By Mike Pigeon
As with all trades and trade skills, there are different levels of expertise and capabilities that everyone can achieve. When it comes to resilient flooring installations that require an integral cove, this is where it usually separates the good, the bad and the ugly. (Especially when you add in the seamless floor factor and every seam needs to be welded, both vertical and horizontal.)
As we all know, on the commercial side of the trade health care and medical facilities are booming. It really does not seem to matter what part of the country I’m in, the resilient flooring and flash-cove or self-coving sector is in great demand. However, no matter where I go there seems to be a shortage of installers at this skill level.
When it comes to heat-welded floor installations, whether experienced or not, there are a few sides to the story. Some will tell you they only do it periodically and it’s not worth the investment for training and tools to be fully invested. Some will tell you they invested in the training and tools and wish they had more installations to make it worth it. Others will tell you they turned their complete focus toward this sector and have never looked back. This is usually depending on the marketplace and location and the type of work that is booming in that area. The one common thing they will all tell you is this is a specialty part of the floor covering trade that takes a special hand, eye and skill that not everyone will be able to embrace.
First, education. There is training out there if you can get your hands on it. If you are working out of a union shop, there are the apprenticeships that have very thorough training programs and also require in-field time with journeymen. If you’re in the non-union sector, it is usually a case of getting pulled in under the wing of someone willing to share their skills. This is a very long and slow process as the best way to learn is hands-on training.
Second, required tools. When it comes to heat-welded seamless flooring in combination with flash-coving material, different tools are needed. There will be a small investment with these tools when it comes to cove cap cutters, scribes, gouging tools and also welding tips and skiving tools.
Last is mindset. The self-coving or flash-coving sector of the trade will separate the average from the above average, not only in terms of training but also in mindset. When a well-tuned, highly efficient installer on a flash-cove job is putting down large amounts of yardage and lineal footage of coved material, it is because he has spent the blood, sweat and tears to master the mindset required. No matter what, when you commit to this skill, you’re all in or all out. That includes taking into consideration that most bids want to pay for a Ford Pinto but get a Lamborghini-quality job. When you are paid hourly, speed does not matter as much, but when you are a self-employed contractor, speed improves profits.
When all is said and done and you are at the quality level that is the hardest to achieve, you will always be in demand. The work rarely diminishes, and you will be a highly requested installer.
Bottom line: make the commitment, find the marketplace and take your skills to the next level. You will never be out of demand.
Mike Pigeon is a technical installation specialist for Roppe Holding Co. He has 20 years experience an installer and an additional 10 years as a commercial project manager. Pigeon, who is a certified installation manager (CIM), currently serves on the CIM steering committee.