Installments: Designer, installer responsibilities

Home Columns Installments: Designer, installer responsibilities

by Dave Stafford

There may be fireworks between the designer, architect, flooring contractor and the installer when it comes to turning a design concept into reality. When a project blows up the finger-pointing starts.

We’ve all heard variations of this theme: The designer is supposed to be an expert in color, its effects and product characteristics for overall performance of the product when installed correctly. When information from the manufacturer is unclear or when there is a question before locking in their specification, the designer should consult a resource such as the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Model Specifications for Commercial Carpet at carpet-rug.org.

When it comes to installation, the best thing a designer can do is include a statement in his scope of work along the lines of: “The [carpet] specified shall be installed by an experienced installation contractor according to the best practices of trade as recommended by the product manufacturer.”

A typical designer is not an expert on flooring installation and should remember that. This way, there are two additional protections for the designer. First, best practices of the trade refer to how a product is typically installed. It relates to the specific methodology and techniques from industry programs such as FCICA’s FIT program, the training/certification by CFI or INSTALL. Second are the specific recommendations by the manufacturer, which has every reason to want its product installed correctly.

Each of the organizations mentioned and the manufacturer have their own guidelines, requirements and specific steps to eliminate problems in getting the product on the floor. It is therefore incumbent upon the installation contractor to make sure he and his installation team abide by the recommendations and practices of these entities.

As a practical matter, the architect or designer should be willing to specify the product and cushion as an option and the general method of installation (gluedown, double-direct gluedown, stretch-in). However, it is up to the installation contractor to let the architect or owner know if the specified type of installation is inappropriate or doomed to failure before installation is actually performed. He is the expert and will be held accountable. A designer once said to me, “You need to make my design look great. I’m counting on you to do that.” She certainly had the right attitude and we took special care to do just that.

There are many cases where direct gluedown installation has been performed over an existing substrate that was rough, uneven, wet, too cold, unsanitary, contaminated or not level, and the installation subsequently failed. Blaming things on the floor, owner or architect will only go so far and the usual opinion is the installer is the expert and should have known better than to proceed with the installation under conditions that he should have known would result in a high probability of installation failure.

Both should do their job, first by specifying the right product and type of installation for the physical environment and expected use, and then by performing professional installation according to the best practices of the trade.

Dave Stafford has been in the flooring industry for over 25 years, is an FCICA Honorary Lifetime Member and may be contacted at dave@dsainfo.com.

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