Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What you need to know about flooring forensics

When hiring a forensic investigator to inspect, detect and solve ceramic tile and stone failures you should look for a combination of specific skills.  What you want to find is essentially the Sherlock Holmes of flooring forensics.  Holmes was observant, paid exquisite attention to detail, understood science and was able to solve crimes by piecing together a sequence of events using a combination of art and science to reach his conclusions.  That’s the kind of detective you need.

Donato Pompo
Long before I became a forensic failure expert, founded the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone, started my consulting company or earned my college degree, I installed floors. I worked my way up in the family ceramic and stone business from the bottom up. I’ve installed, inspected and now teach others how. So it is with this background and 40 years of broad experience in the industry  I can say with certainty that a top forensic failure expert will have these important qualities:

•    A high degree of attention to detail.
Failures are usually due to several compounding deficiencies; meticulous investigation and paying attention to details are the only way to find all of the clues.

•    A thorough understanding of flooring industry standards.
Standards are often ambiguous and left to some subjective interpretation. It is important to be able to logically apply or compare the industry standards to the evidence and findings of any given case.  During depositions and trials opposing councel will relentlessly attempt to discredit the experts and their findings.  For this reason, it is important to be thorough, correct and consistent in referencing the standards to the various aspects of the technical report.  

•    A practical understanding of the ceramic and stone installation process.
It is crucial to understand what may have occurred during installation that may have led to a failure. This requires understanding the processes and challenges of installation. I know that from having learned the business from the bottom up. My hands-on installation experience has proven invaluable in both the investigation process and in teaching our field journeymen.

•    An understanding of the physics of nature and the physical properties of the materials being used.  A common sense understanding of science should enable the inspector to develop scenarios, such as… if this condition happened, using this product and this circumstance was in play then the logical outcome should have been this.  Understanding the science of the materials in play also helps when communicating with  testing laboratories and engineers. At our company, this is where my science background comes in handy.  It’s my job to work with the laboratories by communicating with them in scientific terms which helps to determine reasonable testing protocols and in interpreting test results. 

•    Experience of having performed many investigations.  Experience and insight that comes with having investigated many different failures, products and conditions is invaluable.
Most inspectors have one or two of these traits; few possess them all.  The benefit of having someone with this full spectrum of skills however becomes evident every time we are called in to a lawsuit and hear how our clients were unable to rely upon their previous experts throughout the whole investigative process. Having one forensic expert throughout the process - one who can  investigate, document and communicate in a manner that will stand up in court -  is much less costly in both time and money in the long run. 

It takes a combination of art and science to be a successful forensic investigator. The art is in detecting and translating of findings and putting them together like pieces of a puzzle.  The findings are often just the symptoms of underlying problems.  Once an investigator’s interpretations are applied to known factors and industry standards, common sense leads the way to solving the puzzle.  Science returns as the final step to substantiate the findings and conclusions with quantitative data and logic to prove the case.

What I love about my job now is being able to orchestrate the entire process, employing both art and science, to serve our clients well. Since I know this is what you want too, I hope you find this information helpful.


Donato Pompo  is founder of two well-known flooring industry companies focused on improving everything about ceramic tile and stone flooring and the businesses that produce and sell them. They are Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) and the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS).

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