Installments: Specialty installation

Home Columns Installments: Specialty installation

by Dave Stafford

“A man’s got to know his limitations,” is a line from a popular movie, and many retailers and flooring contractors would do well to heed that advice. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on installations that turned out to be substandard because someone was ill-equipped, untrained and unfamiliar with how to do a specific project.

A classic example is one where the owner was informed a patterned carpet received was defective and could not be installed. “There is no way to make the seams match, and even if we could do that, there is going to be a huge curve in the middle of the carpet. The mill sent you defective carpet,” the installer said.

Of course, his primary experience had consisted of installing apartment carpet, direct glue down solids and small pattern loop products. The manufacturer’s recourse was to send in an experienced technical representative and to do on-the-job training since it was a relatively small job. Once there, the proper steps were demonstrated to correct bow and skew, and the installer saw how wrong he had been and how much he had to learn about woven carpet, stay-nailing and power stretching.

Had the designer insisted on an appropriate installer certification level from organizations like CFI or INSTALL or training and certification by the carpet manufacturer, the problem could have been avoided.

Look for the best solution

Sometimes it is a case of no training and experience with a product. Other times, it is more a case of the right methodology and equipment. A local government agency’s new facility manager had heard of a way to install new carpet tile and remove old broadloom without having to completely dismantle the existing systems furniture; something about lifting the systems unit up and pulling out the carpet. He contacted his existing installer who agreed to “give this new method a try” and used bottle jacks and an iron bar to do the lifting. After one night’s work, about 100 yards of carpet was installed, but the electrical raceways on most of the modular system units had been damaged. The entire work area had to be shut down and the bill for repairs was over $8,000. The crew never got another job in that county and the facility manager’s reputation was damaged.

One large county library system had delayed replacing carpet in their flagship location due to a bad experience with handling books and book stacks during and after installation. After a careful inspection of shelving and book stacks, their construction and age, the flooring contractor proposed an installation that would move the stacks as a unit rather than removing books from the stacks and then moving the stacks for new carpeting.

After a demonstration showing how quickly and efficiently the job could be done, the library was sold on the concept and wrote this into the job specifications: No more headaches with missing books and volumes out of sequence. The contractor got the bid award and the project went well. He also ended up with a number of other library projects because of this reference.

Before you get tangled up in an expensive learning curve on your next job, ask around. Your best solution may be to hire the right subcontractor as a member of your team. Look hard at their credentials and certifications. Using the right crew may open doors for exceptional business projects that will pave the way for your next profitable commercial segment.

Dave Stafford has been in the flooring industry for over 25 years, is an industry consultant, a FCICA Honorary Lifetime Member, and may be contacted at

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