Al’s Column: Preventing flooring failures

Home Columns Al's Column Al's Column: Preventing flooring failures

June 29; Volume 30/Number 1

By Lew Migliore

Flooring failures are all too common in the industry, but adhering to the following set of guidelines can easily prevent them.

The first step is to qualify the end user. By asking a series of questions you can keep yourself out of trouble and satisfy your customers. The questions include, “What area in the home are you shopping for? How long do you expect or want the flooring to last? What floors do you have now, and what do you like or dislike about them?” Oftentimes customers have carpet and want to switch to hard surface flooring. Not many of your competitors are going to qualify the consumer by getting to know her desires.

Next, a flooring dealer has to have impeccable product knowledge; you have to understand the products you sell and their capabilities so you can get the right product in the right place. The biggest cause of flooring failures is the wrong product in the wrong place—expecting the flooring to do something it is incapable of.

The next preventive measure is proper specification, closely related to the first issue but a bit different in that you actually specify, recommend or endorse a product’s use in a space it will actually work. Specification of the wrong product is another cause of flooring failures; you are essentially making promises the product can’t possibly keep.

Just because someone says something about a flooring material’s performance doesn’t mean it’s true. With so many products coming from so many places around the world, especially hard surface flooring—LVT and LVP in particular—you have no idea what the product will do once it’s on the floor. An example is the shrinking vinyl epidemic.

Once you understand the product, installation knowledge is key. You can’t just slap the flooring on the substrate and expect it to perform well when there are a multitude of issues that can compromise the installation. The consumer may have had carpet and now she wants wood; the two products react and perform differently under the same conditions.

You have to understand the environmental conditions, the substrate and how they affect the flooring. The installer has to understand the substrate whether it’s concrete, wood, metal or some other composite surface. And this has to be a team effort; the person selling the material should also understand installation so the sales and installation teams can work together.

The next important step is making sure your installer is skillful. If you’re expecting the flooring to be properly installed, then you can’t beat the installer up for the lowest price. Cheap does not buy quality. The installer has to know and have experience with the product he’s installing. The chance of a flooring installation failure increases exponentially as the price of installation decreases.

Lastly, what we find so often as the cause of a flooring failure is ignorance and lack of common sense about flooring. For example, wood flooring will expand and contract during seasonal changes, shrinking in the dry of winter and expanding in the humidity of summer. This is the same thing trees do in the forest. Wood also scratches and dents; that’s an inherent characteristic no matter how hard it is.

Each flooring material has its own inherent characteristics you must know, understand and be able to convey to the consumer. You can fix ignorance with education and learn common sense in the process.

The more you know about the products you sell, qualify the consumer and get the flooring materials properly installed by skilled installers, the fewer flooring failures you’ll have.


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