Experience and training of flooring installation crew should never be a question mark for consumers
We talk about product quality. We talk about price, which in today’s economy means we bypass some higher-quality products. But except in the instance of installing Marmoleum from Forbo, we have not talked much about installer training.
States like Oregon that have mandatory contractor licensing, which means continuing education credits that include some training in flooring installation, might tout their efforts to protect consumers. Some manufacturers, like Forbo, also require that their sheet products be installed by a contractor the company has certified in order for the product warranty to be valid.
But flooring distributors – that stock and supply products to flooring dealers – and the dealers themselves are not doing a reputable job unless they routinely provide training for flooring installers, says Victoria Haugen, marketing manager for Wanke Cascade, a Forbo distributor, headquartered in Portland, OR.
“The retailers who buy our products gain a great deal of installation expertise through training programs we offer, both because of Oregon’s requirements, but also as a joint effort with our vendors, including Forbo,” Haugen says. “Forbo sheet products, for example, can be challenging to install because of the heat-welded seams and other fine points. Completing Forbo’s training course results in certification from the manufacturer, and being added to the prestigious list of key installers.”
Last week, Wanke Cascade held a training session for another product it distributes – Flexitec. Although this is a vinyl product, and the fact that it is recyclable is its only claim to being “green,” EcoFloors of Portland sent an installer to the training.
“Of course, a natural product like Marmoleum or linoleum is our preference,” says EcoFloors owner Sam Snow. “But, Flexitec is less expensive, comes in 13-foot, 2-inch widths that minimize seams, it is recyclable, contains recycled content, and it’s made in the USA! I like that.”
Reputable retailers assure proper installation
The requirements of Oregon’s Construction Contractors Board (CCB) License may be a step in the right direction, but Snow says that a retailer who intends to provide superior service would not be content to just meet the continuing education requirements the license carries.
“We fly our guys to classes all over the country to become trained or certified in a specific product,” Snow says. “We have installers who have Forbo, National Wood Flooring Association and Nation Fiber Installation Certification. We just had a three-day Natural Fiber Installation Certification clinic, held at our facility, where installers learned about installing wool and natural fibers, including things like hand-sewing.”
Installers for Brothers Floor Covering in Indianapolis, IN, stay current on product installation training through local contractor days, in which manufacturers hold trainings at the local distributor’s facility, and through memberships to groups like Flooring Plus, which is offered by one of the distributors Brothers buys products from.
“Also, when time and budget allow, there are training classes through NWFA for wood floor work,” says Brothers owner Greg Hill. “But I still think the best training is experience, and as a homeowner that is what I would ask about and what I would look for.”
When a product requires unique installation methods, manufacturer certifications and training are important, and it is the retailer’s responsibility to ensure that his installers have this instruction, says Ken Weisbacher, president of KW Flooring in Cincinnati, OH.
“We make sure our installers are properly trained before they go on a job,” Weisbacher says. “That is really our responsibility not the consumer’s. It is a reason consumers should buy from reputable dealers.” ©
– Nancy Kibbee is editor at www.naturalinteriors.com