Doubling Down on Surface Preparation

INSTALL’s Latest Training & Certification Program Addresses Flooring Installation from the Bottom Up


International Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL)

By John T. McGrath, Director, International Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL)

Underlayment and surface preparation are vitally important in any flooring project. In commercial settings, the proper specification and installation of surface preparation components is a critical link between the visual appeal, wear and stability of resilient, wood, carpet and laminate flooring.

While failure as a result of improper surface preparation is nothing new, recent changes in materials due to government and environmental regulation, and breakneck construction with minimal turnaround time, mean that installers and contractors need to be more informed than ever about surface preparation.

From profiling to moisture mitigation, product selection to maintenance, there’s a lot to know and someone needs to teach the installers.

A New Certification for a Changing Industry

At INSTALL, we recognized the increasing need for specialized training and certification regarding surface preparation. To develop a prototype surface preparation training and certification program, we partnered with AC Tech, Ardex, CMP, ISE Logik, Koster, Laticrete Supercap, MAPEI, Schönox, TEC, Tarkett, UFloor Systems and USG.

Held at the Southeast Wisconsin Carpentry Training Center in June, our first INSTALL Surface Prep Certification successfully raised awareness and aptitude of proper substrate preparation and installation. Participants earned INSTALL certifications featuring recommendations, specifications and extended warranties from industry manufacturers.

Our certification process was a true collaborative effort between INSTALL educators, contractors and industry manufacturers, and combined a revised substrate preparation training curriculum with written and hands-on evaluation. The progression of demonstrations included an orientation presentation followed by a 100-question written exam. The last portion of the certification evaluation was a hands-on application and installation of underlayments.

“Honestly, I don’t think it could have gone better,” said Heather Rice, Great Lakes regional vice president of sales at Schönox. “It was a great opportunity for manufacturers and installers to collaborate and promote subfloor and substrate education.”

“I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from manufacturers, installers, and other industry participants,” added Mark Olsen, INSTALL instructor at the Southeast Wisconsin Carpentry Training Center and chairman of INSTALL’s national committee for surface preparation. “Everyone worked incredibly well together,” he said. “This is the first program of its kind in the world, and we look forward to taking valuable lessons from our work and applying it to future sessions, including our own Train the Trainer programming at the International Training Center in Las Vegas.”

A Closer Relationship with Manufacturers

While we believe every flooring installer should be trained in surface preparation, it is important to share our commitment with other industry professionals. From underlayment and subfloor manufacturers, to our certification partner brands, the opportunities to save time and money across the board are ideal reasons to collaborate.

“Ardex is pleased with the commitment that INSTALL has made regarding subfloor and surface prep education,” said Seth Pevarnik, technical director for Ardex Americas. “There has been a need for this for quite a while, and as a long-time industry partner we have supported this certification since its inception. This is a critical certification as a finished floor is only as good as the subfloor underneath it.”

Ardex Americas, along with other manufacturers and industry professionals, worked hand-in-hand with INSTALL to put together a framework and content for the surface prep certification program. “I’m happy to see that the initial meetings at the International Training Center in Las Vegas several years ago have come to fruition,” added Pevarnik.

Upcoming Certification Programs

While uniquely important, the INSTALL Surface Prep Certification Program (and our commitment to decreasing flooring failures) is just one of many training and educational offerings from INSTALL. INSTALL’s first step in rolling out the program will be to orient the trainers over the next few months. After the trainers have successfully completed the INSTALL Surface Prep Certification Program, it is expected to become available to the floor covering industry in fall or winter of 2016.

For more information about INSTALL’s services, please visit

SIDEBAR: Making the Case for Surface Prep

Project: Hensville Development Project
Location: Toledo, Ohio

Hensville Development Project
Hensville Development Project

More recently, our commitment came in the form of a four-story, 24,800-sq.-ft. warehouse in Toledo, Ohio, which became home to an expanded partnership between INSTALL and Schönox. Rather than tearing out and repouring the existing subfloor, the construction manager and architect of the project were in need of a more cost-effective flooring solution. Schönox AP, a synthetic gypsum-based, self-leveling compound was selected, as the fiber-reinforced material allows for a smooth and level floor that is poured directly over the existing floor, slashing the amount of demolition waste.

Schönox wanted to ensure its product would meet the performance criteria for the client and knew that the most effective way to ensure a quality installation would be to work with a superior contractor. Since Schönox conducts regular training on its products to INSTALL’s network of certified installers, it inserted INSTALL language into the project specification requiring that the installation only be performed by an INSTALL Warranty Contractor.

INSTALL contractor, Commercial Flooring of Toledo was awarded the bid, having received training directly from Schönox through the INSTALL training curriculum and specifically certified to install the product used at Hensville. Commercial Flooring completed the Schönox installation over the course of two weeks and completed the floor later in 2015. Hensville opened to the public in spring 2016.

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