Every day we deal with a multitude of repairs, each of them so different you’d be surprised. This issue is important because so many installation failures are caused by substrate problems. However, the responsibility of the flooring dealer or contractor is not to repair the substrate but to prep it for installation. Repairing requires work that is not part of the installation and should most often be done by someone other than a floor covering technician.
That said, I’ll share with you part of my communication with this flooring dealer: “I would love to see an article that defines floor prep to the general contractors of the world. When I say define, I mean the difference in prepare vs. repair. I view floor preparation exactly as it reads: preparing the substrate to receive floor covering. This includes patching minor holes and saw cuts, sanding, sweeping, cleaning the substrate to insure proper bonding of the material being installed, grinding, filling, topping, leveling, etc., to qualify the substrate for floor covering.
“For whatever reason we (flooring dealers, contractors and installers) are expected to repair and prepare and never blink an eye. I certainly agree that there is a certain amount of prep that goes along with an install, as we will never walk into an installation and immediately start installing the product. However, if the substrate contractor does not properly do his job, how does it become the floor covering installer’s responsibility to prepare and repair?”
Floor preparation means preparing the floor to receive flooring material, and depending on the material the amount of floor prep can vary. Vinyl sheet goods will require a more finished substrate than carpet installed over a cushion because vinyl will telegraph every little irregularity in the floor. Carpet over cushion will hide a multitude of sins beneath it so depending on the flooring material, the installation site and the condition of the substrate, the amount of floor prep will be dictated.
But, as our flooring dealer asked, where do you draw the line? Flooring dealers, contractors and installers are not substrate finish men. They aren’t supposed to, nor should they be required to without compensation, put the substrate in a condition to receive the flooring material. Floor prep means what our dealer said: patching holes, doing some minor leveling and general clean up to allow the flooring material to be installed. When the substrate requires major work involving overall leveling, grinding or more, that is where the game changes.
It should be discussed up front what should be done to the substrate. If you are replacing carpet for carpet in a home, then you will have no concerns, but if you are working on a commercial job or even a Main Street commercial job, you have to establish the ground rules for what is to be done. This is especially important if installation crews are working at night or on weekends, when they have to make a decision and have no one to turn to.
Floor preparation then would be simple and basic requirements employed daily, as a routine and standard of care facilitate the installation of whatever flooring material is to be installed. Floor repair would be a concerted and specific effort to repair a substrate not ready for installation without making major modifications.
Let’s say this: Preparation is painting walls with very little other than filling nail holes and some dents, things the painter does. Repairing the walls would require patching large holes or replacing sections of dry wall; work for the drywall contractor. If the painter has to do it, he gets paid for the extra work.
It is no different for the flooring guys.