovative installation techniques with Roppe’s newest products:

  • Envire Rubber Sheet & Tile: designed for a natural resilience, exceptional wear resistance and dimensional stability for high-traffic areas.
  • FlashCove Prefabricated Base: puncture-proof reinforced base for the longest life-cycle and easiest maintenance for sheet flooring installations.

INSTALL standards and expertise incorporate the knowledge and backing of the entire flooring industry, including Roppe. “INSTALL’s mission is to train and educate for the purpose of quality flooring installations,” said John McGrath, INSTALL executive director. “This collaboration allows us to highlight the need for both quality products and installation to ensure successful commercial flooring projects.”

Designers take great care to choose the right products and systems for clients. However, no matter how discerning the specifier and regardless of product selection, if the design is installed incorrectly, the customer will suffer. The product will not perform the way the designer intends and dismantling and replacing the installation is expensive, time consuming and can tarnish the image of everyone involved.

“Working alongside INSTALL to provide a quality flooring experience from start to finish has proven to be invaluable,” explained Brent Fike, RHC general manager of technical and installation. “INSTALL continues to be an important resource for us as we strive to partner with educated, skilled installers to deliver outstanding end results.”


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Al's column: The upside to polished concrete

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By John McGrath

From a design perspective, the look of polished concrete floors and open ceilings is a highly desirable, contemporary aesthetic for commercial spaces. As a major trend sweeping across retail, industrial and other markets, architects and designers are finding polished concrete has significant environmental, safety, sustainability and maintenance benefits as well.

From helping to earn U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED credits to providing performance benefits, polished concrete is fast becoming an attractive alternative to carpet, VCT and vinyl flooring. While new flooring options like LVT have seen explosive sales growth, this seemingly simple alternative to traditional floor covering products has slowly but surely cemented its place in the industry due to a specific combination of attributes.

As a result, numerous large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Albertsons and Safeway have moved to polished concrete as the standard flooring material for both their new and existing stores. The same rings true for smaller boutique stores, office buildings, institutional facilities and more. From an aesthetic standpoint, polished concrete offers a modern and sophisticated look. A number of stains, colors and topping materials can be added to the floor, along with inset logos and etching. The result is an installation with a varied, natural look that is highly light reflective, slip resistant and visually impactful.

The thermal properties of concrete also help reduce heating and cooling loads for buildings. This translates to significant energy savings when spread across hundreds of thousands of square feet in warehouse stores and large commercial spaces. It’s a plus for large chains and companies like Amazon that operate massive fulfillment centers.

Since concrete is already used as a subfloor in most new buildings, polishing it cuts back on material usage and waste. This adds to LEED credits as there are no additional flooring manufacturing enlarging our carbon footprint. Similarly, since polished concrete is reflective, it helps architects and designers earn electric credits. And because there is limited maintenance and no replacement materials, polished concrete flooring also lessens water use and construction waste.

Altogether, polished concrete flooring can contribute to nearly 40 different LEED point categories. These include points for materials and reuse, indoor environmental air quality along with energy and atmosphere.

Beyond achieving LEED points, the other reason facility managers, interior architects and designers are gravitating toward polished concrete is maintenance and cost-savings. “Whether you are installing VCT, carpet, hardwood or laminate, it’s going to be expensive to maintain over time and replacement is inevitable,” said INSTALL instructor Dave Gross, Northeast Floorlayers, Local 251. “Polished concrete requires virtually no maintenance and when the surface begins to dull it only requires a quick buffing to restore it.”

When installed correctly, according to Tod Sandy, coordinator of the Detroit Carpentry Apprentice School, polished concrete is easy to maintain, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. “As a result, more end users are requesting it.”

With an increased focus on training and new advances in product and installation technology, polished concrete flooring will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

John McGrath is the director of INSTALL, a group dedicated to industry-leading training for professional installers and flooring contractors.

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Department of Veteran Affairs adopts INSTALL certification standards

By John T. McGrath Jr.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 10.32.25 AMThe International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL) has strengthened its partnership with the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The goal is to ensure floor covering is specified and installed in a way that minimizes product failures in VA facilities across the U.S.

The VA actively strives for the highest level of construction and installation standards across its thousands of facilities. From the foundation to the roof, its facility managers, employees and patients can’t afford costly mistakes.

“Like any other industry that owns and operates institutional buildings, we have a long history of flooring failure,” said Orest Burdiak, principal interior designer at the VA. “From poor floor prep to improper testing for moisture to inadequate moisture mitigation, there has been a laundry list of issues across hundreds of facilities.”

