As a flooring inspector I have seen many different things involving flooring, the one thing that is constant; if a floor fails, the homeowner suffers. Sure sometimes the installer suffers because they have to pay for the failure, sometimes the retailer suffers, sometimes the manufacturer suffers, but ALWAYS the homeowner suffers. Having attended the installer crisis summit in Dallas, Texas, there is great concern about the number of installers and the quality of the installers that are available.
It is never the homeowner’s fault, if they hire a flooring specialist, many of the failures that I see are either not installed to manufacturer specifications or sold outside of the manufacturer recommended applications (wrong product for application), or the homeowner has been provided the incorrect or incomplete floor care instructions. I believe at least in Tampa where I am that a majority of floors are being installed outside of manufacturers recommendations, obviously, they don’t all fail but, if it is never their fault, why do the end user always suffer. We can all agree that training installers and salespeople are a priority in our industry. But who pays for this training, over the last few days I have been on multiple flooring installers groups on Facebook, asking what they need to attend training, and basically they said the training needs to be at their house on a Saturday for free and then they might attend. Many installers feel that the retailers or manufacturers should pay to train them. So this is the question “who cares enough about the homeowner to make sure the product performs to the customer expectation.”
Let’s dissect the problem, the manufacturer has a vested interest in making sure that their product is constructed in a way that under normal conditions it will perform as intended. The retailer has a vested interest in making sure the sale of the product goes through, and the installer has a vested interest in making sure the product is installed “correctly”. If the installer is an employee of the retailer, both parties should be vested in making sure that the whole process goes smoothly. If the installer is a “Sub-contractor” they are wholly responsible for the installation performance.
Many installers feel that much like in the tile industry, the manufacturers can come around and do product-specific training. I have been to several of these “product demonstrations” and they are little more than a sales pitch for product A’s; setting materials grouts, sealers, ETC… and are performed over a couple hours at a local distributor/retailer. I believe the reason for this is that the installer should be directly involved in the purchase of the setting materials, but not necessarily the finished flooring goods. So the manufacturers of these materials go direct to the source, but this training while it includes some industry data, it is not what I would call industry-specific “training”. It is more product specific training, that, at times, can lead to failures. Example: I attend company A’s training on concrete sealers, but on my next job I use company C’s sealer, well I don’t need to read the instructions, it must go down the same way company A’s does so that is what I will do.
The installers complain that they can’t afford to be off work for several days, and they also can’t afford the $500-$2000 it costs with travel and school. So they think if the manufacturer wants their product installed correctly, they should pay for it, or if the retailer wants it done correctly they should pay for it. I must admit that if the installer is an employee the retailer should at least contribute to the training. They argue though that once they train the installer they will leave them and reap the benefits of being trained, while the company has to hire and train someone else.
Now if we came together as an industry, manufacturer, retailer, and installer and we all put the customer first, we could see serious changes in our industry. There is a lot of knowledge between all three groups, but each one is looking at it from their own angle, maybe we should all look at it from the customer’s perspective.