Tuft Talk - July 2012

By Frank Hurd

 

In the last Tuft Talk, we discussed the myths about carpet, how these factors cause customers to deselect carpet, and how the retailer can address them. In that article, one topic that was not addressed, but one that is a contributing factor to consumer frustration, is installation. The last person to interface with the consumer and the one who will make the most lasting impression is the installer, and he or she is often the forgotten element. 

Jim Walker, president of the Certified Flooring Installers, is often called upon to fix installations gone badly and, therefore, has become an expert on the issues related to poor installations. Walker is a strong advocate for installer training and supports a meaningful certification process for installers. His organization has trained over 40,000 installers nationwide, not only on their installation knowledge but also with hands-on training and continuing education. Why is this important? If the installation is rather simple, can’t anyone do it? This has been the general attitude by many dealers, and this attitude has come back to cost them time and money, when an installation performed by a qualified installer would have saved them both. In other words, they were penny-wise and pound-foolish. Following is a synopsis of a carpet installation job gone badly, resulting in costs that could and should have been avoided. 

A consumer purchased an expensive, not patterned, plush carpet for three rooms and adjoining hallways from a national retailer. The retailer, as is the usual process, contracted with an installation company to install the carpet, with disastrous results from the consumer’s and the retailer’s standpoint. When the job was finished, there were three distinct issues with the installation: 
• poor seaming—large gaps, no seam-sealer, tucked yarns, sloppy adhesive;
• baseboard damage;
• cleat damage—yarn voids, disintegrated backing.

Whose responsibility is it to fix this issue? Well, it may be an installation issue, but the dealer is the one on the hook. The dealer must address each issue to the satisfaction of the consumer, including re-carpeting, if required, which was the case for one room in this instance. As one would expect, the issue was not resolved without finger-pointing between the installer, the retailer and the manufacturer. The fix was very costly. While the situation was resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, it left a sour taste with the customer to the point that they are unlikely to recommend this retailer to their friends, and if they have other flooring needs, they will most certainly go elsewhere. 

This is not a new issue. It has been troubling the industry for a long time. Ken McIntosh, a 26-year veteran of the Carpet and Rug Institute, has seen many attempts by the industry to effectively address how to ensure quality installation. When asked about industry efforts, McIntosh reported that, “the Carpet and Rug Institute, as far back as 1986, issued CRI 104 and CRI 105 carpet installation recommended practices for both residential and commercial installation. These standards have been revised several times and most recently combined into a single document, The CRI Carpet Installation Standard – 2011.”

Missing from the latest CRI standard, as identified above by McIntosh, are recommended practices for dealers. First among these is a recommendation contained in early versions for the dealer to “obtain the services of a professionally trained and skilled floor covering installer.” Another, and most often violated recommendation, is that, “in order to comply with the Carpet and Rug Institute’s recommended guidelines for improved air quality, the customer should be advised that existing carpet should be vacuumed prior to removal. After removal of the carpet and cushion, the subfloor should also be vacuumed.” Bringing a vacuum or borrowing one from the customer to ensure that these simple but important tasks are accomplished is not common practice for installers—but it should be. The consumer will remember this effort. If customers are removing the carpet prior to installation, the dealer should make it a practice to remind them of the importance of vacuuming not only the subfloor but also the carpet to be removed.

The 2011 standard explains in detail all the necessary steps an installer needs to follow, including an explanation of terminology, tools and materials needed; how to deal with concrete floors; how to condition carpet before installation; how to prepare seam edges; the ins and outs of patterned carpet installation; and how to properly stretch new carpet. 

What is next in the journey to instill good installation practices? As highlighted in the June 2012 issue of Floor Focus, the World Flooring Covering Association and the Carpet and Rug Institute have combined resources to develop an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for carpet installation through the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). This is clearly a change from past practices, where CRI was the creator and holder of the standard. A recurring criticism of CRI’s installation standards has been that they were too manufacturer-centric. This effort by WFCA and CRI should go a long way toward eliminating this criticism, as the carpet installation standard will now be open to the consensus process dictated by ANSI. 

IICRC was chosen because of its long history as being an accredited ANSI standard-setting body and its close association with the carpet industry. Another reason for choosing IICRC is its track record of training certification to various standards. While IICRC owns no schools and has no instructors on staff, it performs the important function of certifying the training to very specific criteria set forth by the IICRC board of directors. The institute currently does this for 26 different courses taught in six different countries at multiple schools around the globe. IICRC’s track record of training certification is a real plus, and it is hoped and expected that IICRC will add carpet installation certification to the growing list of courses it certifies. 

With the new IICRC S600 standard, the industry will have a consensus document that can be used as the basis for training and certification of installers, but that doesn’t mean dealers can sit back and relax and think the installation issues have been solved. It is still incumbent on dealers to hire qualified installers who are trained and certified to the requirements of IICRC S600.

