by Lew Migliore
The comment, “The installer should have noticed this problem before installing the material,” should resonate with you. This is one that is used consistently by manufacturers, distributors and dealers when a claim for a visible or supposed visible defect in a flooring material exists.
Any time a complaint is filed for a physically manifested condition in a flooring material—a blemish, flaw or imperfection that was expected to be seen by someone, that someone accused is most often the installer. Where is it written that installers are in charge of quality control?
Let me share this with you: We get samples of material all the time that someone says has a flaw. Very often we can’t see it at first, nor may it be evident in photos emailed. One recent example was some tiles we received that were marked on the back to coincide with a flaw in the face no one here could see. Only when the tiles were examined in bright sunlight did the blemish become evident.
So, if we can’t see the flaw and we’re consciously looking for it and know it exists, how is the installer who is concentrating on how he is going to approach the job, layout the material, work in the space without causing any damage, finish on time, not getting paid enough—on top of any other number of considerations to properly install the material—supposed to do quality control at the same time?
Actually, quality control guidelines are in writing and they exist in common and standard industry practices. The Carpet & Rug Institute has a publication; I’ve mentioned it before in this column, called Areas of Responsi-bility. In it, each party involved in the process of getting the flooring to the end user has areas of responsibility.
The first one in line, when it comes to quality control, is the manufacturer. Since manufacturers examine and inspect all material produced before it is shipped, they are first in line to ensure the product has no visible defects. Next, the dealer is supposed to inspect the product and later the installer should note if there are any visible defects. He may notice them while he is working in a tight space, maybe with poor lighting and any other distraction he’s confronted with.
Any blemish should be seen by the manufacturer first and the standards of care should be followed, which would be the manufacturer looking for and noticing defects first in line. If they exist, the product should be relegated to seconds. The installer should not be given the burden of responsibility for doing everyone else’s job along the line. In the truest meaning of the term, “This is not my job,” applies here.
Visibly obvious flaws in the product are the first opportunity for notice by everyone who looks at, or should look at the product before the installer. In the case of the tile mentioned earlier, the manufacturer and distributor both told the dealer the installer should have noticed the blemish before installing the product.
Why didn’t the manufacturer notice it? The blemish was in the material, put there during the manufacturing process, so it should have seen it. Now the claim is going to be argued in the defense the installer should not have installed the product with the blemish. Shouldn’t the product have been shipped without the blemish? If litigated, which would be rare if at all, the legality is that the manufacturer has the obligation to ship materials that are merchantable for service. This means complying with the product specification, that the goods are installable, suitable for their intended purpose, and without defects.
That’s not the installer’s job.