3 Steps to Properly Handling Your Flooring Installers
You might think that if you hire installers to put in your flooring, you will have to pay a certain amount of money, and then all of the troubles and issues will be considered, prepared for and eliminated by the installers, that it will be as simple as that. In a way, it should be; you’re not a flooring specialist, after all.
But consider an issue caused by a crawlspace under a hardwood floor. It’s a potential moisture problem, so the manufacturer generates recommendations that the consumer put down moisture barrier, and enable good ventilation. The consumer follows these instructions. Then the installer dutifully takes moisture readings of the hardwood flooring and the subfloor, and possibly inspects the crawlspace area. Everyone has done his job, and all is well, but some time after installation, the flooring begins to buckle up from moisture. What happens?
The customer makes a claim on the flooring, but moisture in a location is beyond the control of the manufacturer of the flooring, and they left instructions, so they refuse the claim, citing “improper site conditions”. The installers refuse responsibility because at the time of installation, everything was as it should be to industry standards, and they cannot control the future of humidity. The customer, who followed all of the instructions they were given, also doesn’t want to accept responsibility, and wants the floor he paid for.
What a mess.
One of the benefits of buying our flooring is that so much of it is designed to be installed as a do-it-yourself project. At least if you go that route, you won’t have to hire a lawyer to know who’s culpable for anything that goes amiss, but that doesn’t mean that we recommend against using proferssional installers as a rule. In fact, with the economy the way it is, the best installers should be available for more than reasonable prices right now. What we want to do is help you work with the installers, mostly before any work is even done, so that enough has been settled up front to either prevent, or more easily sort out, any issues that may arise.
Before You Meet
Check out your installers through friends or online review sites before even setting up a meeting. The Better Business Bureau may not be the best source anymore, so try whatever the new Angie’s List is. In my city, the top graded installer had 66 reviews I could read in full.
Now, all 50 states have their own laws and certifications, so I can’t give you specific help with those except to say that you should look online to find out what they are for your state, and then make sure the business you’re considering has them up to date. There are a few national organizations which have set some standards and created certifications, and they might help you out as well. For general flooring you can enter your zip code into a box on the Certified Flooring Installers site to see who that meets their criteria is within range of you.
When You Meet Before You Hire
1. Discuss the level of experience and training of the actual installation crew with the specific type of flooring you have.
2. Determine exactly what type of guarantee you will get on the work done. Be specific. That’s good for both of you (most of this is).
3. You should discuss any old flooring that might need to be pulled up and disposed of, as well as flooring in another room that must meet the new floor, to ensure good flow from room to room.
4. A good installer will check the installation location before agreeing to do the work. You should see the installer taking very accurate measurements of the room, deducting footage from, and mapping to go around, any fixed furnishings like counters or fireplaces. The installer should check all relevant moisture information – subfloor, your new flooring, the crawlspace and the air itself. The installer should also be very familiar with normal local and geographical moisture and humidity levels.
Some places simply aren’t right for the kind of flooring the homeowner wants. Unfortunately, the issues that can come up with installed flooring often fall on the installer simply because she is the last to get paid. Don’t be insulted by her caution. If the material was something like factory seconds, a good installer will know that the customer has probably not seen very much of the purchased flooring, and will discuss what that can mean in terms of potential waste material, possible places to use less than perfect planks, and what to expect from the final installation. Once again, she’s not insulting the purchase, just making sure that the expectations are in line with what can be met.
And the installer might walk away. If she doesn’t think that the flooring will work where it is desired to go, she may choose not to accept responsibility for the final results. If so, and if she’s willing, do yourself a favor and pick her brain to find out why. People in her position don’t turn down this kind of work without very good reasons.
5. You should discuss proper flooring underlayment to make sure you have what you need.
6. You should be able to learn from the installer what kinds of trims or moldings you will need for your room, and how to get those which will match your flooring.
7. Discuss access. May the installers eat their lunches in your home? Use your restrooms? Where should they park? You should have these things worked out before the first day of work.
8. Find out where cutting or other preparations will occur, and how clean up will be handled.
9. Get a detailed, itemized list of any extra charges – moving furniture, removal and/or disposal of old floor material, repair of the subfloor if some issue arises, adjustment of doors – get this in writing, and make sure both of you sign it.
After The Initial Meeting
A. You will need to acclimate your flooring to the room. Check manufacturer’s instructions. If the installer’s plans differ, discuss that, and do the longer of the two. All of the flooring material should be present so that the installer can check for damages and defects before starting the installation.
B. Set aside some extra money for unforeseeable issues, things you couldn’t have anticipated. If you are already able to take care of them when they crop up, your life will proceed to floor use much more swiftly and smoothly.
C. The installer may take digital pictures with proper time and date stamping. They may write information on subfloor as they snap their pictures. Expect to see the installer document everything. So should you, and it wouldn’t hurt you to share your notes and pictures with each other. It keeps you on the same team, which you already should be. Yes, to a degree you have to protect yourselves from each other should there be a dispute, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the same facts. And it will also help you back each other up if there are clear manufacturing issues, or if you need to make a case with your insurance company about some fault with the home itself. The less people there are to whom your insurance company can shift blame, the sooner your issue can be resolved with the proper entity.
These are pretty basic, and yet it may seem like a lot, but remember, it's all about preventing issues, not creating unneeded complexity. Once all of this is done, you can set for the next 25+ years, so it's probably worth the extra preparation up front.
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David has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with W. David Lichty
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