What else can be done to ensure a quality installation experience for the consumer? According to Walker, the manufacturers must take the lead in ensuring that their product is being installed correctly. Many manufacturers require in their warranties the use of CRI certified Seal of Approval (SOA) carpet cleaning products and the use of Seal of Approval carpet cleaning service providers who guarantee their use of SOA products. Why not require a certified installer as well? This is something that the mills could explore once IICRC S600 is fully implemented, and there are training facilities available to make such a change practical. 

In the meantime, it is the responsibility of retailers and dealers to vet their installers and hire good ones, not just inexpensive ones. This is the only way to ensure a positive experience for the consumer and, most likely, will be less costly in the long run and will provide for repeat customers and word of mouth recommendations. There is no reason for a customer to get excited about their purchase of beautiful carpet, only to have the installer ruin the experience by not being properly trained. The dealer is ultimately responsible for the customer satisfaction. They must go the extra mile to provide noteworthy excellence. Remember, the installer is the last person to interact with the consumer; ensure it is a good experience by hiring qualified installers. From the customer’s perspective, they represent you.

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus 



Other Archived Articles

Growth in Services Sector Picks Up in March   Full Article
Tempe, AZ, April 3, 2014 -- Growth in the U.S. services sector accelerated in March, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Jobless Claims Tick Higher Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 3, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits edged higher unexpectly last week, according to the Labor Department.

Zillow To Help Chinese Invest in U.S. Real Estate   Full Article
New York, NY, April 3, 2014 -- Zillow said it would begin providing real-estate listings for Chinese real-estate portal Beijing Yisheng Leju Information Services.

Planned Job Cuts Plunge in March   Full Article
Chicago, IL, April 3, 2014 -- Planned job cuts fell to 34,399 in March, which was down 30% from a year ago and 18% from the previous month, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Finkell Forming New Hardwood Company   Full Article
Only, TN, April 3, 2014 -- Don Finkell, former head of hardwood maker Anderson, is getting back into business with a wood flooring startup called OEM Wood Floors.

Unilin's Winters Named NALFA Member of Year   Full Article
Dallas, TX, April 3, 2014 -- Unilin’s Jane Winters recently won the flooring industry’s "NALFA Member Of The Year” award.

J+J Flooring Names Metzger Director of Design   Full Article
Dalton, GA, April 3, 2014 -- J+J Flooring Group has named industry veteran Daniel Metzger as director of design.

Surya Names Curtin Vice President Sales   Full Article
Calhoun, GA, April 3, 2014 -- Rug company Surya said it has named Jim Curtin as vice president of sales, national accounts.

Factory Orders Rise More Than Expected   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 2, 2014 -- Factory orders rose 1.6 % in February, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday

Jobs Growth Picks Up in March   Full Article
Roseland, NJ, April 2, 2014 -- Private firms grew their payrolls in March by the most in three months, according to the ADP Employment Report.

Mortgage Application Volume Declines   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 2, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume fell last week on lower refinancing demand, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Analyst Lowering Mohawk Estimates Due to Weather   Full Article
New York, NY, April 2, 2014 -- Flooring industry analyst Stifel Nicolaus said it is lowering its first quarter estimates for Mohawk due to weather issues but is maintaining a "buy" rating on the stock.

Mohawk a Finalist for Atlanta Environmental Award   Full Article
Calhoun, GA, April 2, 2014 -- Mohawk said it is a finalist in the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s E3 environmental awards for Atlanta area businesses.

Haines Vice President of Operations Dies   Full Article
Glen Burnie, MD, April 1, 2014 -- Distributor Haines said its vice president of operations, Mark Blakely, died March 27 from health complications.

Manufacturing Keeps Expanding in March   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 1, 2014 -- U.S. manufacturing continued to expand in March at a higher pace than in February, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Construction Spending Edges Up in February   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 1, 2014 -- Construction spending ticked up in February, according to the Commerce Department.

Perfect Timing for New Chocolate Flooring   Full Article
Vancouver, BC, April 1, 2014 -- For a limited time, BuildDirect is offering real chocolate plank flooring.

Del Conca Opens U.S. Manufacturing Facility   Full Article
Loudon, TN, April 1, 2014 -- Del Conca USA held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new manufacturing facility in Loudon.

Vinyl Institute Names Vice President of Marketing   Full Article
Alexandria, VA, April 1, 2014 -– The Vinyl Institute has named Susan Wade vice president of marketing and communications.

Tandus Centiva Offering Green Innovation Grant   Full Article
Dalton, GA, March 31, 2014 -- Tandus Centiva said it will award $3,000 in Green Innovation grant funds to a K-12 school.