By Paul Pleshek
“We are sending an inspector,” are not always the most comforting words an installer or retailer hears. Some are concerned the inspector has a bias for the manufacturer, others don’t have high regard for certain inspectors in their area. Whatever the concern, how can a materially invested party know the inspector will handle the claim in a fair, thorough and neutral way?
A commonly expressed concern about inspectors is whether they are intentionally biased for the party that is paying; however, that is the least likely cause of bias. It is the prejudice that comes from past experiences as an installer, retailer, manufacturer or cleaner that undermines an otherwise well-intentioned inspector. This is called confirmation or my-side bias. It is the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information in a way that confirms one’s hypotheses while giving less consideration to alternative possibilities. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. This type of bias affects every party involved in a claim, even the inspector.
A qualified inspector avoids bias thorough application of the scientific method employed to make observations, develop related questions, formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis and conclude or refine the hypothesis until it is consistent with most/all of available data. Proper application of the scientific method requires an in-depth understanding of the entire flooring industry including manufacturing, specification, installation, maintenance and environmental conditions. The qualified inspector has a network of connections in each of the inter-related industries and attends educational events from a wide variety of sources to avoid communal bias which comes from only interacting with people of the same opinion.
Second, when looking for a qualified inspector, it is important to know his experience, certification and continuing education. Inspector certification can come from private companies or industry associations like the IICRC, NWFA or CFI. Ultimately, the certification is simply proof of the minimal training and understanding required for the inspection process and report writing. For that reason, the most important factor in becoming a professional inspector is continuing education. The flooring industry changes constantly and keeping up with new developments is imperative. Most certifications require two credits per year, which translates to about 12-16 hours of classroom time. That amount of training is insufficient to stay abreast of industry advances and changing inspection techniques. In addition, the greater the number of inspector certifications means more education is required. Therefore, the highly qualified inspector attends training frequently throughout each year and varies that training from different associations, manufacturers and professional organizations.
Ultimately, personal interaction with the inspector is the best way to determine his qualifications, knowledge base, problem-solving abilities and possible bias. Get to know the inspectors in your area. Conduct an interview, debate issues and try to determine the inspector’s ability to reason and explain complicated concepts. See if he or she possesses an understanding of all segments of the flooring industry and how each can affect the other. Are they certified for substrates, maintenance, repair/installation or do they just have a few days’ training for several complicated floor coverings?
When investigating the qualifications of an inspector, commissioning parties should look for how long the inspector has been certified, what type of continuing education has been attended each year, how many hours of continuing education, what associations and committees the inspector participates in and whether the inspector is advancing their industry through education with written articles, convention presentations or as a certification instructor. Proper vetting of the inspector’s qualifications will give a materially invested party piece of mind knowing the inspection will offer resolution to a claim, not further complicate matters.
Paul Pleshek is the president of the National Academy of Floor Coverings Training (NAFCT) and the owner/president of Floor Claim Solutions Inc. Paul has been in the floor coverings industry since 1990 and was first certified by the IICRC as a senior carpet inspector in 1995.