By Paul G. Stuart, Jr., Stuart & Associates Commercial Flooring
There has been long debate over the value of being certified within flooring installers’ circles, and now with social media. One school of thought says you cannot be considered a professional, or at least not seriously, without being properly trained and certified. Likewise, the alternative view does not see the value in certifications and believes they are worth about as much as the paper they are written on. These are generally views from independent installers who do not believe certifications make a noticeable difference in their business and make statements like: “I have never lost a project for lack of certification.”
In my experience, certified installers have proven to be more in-tune with the latest installation methods and thus have the right tools and mindset to be a professional flooring installer. This is particularly true when they are independent installers.
Installers who are not certified may not understand or believe that a certification makes you a better installer.
Obtaining certifications show that the installer values his/her trade, want to be educated and is willing to invest time and money in themselves. Every installer should attend as many product and industry workshops, online training opportunities, and certifications that they can. This is essential to stay up-to-date with changes in the industry and the latest trends that the manufacturers are creating. Besides, there is a certain bravado or confidence that comes from knowing you are fully and properly trained and have the certifications to prove it.
Our company, Stuart & Associates Commercial Flooring Inc., is a national commercial contractor that employs in-house installers and contracts with independent installers. When approaching the labor side of hotel, restaurant and assisted living facility projects, we first try to hire local independent installers to perform the work and keep money in the local community. Unfortunately, without certifications, there is no validation of the installer’s capabilities outside of their word. When hiring local does not materialize, we contract with one of our known independent installers that we have experience to complete the project.
Installers who are not certified may not understand or believe that a certification makes you a better installer. They might not see the value of certifications from a monetary perspective or perhaps they have no idea how or where, to get certified. Many times, the installer will only get certified if a particular project had a product specified requiring certification before the product could be purchased. This scenario leads to one problem and that is the certification only matters for that one job or one project. The installer does not keep the value of that certification past that specific product and in many cases, may not install that product very often.
However, the professional installer who is willing to pay for and take the time to get certified is showing a dedication to the industry and his craft. Usually this results in a better basic knowledge of the approved methods and techniques, as well as the required tools required in today’s flooring industry. This is particularly true in ceramic tile and resilient flooring fields. There has been a significant upswing in large format tile over the last five years and the tile just keeps getting larger and larger, and in some cases thinner as is seen with the large panel thin porcelain tile. These larger formats require new tools to handle, cut and even require different trowels to properly install them. In turn, these larger format tiles require new training and certifications.
While installers should be seeking out opportunities to get better and become more educated in their field of expertise, the industry also must find ways to reach out to the installer…
Resilient manufacturers have always encouraged obtaining certifications, and many require them to be able to purchase the flooring. In all cases, having a non-certified installer on these types of projects puts all parties at risk. This is not to say that an uncertified installer is not highly skilled or capable, but from a liability standpoint, there are clearly risks should there be a failure.
One of the most feasible options for staying educated is online training. There are several options like the NTCA Online University, the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone, NWFA University (nwfa.org). Live training and certifications are also offered by the Certified Flooring Installers (cfiinstallers.org); the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (www.ceramictilefoundation.org); Natural Fiber Installation Certification, and others.
The installer must seek out opportunities to get better and become more educated in their field of expertise. While installers should be seeking out opportunities to get better and become more educated in their field of expertise, the industry also must find ways to reach out to the installer, specifically the independent installer, and to make certifications more accessible and at a reasonable cost.
The bottom line is that in performing hundreds of national projects, we have found the certified installer is more likely to understand the scope of work, perform the work as indicated on the drawings provided, and install the products in accordance with the manufacturers recommendations and industry standards. This is obviously not the case every time, as we have had issues with the quality of installation even with certified guys, but without a doubt there are fewer overall issues when we have hired certified installers.
About the Author:
Paul G. Stuart Jr. is the President of Stuart & Associates Commercial Flooring, Inc. Located in Wichita, KS, the firm specializes in all applications and products (carpet, tile, vinyl, epoxy coatings, and sports flooring) for the commercial flooring industry.