While some of these issues were a result of faulty products, the vast majority of failures were the direct result of improper or substandard installation, research shows. Some of this is also a direct result of cost saving measures. As a government entity, the VA has a fiduciary duty to the American public when it comes to spending.

“The VA was often stuck working with a contractor that satisfied the product and materials specification standards but wasn’t able to do the job right,” said Andy Silins, co-chairman of INSTALL, and a U.S. Marine. “One way the VA has changed this is through a strategic partnership with INSTALL. This beneficial partnership has changed the way floor covering products are specified and installed at many facilities around the country.”

As an association that includes major flooring manufacturers, contractors and professional installers across the U.S. and Canada, INSTALL’s curriculum consists of a comprehensive training and certification program for floor covering installers. It also provides the only additional, extended, free, non-proprietary and third-party installation warranty on labor in the industry.

The quality of INSTALL’s programming and warranty are such that the Department of Veteran Affairs adopted INSTALL certification standards into its Section 09 68 00 Carpeting, Section 09 65 19 Resilient Tile Flooring and Section 09 68 21 Athletic Carpeting. This effectively directs that every VA carpet, resilient tile and athletic carpeting job specified must be completed by a flooring installer that meets/exceeds the INSTALL specifications.

“We might be a non-proprietary organization that doesn’t endorse specific products or manufacturers, but what we do support is specification and performance,” Burdiak said. “From our first meeting with INSTALL at NeoCon to now, we are extremely impressed with the guarantee, training and requirements that members of INSTALL have to meet. This directly impacted our certification standards and specification language.”

The revised VA master specifications language regarding flooring installation underscores the organization’s determination that only a flooring contractor who employs an INSTALL-certified workforce is qualified enough to perform work for the VA. “The fact that INSTALL contractors can show proof of training and certification and, in some cases, offer the INSTALL warranty on labor proves up front that they are working with dependable and professional contractors,” Silins said.

The adopted language for carpet, resilient tile and athletic carpeting requires floor covering contractors to specialize in installation, have a minimum of three years experience and employ flooring installers who have retained and currently hold an INSTALL certification or a certification from a comparable certification program. Additionally, installers working on the project must have completed a Department of Labor approved four-year apprenticeship program and have career-long training, manufacturer-endorsed training and a fundamental journeyman skills certification.

INSTALL contractors are already benefitting from the partnership with the VA. INSTALL Warranty Contractor Master Craft Flooring, for example, has completed multiple projects over the course of several years. The company was recently awarded a bid through a local contractor joint venture to handle a sizable flooring installation in the Veterans Rehabilitation Clinic in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“At the end of the day, we want to get what we pay for,” Burdiak said. “I haven’t heard of any flooring failures on large projects since our relationship started, and while it’s tough to oversee and monitor small projects across thousands of facilities, the benefit to our employees, patients and bottom line has been immediate and profound.”

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system. The sprawling organization includes 1,700 hospitals, clinics, community living centers, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers and other facilities throughout the U.S.

With more than 300 master construction specifications for new projects, it is also one of the largest sources of construction spending and job creation in the country. Total major and minor project spending reached $1.855 billion in 2016, according to the 2017 VA Budget in Brief, and there were more than 1,930 jobs available for bid as of spring 2016.

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Eye on installation: Fighting the labor shortage via training

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10
By John McGrath

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-43-58-pmGary Johnson, president and CEO of Toledo, Ohio-based American Flooring & Interiors, believes he has figured out a way to combat the single-most important issue facing the flooring industry today: the lack of qualified installers. The solution, he says, lies in a successful business model built on hiring the right people and fostering their growth via education, training and certification.

For instance, when hiring installers, Johnson identifies core personality characteristics that distinguish the kind of person most likely to succeed. Among them: integrity, outstanding work ethic and a sense of loyalty. When he finds people with these invaluable characteristics, he invests in their future because he knows it can only benefit his company.

Johnson accomplishes this by providing the employee with access to comprehensive training and certification programs developed by INSTALL (the International Standards and Training Alliance) whose comprehensive training and certification program is based on the direction and continued review of flooring manufacturers.

At the end of the day, it’s about teamwork and trust. “Our business philosophy is built on the premise that nobody is more important than the next person,” Johnson stated. “Whether you’re the person delivering the materials to the job site, or the individual installing the flooring, everyone is equal. If one person fails then we all fail. It’s very important to me that everyone who works for me is on board with that mission. By partnering with INSTALL for training, I have people at my disposal who embrace that philosophy. There’s a built-in trust in the people I’m getting.”

