Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ignorance - the top cause of flooring failures

I realized when I read Lew’s post this week that I was a good example of what his post talks about - the importance of knowing the right product and installation method for the application. I am getting ready to have my basement floor jack hammered to replace the drain in the laundry room in my 65 year old Midwestern home (oh joy). This means new flooring over new concrete in an area with an existing intermittent moisture problem. I know enough about flooring to know that I don’t know enough to make the right choice of either product or installation method by myself. And as it turned out, neither did my general or flooring contractors. So who do you think I called?  Lew Migliore, of course.  He had the perfect solution.  His post poses an important question to you…with all of the products available now, so many innovations, how do we make sure that the right flooring solution gets installed for each application? - Susan Negley

Lew Migliore -

We often hear that the biggest problem in the floor covering industry is poor installation and installation failures.  While installation is a challenge in the industry for a variety of reasons, it is not the biggest cause of flooring failures.  That distinction goes to ignorance and by this I mean the lack of knowing what product to use where, how and why. Simply put, ignorance - not in a derogatory sense but in the true meaning of the word - the lack of knowledge - fosters most dissatisfaction with floor covering and causes the majority of floor covering failures. 

So often when my company (LGM and Associates) is consulted to look at a floor covering complaint we find the product should not have been used for a variety of reasons.  A recent installation of a very high-end woven product in a new performing arts theater resulted in a complaint for shading, matting and poor appearance.  The problem was not the product:
The Problem: On first sight the carpet revealed two glaring specification errors.  The carpet, which was custom made, had far too much solid color and very little pattern.  Since this type of carpet is prone to shade inherently it was exhibiting a condition the architect and designer should have been aware of.  The carpet was also glued directly to the concrete substrate.  Since the substrate had crowning, despite the flooring contractors best efforts to level it, the crowning was mirrored in the face of the carpet. 

The Solution. Had a low profile, high density cushion been used and glued to the substrate with the carpet glued to it (double-stick installation), this condition and dissatisfaction could have been avoided.  There was nothing wrong with the carpet.  The problem was the design and installation method specified and selected.  Had an expert been consulted the problems could have been avoided and the cost to do so would have been minuscule in comparison to what they had to spend to correct the mistakes.
There is a solution for every application.

Between the product and its end use is a list of people with knowledge the industry and consumer rely upon:  The manufacturer, his rep, the distributor, the retailer and installer. Architects are expected to know the specifications of every material used on a construction job but they will be the first to tell you they can’t possibly keep up with all the information on every finish, fixture or furnishing. They often rely on the manufacturer's rep for information but reps are not installation experts and their expertise is often limited to their own products.

There are so many different and new products and innovations; it’s impossible for anyone to keep up – anyone that is except an expert whose job is to keep abreast of these changes and innovations and understand how and where to use them.

What does a “flooring expert” do? A flooring expert consults to determine what products will work in a particular application, what has to be done to achieve a successful installation and how the product should be maintained.  They can help guide the selection process, test the product, evaluate its capabilities relative to the application, traffic, use, abuse and maintenance it will be exposed to and help make a determination as to what will perform best and maintain its appearance longest - whether it be how to handle an installation over a concrete slab that has a moisture issue or cracks, the best installation method for the conditions, or which yarn system or construction is best for their application. 

Is it time to add “flooring expert” to list of standard resources used in specifying and selecting products and methods?  Based upon the type and frequency of calls my company responds to I’d say yes.  My question to you is, "How does the industry best access and use the expertise available to prevent avoidable situations like the performing arts theater I cited above"? And, "What is the best way to get this information to you and your employees"?


Lew Migliore is President of LGM and Associates, a technical consulting firm specializing in all aspects of product and installation performance and education. He is also a consultant with the Floor Covering Institute.

1 comment:

  1. Lew, as we both know, many Commercial & Hospitality carpet installations are contracted by a G.C. The G.C. will typically hire the low bid flooring subcontractor, and thus the problem. With 43 years in the Commercial & Hospitality Industry; here is what I typically see.
    A $25-$30 per s.y. 1st quality, custom carpet will be installed by an untrained, and sometimes a residential installer. Common factors, and solutions; bow & skew, power stretching, stay nailing, proper adhesives, seam sealers, etc. are never considered by the untrained installer. The fault, as described, lies with the G.C.'s selection of a qualified Installation Company. All of the good intentions of a ASID trained professional, who choose the correct carpet, pad & it's application,(Dbl-Stik)are a waste of time. Another issue is "Value Engineering"
    When relative to carpet & installation, it should be referred to as "Devalue Engineering" and as you described with the direct glue installation that should have been Dbl-Stik.
    Until the G.C.'s are directed to properly qualify the Installation Companies; this will be an ongoing problem. How do you enforce this? That is the age old question.