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

Mohawk Adds New Soil Protection to SmartStrand   Full Article
Calhoun, GA, Dec. 5, 2014 -- Mohawk said it is enhancing its flagship SmartStrand carpet by adding a new soil protection system called Forever Clean.

Factory Orders Decline in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Dec. 5, 2014 -- New orders to U.S. factories fell for a third straight month in October, according to the Commerce Department.

Jobs Increase Most in Nearly Three Years   Full Article
Washington, DC, Dec. 5, 2014 -- Employers added 321,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate remained at 5.8%, according to the Labor Department.

Interior Design Names Products of Year   Full Article
New York, NY, Dec. 5, 2014 -- Interior Design Magazine hosted its 9th annual Best of Year Awards Thursday.

Mortage Rates Lowest in More Than a Year   Full Article
Washington, DC, Dec. 5, 2014 -- Long-term mortgage rates have fallen to their lowest level since May 2013, according to Freddie Mac.

QEP Names Kura Executive Vice President   Full Article
Boca Raton, FL, Dec. 4, 2014 –- Q.E.P. Co. said it has named Brian Kura as its new executive vice president.

Initial Unemployment Claims Fall Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Dec. 4, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, according to the Labor Department.

Planned Layoffs Plunge in November   Full Article
Chicago, IL, Dec. 4, 2014 -- The number of planned layoffs by U.S. employers declined 30% in November from October, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

TISE Says Education Program Space Filling Fast   Full Article
Dallas, TX, Dec. 4, 2014 -- The International Surface Event said that space is filling up fast for the TISE 2015 education program.

Stone & Pewter Accents Rebrands as Lunada Bay   Full Article
Torrance, CA, Dec. 4, 2014 -- Stone & Pewter Accents, a manufacturer of stone and pewter tile, said it has rebranded as Lunada Bay Tile.

Pantone Names Marsala 2015 Color of Year   Full Article
Dalton, GA, Dec. 4, 2014 -- Pantone said that its Color of the Year 2015 is Marsala 18-1438.

Services Sector Expands at Faster Pace   Full Article
Tempe, AZ, Dec. 3, 2014 -- The services sector of the economy grew faster than expected in November, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Private Sector Jobs Increase by 208K in November   Full Article
Roseland, NJ, Dec. 3, 2014 -- The private sector added 208,000 jobs in November, according to the monthly ADP Employment Report.

Propex Rebrands ISIS Carpet Tile Backing   Full Article
Chattanooga, TN, Dec. 3, 2014 -- Propex said it is replacing the brand name “ISIS” with “ARTIS” for its woven post-consumer recycled PET primary backing for modular tile.

Home Purchase Mortgage Applications Rise   Full Article
Washington, DC, Dec. 3, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume fell last week as refinancing applications declined, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Nora Sheet Flooring Wins Award   Full Article
Salem, NH, Dec. 3, 2014 -- Nora said that its Noraplan nTx has been awarded a 2014 Record Product Award from Architectural Record magazine.

WFCA Lobbies for Internet Sales Taxes   Full Article
Anaheim, CA, Dec. 2, 2014 -- World Floor Covering Association officials recently met with the staffs of top members of Congress about proposed Internet sales taxes and and other issues of importance to flooring industry retailers.

Construction Spending Edges Higher in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Dec. 2, 2014 -- Construction spending in October was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $971.0 billion, 1.1% above the revised September estimate of $960.3 billion, according to the Commerce Department.

Distributor Belknap White Expands Armstrong Line   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, Dec. 2, 2014 -- Armstrong Floor Products said that distributor Belknap White (Patriot) will handle Armstrong residential products in Southern Connecticut, Metro New York and Northern New Jersey effective January.

Easy Turf Signs Tomlinson as Spokesperson   Full Article
Vista, CA, Dec. 2, 2014 -- EasyTurf has re-signed NFL Most Valuable Player LaDanian Tomlinson as a spokesperson.