So far that philosophy has produced tangible results. American Flooring & Interiors has grown more than 500% in the last five years. In addition, it was ranked by Fortune magazine as the 11th fastest growing company nationwide located in an inner city. The award, the Incentives for a Competitive Inner City 100 (ICIC100), seeks to highlight businesses located within major metropolitan areas that have experienced rapid growth and prove that inner cities can indeed be a mecca of economic development.

The INSTALL factor
The personal and professional development that employees at American Flooring & Interiors receive through INSTALL is just one of the benefits Johnson touts. He also recognizes a significant advantage in his company’s ability to handle larger contracts by gaining access to a pool of experienced, certified installers from across the country that he can tap into as needed to support any size contract or bid. Johnson often relies on INSTALL’s bank of trained professionals to support his team when they’re bidding on a large-scale project.

American Flooring & Interior’s business model of starting with the right people and then building them up with professional training is a direct method for pulling new blood into the skilled labor force. As Johnson states: “If more floor covering businesses adopted this model—using INSTALL as a key tool in developing new workers—the country would be on a better path to combatting this and any future skilled labor crises.”


John McGrath, Jr. is director of INSTALL, an association of professional installers, contractors, manufacturers, associations and consultants. He is a 30-year flooring installation veteran and accomplished speaker. For more information, please visit

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INSTALL expands terms of warranty program

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 9.06.09 AMChicago—INSTALL, the International Standards & Training Alliance, has expanded the terms of its warranty program.

INSTALL will now provide its warranty contractors an additional, extended, free, non-proprietary and third-party installation warranty of $25,000 for two years.

The expanded warranty is five times the original coverage amount and twice the coverage term. The INSTALL Warranty Program started in 2013 with a one-year warranty term and $5,000.

“This has been a very successful program for INSTALL, the floor covering industry and our customers,” said John McGrath, INSTALL director. “After two years and millions of square feet of floor covering installations of all kinds, we haven’t had one claim lodged against the INSTALL Warranty. This is a testament to our superior floor covering contractors and the best training in the business.”

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INSTALL weighs in at IIDEXCanada on flooring disasters

JohnMcGrathFlooringDisasters (1)Toronto—John McGrath, director of INSTALL (International Standards & Training Alliance), a leading construction industry-endorsed floor covering installation and training certification program in North America, led a panel at IIDEXCanada Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014.

At the seminar, Flooring Disaster: Prevention and Recovery, McGrath said flooring contractors should’t be scapegoats every time a floor fails. Instead, due diligence should start higher up the contractor chain.

“The cause of flooring problems is often related to the condition of the substrate. And it can be in poor shape long before the flooring contractor’s arrival on site,” said panelist Steve Zizek, flooring instructor, Resilient Floor Workers Training Trust Fund, Carpenters Local 27. “General contractors and other subcontractors must understand that some of their activities can cause substrate problems for flooring installers, ranging from improperly leveled concrete floors to moisture intrusion in the slab.”

“It is the best insurance policy to protect everyone involved,” said McGrath, who conducts seminars on behalf of INSTALL on flooring issues regularly for architects, interior designers, building owners and facility managers.

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Judge’s panel chosen for Schönox ‘worst subfloor’ contest

America Contest-2Florence, Ala. — Earlier this month HPS Schönox kicked off a Contest asking the question, Is your company working on a project that has what might be the worst subfloor in North America?  Today, the company announced who will judge the responses to that question.  Schönox put together the Worst Subfloor in North America Contest to shine a light on tough subfloor conditions, detail the best ways to renovate them, and provide some recognition and publicity for the companies who handle these challenging projects.  John McGrath (director, INSTALL), Lew Migliore (president, LGM and Associates Technical Flooring Services) and Jim Walker (CEO, International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association/CFI) will judge the contest after the entry end date of Dec. 15.

“I was delighted to sign on to judge the Worst Subfloor in North America Contest,” McGrath said.  “Any event designed to showcase the expertise of professional flooring companies and the challenges they face in the field is of special significance for me.”  The contest entries will be independently judged with first, second, and third place winners being awarded Schönox products based on the severity of the original subfloor’s condition, the skill and attention to detail taken in executing the project, and the quality of the finished subfloor.

“Installation companies and contractors face a wide range of subfloor challenges on a daily basis in the field,” Migliore said. “I’ve seen so many of those subfloor issues and see new ones each day; the Schönox Contest will likely show us even more.”  Those entering the contest are asked to photograph the subfloor conditions before and after the subfloor renovation project and submit the photos, along with some project information, at where contest details can be found. Winners will be announced at Surfaces in 2015.